The Crystal Lake Falls Historic District (also known as the Brick Kingdom) is a historic site located along Water Street in Barton, Vermont. It was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on August 7, 1994.
A likely site for Barton Hydro is a stream and falls flowing from Crystal Lake, a 24 square miles watershed area with a nearly 90 foot drop (or head power) to a likely powerhouse area. In Barton, this stream borders an area known as “The Brick Kingdom.” This name is attributed to what Barton schoolchildren called the industrial ruins, a name later adopted by the Historical Association.
The name honors the place where water powered brick factories making textiles, wooden piano parts, baseball bats, and metal works. The great potential of “La Belle Lac” to provide such power was seen at Barton’s founding in the 1790’s and was where land was first cleared by Col. William Barton, Asa Kimball and others arriving from Rhode Island.
This ‘Kingdom,’ of about 5 acres, was a gift by retired publisher Ralph Paine (who had purchased it in the 1970’s) to the Delahaye Fund which he founded to administer the property at a time when the Ladies’ Improvement Society were proposing to turn the area into a park. In 1983 the Crystal Lake Falls Historical Association was formally organized led by President Avis Harper. An old house on Water street, subsequently named the Pierce House, was originally proposed to be torn down but was instead renovated by the Association. The Association began plans for turning the Brick Kingdom into a park and about 1986 the Delahaye Fund deeded the property to the Association.
In 1994, the Crystal Lake Falls Historic District applied and was named to the National Register of Historic Places. The Association operates a Museum at 97 Water Street. It published “A History of Barton Vermont,” by Darlene Young, 1998.
The Association with the help from a group of young people, supervised by an Americorps worker, cleared brush and created a walkway though the Brick Kingdom. In September 2014, they adopted an invitation to artists to come and work there during Greater Barton’s Plein Air Sept. 27th events.
Several artists chose the Brick Kingdom as the place they wanted to work on Sept. 27, 2014, including Plein Air Hydro Award winner, artist Meryl Lebowitz. Her painting (pictured) captures the “splendid cascade of water” in the terms of a 1984 Hydro study, which also comments, “has been ignored for so long.”
In addition, artist Graham Keegan carved a wood block, secured and created natural ink in the Brick Kingdom area (boiled blackberry roots) and created a handsome print.
More information about the site and it’s history can be found on the Wikipedia Page for the Brick Kingdom (Crystal Lake Falls Historic District): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_Lake_Falls_Historic_District
For more information and upcoming events at the Crystal Lake Falls Historical Association Museum, check out their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bartonmuseum/info