William R. Stuart (1861-1936) was a well-known Brattleboro artist noted for his stage scenery and scenic panels which included six painted theater curtains for the Townshend Town Hall and Opera House (built 1921). The Townshend curtains depict scenes of: 1) a Streetcar; 2) a Locomotive; 3) a Mountain Brook; 4) a Meadow; 5) a City Park, 6) a Living Room, 7) a teaser with the state seal; 8) various ear pieces, –all painted around 1922. His only other known painting is a curtain from the Brattleboro Odd Fellows temple depicting the Odd Fellows Home in Ludlow.* Although Stuart’s wife, a dressmaker, could have collaborated on these projects by sewing the curtains, we’re told that large drapes were available commercially by this time.
Born in Colrain, Massachusetts, Mr. Stuart grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont, and attended Brattleboro High School, followed by art school in Boston. After his marriage to Lillian Ames in 1885, Stuart had an art studio for making crayon portraits, a popular art form during that period.
In addition to this portraiture and scenery painting, Stuart did painting work during WWI at the Navy yard in Portsmouth, NH, worked for Estey Organ Company for a number of years, and had a sign painting studio in Brattleboro prior to his retirement in 1933. He continued crayon and pastel work for his own enjoyment and was a founding member of the Brattleboro Cornet Band for which he created a multi-media portrait. (See photo.)
Stuart is also remembered for building in 1896 the first “modern apartment building” in Brattleboro at #13 Canal Street (see photo). “Modern” in this instance means that there was a bathroom in each apartment instead of the usual one bathroom per floor. The building also had gas lighting throughout. The original elaborate lighting fixtures and solid brass fluting, as well as built-in bookcases and trim details, have recently been restored by the current owner, Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust.
Sources: Stuart obit, Old Brattleboro Houses loose-leaf binder of newsclips including article entitled, “Victoria Apartments” 4/26/2000 presumably from Brat Reformer; Annals of Brattleboro, “Musical Organizations” Vol. II p 882, Connie Snow of BACLT, (Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust); Brattleboro Reformer , 3/15/03 For Rent: Canal Street Central to Town’s Housing History by Wayne Carhart, President of Brattleboro Historical Society.(Revised 11/18/11) William R. Stuart Painter of Town Hall Theater Curtains
* The Odd Fellows curtain is currently 2011 hanging on the wall of the Black River Historical Society (near Ludlow).