February 28, 2024
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Ghostly Encounters and Strange Happenings at Salisbury’s Shard Villa

Shard Villa Salisbury

Shard Villa: A Historic Gem Unveiled

Nestled among the tree-lined streets of our Salisbury, Vermont, Shard Villa stands as a testament to a bygone era of grandeur and elegance. With its rich history and stunning architectural features, this historic Vermont gem has captivated the imagination of visitors for decades.

From its origins as a private residence to its transformation into a museum, Shard Villa has witnessed the ebb and flow of time, preserving the stories and treasures of the past. But there is more to this remarkable place than meets the eye. Behind its grand facade lies a wealth of art, artifacts, and cultural significance that continues to enthrall and inspire.

Join us as we embark on a journey through the halls of Shard Villa, uncovering the secrets, treasures and ghostly legends that await within.

The History of Shard Villa

Built in the 19th century and designed by renowned architect Warren Thayer, Shard Villa stands as a historic gem that has witnessed significant events in the area’s history. Originally serving as a private residence, the villa has undergone a remarkable transformation over the years. In the 1970s, it was opened to the public as a museum, allowing visitors to explore its rich history and architectural features.

The significance of Shard Villa lies not only in its historical value but also in its role as a cultural landmark. The villa attracts tourists from all over the world, hosting cultural events and exhibitions. Additionally, it plays a crucial role in preserving the local history and heritage, offering educational programs and workshops for schools. With future plans of expansion and restoration, Shard Villa continues to evolve while maintaining its historical charm.

The Foreboding Gothic Manor of Shard Villa

As one passes the formidable limestone walls and mausoleum of Shard Villa in Salisbury, there is no doubt this estate must be haunted. With its mishmash of Victorian architectural styles and dramatic Gothic elements, the mansion looks starkly out of place against the Vermont landscape.

Clearly, extravagant theatrics were on the mind of its constructor, attorney Columbus Smith. Having amassed his fortune reclaiming European inheritances for expatriated American heirs, Smith spent 14 painstaking years arguing for rights to Mary Francis Shard’s holdings. After 40 days of heated court disputes which allegedly bleached his hair white, Smith prevailed over the English Crown in 1872.

He swiftly funneled his earnings into a 30-room Victorian manor complete with frescoes and statues. Shard Villa was custom-built to be a ominous backdrop suited to ghost stories and Gothic horror. Yet shortly after its completion, the imperious house witnessed true human tragedy unfold within its walls.

The Tragic Death of a Child

At the height of success and luxury, Smith’s beloved only son William died at age 14 from an illness attacking his nervous system. A sober memorial reading “1881, June 13, Willie died” was erected by the grieving father. Local historian Max Peterson chronicles that “The loss of his only son resulted in Columbus’s physical and mental decline…”

When Smith’s daughter Mary Elizabeth also passed 16 years later, his own health radically deteriorated, leaving him wheelchair-bound in his once-glorious estate. Tutor Irving Bacheller visited in Smith’s final days and described being “awakened by a curious animal roar from the lips of the stricken man – a weird and melancholy sound ringing through the great house.”

Restless Spirits Linger?

Today it seems Smith and his family have not entirely left the premises. Though their bodies are entombed onsite, paranormal occurrences at Shard Villa suggest restless spirits linger. Now a nursing home per Columbus’ will, the manor connects past and present with its ghostly phenomena.

Previous director Jean Seeley has witnessed Smith himself wandering the halls at night. One housekeeper refuses to enter his bedroom, insisting it remains occupied by the late manor lord. Flickering light anomalies and converging shadows have set staff on edge about supernatural tenants.

Doors eerily operate themselves, objects vanish then relocate, and disembodied cries or piano music echo despite no earthly source. Nursing director Peggy Rocque arrived skeptical until her loyal dog oddly refused to climb Shard Villa’s stairs. Lying awake, she would hear glass shattering and tub waters running without explanation. Most chilling are phantom whimpers of an invisible baby that no employee can locate.

While no recorded infant death occurred here, the ghostly goings-on seem playfully mischievous, not openly threatening. Yet with no consensus whether one lost soul or many create the paranormal activity, the true restless spirits of Shard Villa remain shrouded in mystery. Some say Columbus himself still presides over the home. Others imagine family members, former staff, or elderly residents roam the corridors. But unless contacted through a medium or exorcised by a priest, the Gothic manor’s ghosts continue their tricks, keeping legend alive in Vermont’s ominous mansion frozen in time.

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A Refuge with a Restless Past: The Spirits of Shard Villa

In the pastoral countryside of Vermont rests a stately Victorian mansion that provides shelter and care for the community’s elderly residents. But beneath its benevolent service lies a sorrowful history and hints of those who have not yet departed its halls. This is yet another tale of Salisbury’s Shard Villa.

Once a palace built for lawyer Columbus Smith and his family, Shard Villa saw both triumph and tragedy behind its imposing limestone walls. After winning a fortune in a lengthy legal battle over an inheritance claim, the accomplished Middlebury College alumnus constructed an grand thirty-room estate, adorned with ornate frescoes and sculptures. But fate would rob him of joy within its shelter.

As mentioned above, his young son fell ill and passed away in adolescence, soon followed by a beloved daughter, extinguishing the family lineage. The stone mausoleum on the grounds interred Columbus, his wife and children, but anchored their spirits to the home they could not leave behind. Their presence endures in strange incidents from clairvoyant staff.

