By John Hart, Jr., Director
“Fire, Fire, Fire!” Those words likely rang out across the town green in Norwich, Vermont, on March 14, 1866: Norwich University was ablaze. By the time the flames were gone the building was a total loss and the university, barely 50-years old, was not financially able to rebuild. The town fathers of Northfield, Vermont, however, were more than willing to offer land and buildings to the school, if they would move north near the Dog River. Northfield had lost its status as the hub of the Vermont Central Railroad when it was absorbed into the Central Vermont Railroad and the main hub relocated to St. Albans.
Joseph Gould (1809–1876) operated a woolen mill, J. Gould & Son, near Gouldsville, Vermont, now called Northfield Falls; his house still stands next to the Rustic Restaurant and Sports Bar. As one of the main influencers in Northfield, Joseph was instrumental in enticing Norwich University to move to Northfield. The overall promise with Northfield was for the town to provide the land (now the Upper Parade Ground) and the first building, later called (Old) Jackman Hall. Further expansions and land acquisitions grew the campus to what is today, but at that time, one building and a drilling field was all that was needed for the roughly 50 students attending the school.
One measure of success in the 19th century was owning a portrait. Joseph, just a year before he died, commissioned Thomas Waterman Wood, a well-known portrait artist in Montpelier, to paint his portrait and that of his two wives, Hannah (1812–1851) and Melissa (1821–1901). The paintings of Joseph and presumably his second wife were purchased by the university in late-1989 or early-1990 and have remained largely on display since that time. Recent conservation work has returned the gilded frames to their original splendor. Conservation of the canvases are planned for the near future. The Gould’s portraits are currently on display in the Sullivan Museum as part of the 200 Years—200 Objects exhibit.