Many of us are beginning to plan our summer trips, and often we head further north during the hot months for reprieve. One popular destination is the small and quaint state of Vermont, receiving nearly 13 million visitors each year. If you’re planning a trip to ‘the Green Mountain State,’ you might want to plan a day trip to the historic Vermont town of Richman, about 30 minutes outside of Burlington.

In this historic little town is one of the only surviving examples of a ‘round church.’ Its unique shape has sparked rumors and legends alluding to everything from the architect’s hometown to the devil himself.

Construction on the Old Round Church began in 1812 with the dual purpose of it being a meetinghouse for the town and a place of worship for several different church congregations in the quickly growing town. Richmond was home to Baptists, Christians, Congregationalists, Methodists and Universalists, and the church was primarily constructed to offer a centralized building for the church members to worship.

Instead of creating a traditional basic church house, the architect, William Rhodes, designed the meetinghouse in the shape of a 16-sided polygon with a central steeple. One tale explains that the church was built this way because of an old legend that says a house with no corners leaves nowhere for the devil to hide. Yet another story is that the Old Round Church was built by 17 carpenters, one taking each wall, and the last building the steeple. The truth is likely that a similarly styled church existed in the architect’s hometown.

The Old Round Church is significant for its rare design and well-preserved detail, and it is perhaps the sole surviving example of an early-19th-century, 16-sided wooden meetinghouse. It remains one of the only examples of such a church left in the world.

The structure is 50 feet in diameter and has 16 sides visible on the exterior with the corner posts hidden. The church was used consistently until 1973, when structural problems forced the building to close. Three years later, the town deeded the church to the Richmond Historical Society, which began renovations on the 228-person-capacity building. The building is now once again open to the public. In addition to free tours, the church is available for weddings, community programs and various other functions from June through October. The church has no heat and is therefore only open during warmer months.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.