The William Czar Bradley Law Office
Like a time capsule from 1858, but better
We are delighted to announce that the William Czar Bradley Law Office was transferred from the State of Vermont to the Westminster Historical Society in April of 2014!
We are honored to take possession of this special building. As we have begun our ownership, many condition issues have become apparent to us. Very soon, work will be done to repair the slate roof and rotten clapboards on the back side of the building. We are determined to do this work in as sensitive manner as possible, so that this little building remains the gem that it is.
Here’s a video about the law office made by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation:
A Brief History of William Czar Bradley and This Little Building
The William Czar Bradley law office that sits 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. William Bradley Willard maintained this building at his expense for 65 years and allowed only minimal visits by family members which he carefully supervised. The Willard Family, originally from Westminster, owners of the Willard Hotel in Washington, DC had marital ties to the Bradley Family.
This time capsule allows we citizens of the 21st century to glimpse first hand what it was like to be a lawyer in the first half of the 19th century. The blue and salmon painted wood file cabinet, the soapstone Indian peace pipe, the whale oil lamps, inkwells and sanders, the shelves of law books and literature in Greek, French and Latin, the furniture fashionable in the early 1800’s, all this and more, speak volumes about the life of William Czar Bradley, lawyer, politician and teacher. After much anticipation, in July 2001 the Westminster Historical Society, working with Mr. 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 Society would like to thank the State of Vermont for appropriating funds for the restoration of this building, for the many hours Mr. Dumville has worked to oversee the project and to direct the Historical Society members who themselves volunteered uncountable hours spent packing, unpacking and cleaning. Special thanks go to the Willard Family for their generous donation of the building and it’s contents so that history can come alive for future generations.
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 was the son of Stephen Rowe Bradley, 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 passed the Vermont Bar in June 1802. He married Sarah Richards in December of the same year. The Richards owned a magnificent house that stood on the corner of Grout Avenue and Kings Highway in Westminster until it was consumed by fire in the 1940s. 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. Besides practicing law, William Czar also taught law in this tiny office to a generation of new lawyers. He retired from practicing law in 1858 and died in 1867.
The law office itself has a vaulted ceiling and is trimmed 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 really 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.
On July 24, 2003 Lieutenant Colonel William Bradley Willard, Jr. U.S. Army (Retired) donated a large framed portrait of William Czar Bradley to the State of Vermont for use in the law office. This portrait is a digitized reproduction of one of only two paintings known to exist of William Czar Bradley. The original is located in the General in the Stephen Rowe Bradley House in Walpole, New Hampshire. LTC Willard donated the painting in memory of his father, William Bradley Willard.
2020 Summer Hours: Sundays 2 – 4pm.