The William Czar Bradley Law Office

3613 US Route 5; Westminster, VT

Like a time capsule from 1858, but better

A Brief History of William Czar Bradley and This Little Building

(See also: The 2022 “This Place in History” segment on W.C. Bradley and the Law Office.)

THE MAN:

William Czar Bradley used the Bradley Law Office as his place of business from circa 1810, when we believe the structure was built, until he retired from practicing law in 1857.

William Czar Bradley’s father was Stephen Rowe Bradley of Westminster, a lawyer, judge and one of the first two U.S. Senators from Vermont. Stephen Rowe wrote the argument on why Vermont should be a state, “Vermont Appeal to the Candid and Impartial World”, published in 1780.

His son, William Czar, was born in Westminster in 1782. He entered Yale at age 13 as a child prodigy but was expelled during his first year for youthful pranks. He studied law with a judge and was accepted to the Vermont Bar in June 1802. He married Sarah Richards, daughter of Mark and Anne Ruggles Richards in December of the same year.

William Czar was elected to the State Legislature in 1805; at age thirty he was a member of the State Council. In the same year, he was elected Representative to Congress. At the close of the War of 1812 he was appointed Agent of the United States under the Treaty of Ghent to establish the boundary between Maine and Canada. He considered this work, which lasted for five years, his greatest public achievement. He also traveled to the then North West frontier to further work on the boundary which was finally adopted in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. He represented Vermont in Congress for two terms: 1823 – 1827, but as a supporter of Andrew Jackson, his party was in the minority in Vermont. He received only unsuccessful nominations for Congress, U.S. Senate and Governor from this time on. As well as practicing law, William Czar taught law in this tiny office to a generation of new lawyers. He retired from practicing law in 1858, died in 1867and is buried with his wife in the family tomb in the Westminster East Parish Old Cemetery.

THE OFFICE:

 The William Czar Bradley law office located on the “King’s Highway” in Westminster, Vermont has been likened to a modern-day “King Tut’s Tomb”. It had remained undisturbed from 1858 until it was deeded to the State of Vermont in 1998 by the estate of William Bradley Willard of Washington, D.C., through his mother, Sarah Bradley (Kellogg) Willard, beloved granddaughter of William Czar Bradley and wife of Henry Augustus Willard.  William Bradley Willard maintained this building at his expense for 65 years and allowed only minimal visits by family members which he carefully supervised.

After much anticipation, in July 2001 the Westminster Historical Society, working with John Dumville, Chief of the Historic Preservation Division opened this rare survivor of life in Windham County in the early 1800’s to the public. The William Czar Bradley Law Office was transferred from the State of Vermont to the Westminster Historical Society in April of 2014. We believe this is the only pre-20th century law office in New England that has survived with no physical changes to its structure.

We were honored to take possession of this special building. As we began our ownership, many condition issues became apparent to us.  Work was done to repair the slate roof and rotting clapboards on the back side of the building. Next, we repaired or replaced sills on three sides of the building. We were determined to do this work in as sensitive manner as possible, engaging contractors experienced in conserving old buildings, so that this little building remained the gem that it is. The exterior of the building had old lead paint removed and was repainted. In 2019 we replaced the roof on the vestibule with copper roofing; during the following two years the wallpaper in the rear and front rooms was cleaned and stabilized by the conservator and owner of Works On Paper of Bellows Falls, Vermont.

This office allows visitors to glimpse what it was like to be a lawyer in the first half of the 19th century. The interior of the building’s front room has a barrel-vaulted ceiling; the walls are covered with a striped wallpaper. The second room contains wallpaper of a different striped pattern which was produced in the 1820s. The windows are covered with so-called Indian shutters that are beautifully paneled. These shutters were an early form of storm windows and are found in many 18th century Connecticut River houses.  Bluish-gray paint covers most of the woodwork. There are two fireplaces, one of which is blocked off to accommodate a wood stove.

The furniture includes a grain painted table, a set of arrow-back chairs with original decoration and many other items. The blue and salmon painted wood file cabinet, the catlynite Indian “peace pipe”, whale oil lamps, inkwells and sanders, shelves of law books and literature in Greek, French and Latin, furniture fashionable in the early 1800’s, all this and more, speak volumes about the life of William Czar Bradley, lawyer, politician and teacher.

Here is a video about the law office made by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation:

On July 24, 2003 Lieutenant Colonel William Bradley Willard, Jr. U.S. Army (Retired) donated, in memory of his father, William Bradley Willard, a large framed portrait of William Czar Bradley to the State of Vermont for this office. The portrait is a digitized reproduction of one of only two paintings known to exist of William Czar Bradley. The original of this painting is in the General Stephen Rowe Bradley House in Walpole, New Hampshire. The other painting is a full-length portrait displayed in the Windham County Superior Courthouse in Newfane, Vermont.

The Society thanks John Dumville for the many hours he worked to oversee this acquisition and to direct the Westminster Historical Society members who themselves volunteered hours packing, unpacking and cleaning. The Dascomb Charitable Trust has been of inestimable help funding the necessary repairs, along with a grant from the Windham Foundation and multiple donations from Bradley family members. Westminster Historical Society members, friends and supporters continue to believe in our mission. Special thanks go to the Willard family for their generous donation of the building and its contents so that history can come alive for future generations.

2022 Summer Hours: To Be Announced