The History of Wilder Center

Charles T. Wilder and his brother Herbert came to the Upper Valley in 1882 to construct the Wilder Brothers Paper Mill, located alongside the Connecticut River at what was then known as "Olcott Falls." By the early 1890s the mill complex became one of the largest paper producers in New England, and the surrounding village flourished, in no small part due to the vision of the Wilders.

One of Mr. Wilder's contributions to the community was this building, known as the “The United Church of Christ in Olcott,” constructed from 1888–1890. It became "The First Congregational Church of Wilder" when the village was renamed following the death of Mr. Wilder in 1897.

Lyme Properties purchased the property in 2009 with the vision of restoring it and converting it to a center for community life in Wilder. After a series of meetings with neighborhood residents, Lyme renovated the entire structure to meet current building codes. The building was renamed the Charles T. Wilder Center in honor of Mr. Wilder’s contributions to the town that bears his name.

On Saturday, October 16, 2010 Lyme Properties hosted a Grand Opening and Dedication Ceremony, unveiling the restored building in hopes that it will stand as a cultural landmark in Wilder, Vermont for another 120 years.

The following pages and slideshows have been created to recognize the rich history of this significant building, and to celebrate the 19th and 20th century American craftsmanship incorporated in the structural design and various features of the building. 

Special Thanks: This history section would not be possible without the support and resources of the Hartford Historical Society, Frank J. Barrett Jr., Ed Boadway of the Vermont Organ Project, and the Rauner Special Collections Library at Dartmouth College.

 

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The Village of Wilder, Vermont at the turn of the 20th century.

The Village of Wilder

A brief history of the village of Wilder, Vermont

Charles T. Wilder (1831-1897) changed the landscape of the village that now bears his name.

Charles T. Wilder

Charles T. Wilder built the paper mill and forever changed the landscape of the Upper Valley.

A long-standing landmark in the Village of Wilder.

The Building's History

Built in 1890, the building was home to a number of congregations before religious services were discontinued in 2008.

The historic building was fully restored in 2009-2010.

The Restoration

A complete renovation in 2009–2010 restored the building to its original glory.

The restored George Stevens organ was revealed during the October 2010 Grand Opening.

The George Stevens Organ

The centerpiece of the Wilder Center Auditorium is the beautifully-restored 1840s George Stevens Pipe Organ.

The Wilder Center clock has been fully restored.

The Seth Thomas Clock

The iconic purple-faced clock faces are driven by the original Seth Thomas tower clock mechanism installed in 1928.

The underside of the Meneely Bell.

The Meneely Bell

The Meneely Bell was part of the original building in 1890 and has been restored to ring on the hour again.

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