The Old Stone House Museum is located in Brownington Village, Vermont, and opened as a museum in 1925. The history of our large 4-story granite building, however, begins in the 1830s. At that time, Brownington Village was home to a two story grammar school—the sole grammar school of Orleans County. A “grammar school” at that time was similar to what we might call a high school or junior college today. In 1829, the trustees of the school hired Alexander Twilight (1795-1857) as the headmaster. It was under Twilight’s leadership that the story of the Old Stone House begins.
Alexander Twilight was born in Vermont in 1795, the son of a free black man who fought in the American Revolution. As a graduate of Middlebury College, Twilight became the first African-American to obtain a college degree. Later in life, he also became the first African-American to serve in a state legislature.
As Twilight assumed his position at the school, he was displeased that many students boarded with local farmers and spent their evenings laboring on the farm instead of focusing on their education. He saw the construction of a dormitory as the solution to this problem. For several years, Twilight and his friends built what he called “Athenian Hall” and it opened for student residents in 1836. This building is now popularly called The Old Stone House.
By the 1900s, the building had been abandoned for some time. The Orleans County Historical Society purchased the structure and opened the Old Stone House Museum in 1925. Inside its thirty rooms are exhibits that tell the story of Orleans County, Vermont, from Twilight, to his students, to the farm families of the area. The museum contains furniture, portraits, tools, textiles, folk art, and all the stuff of everyday life. Some noted items in the collection include Rufus Porter wall murals, a Civil War-era congressional desk, a small Mormon relic from Vermont, and the always popular “phantom baby” portrait on the top floor. Two barns display antique agricultural items, horse drawn transportation, maple sugaring equipment, and more. The grounds of the Museum are the perfect place to plan a picnic and no visit is complete without a walk to the observatory at the top of Prospect Hill. The Museum is open annually from May 15th to October 15th and hosts programs, events, and adult education courses throughout the year.