In Burlington Vermont’s’s Intervale, on a small rise above the Winooski River – safe from the reach of flood waters – is a small “Cape Cod” style house. Although modern siding makes it look quite ordinary, this house has stood for over 200 years. This modest farm-house was the last home of General Ethan Allen, Vermont’s Revolutionary War hero and leader of the Green Mountain Boys. It was built by him, and it’s where he died.
Just a short drive from Burlington, Vermont’s downtown the Ethan Allen Homestead Museum offers hands-on history, spectacular scenery along with riverside picnic areas and walks. The Homestead offers a view of 18th century life, and an intimate look at Vermont’s most colorful – and controversial founder Ethan Allen and his wife, Fanny.
Ethan Allen was fifty years old when he came to Burlington in 1787 to take up farming. Until 1777 Ethan Allen’s family had lived at Sheffield, Connecticut. They moved to Vermont while he was a prisoner of war during the Revolutionary War, and settled in Sunderland that year. Mary Bronson Allen, Ethan’s first wife, died in 1783. In 1784 he met Frances (Fanny) Buchanan and they married later that year.
On February 11, 1789 he and his hired man, Newport, drove his oxen over the ice to South Hero for a load of hay from his cousin Ebenezer Allen. Returning early the next morning, Ethan Allen unexpectedly died.
After his death Ethan Allen’s widow sold Ethan’s Intervale farm in 1814 to Cornelius P. Van Ness. For the rest of the 19th century it would be known as the Van Ness farm.
The Van Ness family continued in possession of the farm until 1862 when it was to Alfred Brookes of New York City. In 1902 William J. Van Patten bought it from Brookes.
Van Patten set apart about 12 acres and offered it to the Sons of the American Revolution on condition that a stone tower, a memorial to General Ethan Allen, be erected on the top of the ledge and a road built leading to the tower and to Ethan’s former house. The S.A.R. built and dedicated the present tower in 1905.
By 1914 the farm was run by Van Patten as a dairy farm. And in that year a large fire destroyed its barns, no doubt the original ones built by Allen in 1787. Ethan Allen Park with its monumental stone tower became a landmark in Burlington and overshadowed the modest little wooden house standing nearby on private land on the Intervale, nearly forgotten.
This was how matters still stood in 1974 when Ralph Nading Hill, while working on a book on Lake Champlain, took an interest in the small house, which was still lived in, and decided to confirm its identity. A committee, including experts from the Shelburne Museum, visited the site and determined the authenticity of the basic structural features of the building. Although the interior was remodeled, and an ell and new exterior added, physical evidence confirmed that it was the original Ethan Allen house.
The Ethan Allen Homestead Museum is at 1 Ethan Allen Homestead, Burlington, VT 05408, and is open seven days a week for General Tours May 1st to October 31st from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Group and School Tours are available on request
- Individual: $10
- Seniors: $9
- Students 5-17: $6
- Children under 5: free
Learn more about Ethan Allen in Ethan Allen: His Life and Times by Willard Sterne Randall. It tells the story of Allen’s life from growing up in frontier Connecticut, through the early years of the Green Mountain Boys in the New Hampshire Grants, the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, and Allen’s capture by the British at Montreal, through to the founding of the Republic of Vermont and its eventual statehood.