Wandering Candle Lit Halls at Night

A caretaker spotted the late lawyer wandering the candle-lit halls at night, still occupying his cherished abode. Others have witnessed ghostly visions of the Smith family dwelling in their former bedrooms and parlors. Disembodied voices cry out, while objects vanish and reappear in puzzling poltergeist pranks. Shadowy figures and odd flashing lights suggest an unseen world still residing between the walls of the mournful mansion.

Now renamed Shard Villa in homage to the fortune that built it, the aging home provides community care for Salisbury’s elderly, by decree of Columbus Smith’s last will. The new residents walk the same creaking floors and winding stairs as the closely held ghosts of the past, residing together in the refuge with a restless history. Perhaps the spirits linger to ensure their life’s work still shelters those in need – or maybe simply waiting for their lineage to one day inhabit Shard Villa’s halls again.

Beautiful Architectural Features

Shard Villa showcases exquisite architectural features that epitomize the Neo-Gothic style, characterized by its elaborate facade adorned with intricate detailing. The villa’s architectural design captivates visitors with its striking combination of elegance and grandeur. Here are some notable features that highlight the villa’s unique charm:

  1. Tower with Panoramic Views: The villa boasts a towering structure that offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Visitors can climb to the top and marvel at the beauty of the city from a heightened perspective.
  2. Grand Entrance Hall with Marble Columns: The entrance hall of Shard Villa is a sight to behold. Adorned with majestic marble columns, it exudes a sense of opulence and grandeur, welcoming visitors into the villa with a touch of splendor.
  3. Stained Glass Windows Depicting Historical Scenes: One of the most captivating features of Shard Villa is its stained glass windows. These intricate works of art depict historical scenes, adding a touch of storytelling and beauty to the villa’s interior.
  4. Elaborate Facade with Intricate Detailing: The villa’s facade is a masterpiece in itself. The elaborate detailing, intricate carvings, and Gothic-inspired motifs showcase the craftsmanship and architectural prowess of the era.

These architectural features not only contribute to the aesthetic appeal of Shard Villa but also provide a glimpse into the rich history and artistry of the Neo-Gothic design.

Notable Artifacts and Collections

These days the museum at Shard Villa houses a diverse range of notable artifacts and collections that offer a glimpse into the rich history and cultural heritage of the city. Each artifact and collection within the museum holds significant historical value and plays a crucial role in preserving the city’s heritage.

The antique furniture and decor provide insights into the lifestyles of the past, while the fine art collection, consisting of paintings and sculptures, showcases the artistic talent that flourished in the city. Additionally, the museum houses historical documents and manuscripts that shed light on significant events and individuals.

The archaeological artifacts from local excavations provide evidence of the city’s ancient roots. Overall, these artifacts and collections serve as tangible representations of the city’s history, helping to educate and inspire visitors about its past.

Impact on the Local Community

The museum’s diverse range of notable artifacts and collections not only provide insights into the city’s rich history and cultural heritage, but also have a profound impact on the local community. Here are four ways in which Shard Villa has positively influenced the community:

  1. Community Engagement: Shard Villa serves as a cultural landmark, attracting tourists and locals alike. Its exhibitions and events offer opportunities for community members to engage with their heritage and learn about the city’s history.
  2. Tourism Boost: The museum’s presence has significantly boosted tourism in the area. Visitors are drawn to Shard Villa’s unique architecture and impressive collections, bringing economic benefits to local businesses and creating job opportunities. Some are intrigued by the legends and ghost stories mentioned above.
  3. Educational Programs: Shard Villa organizes educational programs and workshops for schools, providing students with hands-on learning experiences and fostering a sense of pride in their local history and culture.
  4. Collaboration and Preservation: The museum actively collaborates with local artists and organizations, promoting artistic expression and community involvement. Additionally, through its preservation efforts, Shard Villa ensures that the city’s history and heritage are safeguarded for future generations.

Shard Villa Future Plans and Developments

With an eye towards the future, Shard Villa has outlined ambitious plans and developments to enhance its offerings and ensure a dynamic and immersive experience for visitors. One of the key aspects of the future plans is the expansion of exhibition spaces within the villa. This will allow for the display of a larger number of artifacts and collections, providing visitors with a more comprehensive insight into the history and culture of the region.

Additionally, Shard Villa aims to collaborate with museums from around the world to foster exchange programs and bring in traveling exhibitions. This will not only enrich the museum’s collection but also provide visitors with a wider range of cultural experiences. Furthermore, the villa plans to digitize its collections, allowing online access to its treasures and reaching a global audience.

To keep up with technological advancements, Shard Villa intends to introduce interactive displays and technology, enhancing visitor engagement and making the museum experience more interactive and immersive. In order to preserve the villa’s architectural integrity, plans for the restoration of deteriorating areas have also been put forth. These developments will solidify Shard Villa’s position as a leading cultural institution, attracting visitors from near and far.


In conclusion, Shard Villa stands as a testament to the rich heritage and architectural splendor of the 19th century. With its remarkable history, intricate facade, and impressive collection of artifacts, the museum continues to captivate visitors and serve as a cultural landmark in the community. Through its expansion plans, digitization efforts, and commitment to preserving local history, Shard Villa ensures that future generations can appreciate and learn from the past. As the saying goes, “Preserving history is not just about the past, but also about shaping the future.”

With buildings as magnificent as Shard Villa, the legends and ghost stories also shape it’s future. Stories to be shared for generations to come.

Photo at the top of the page is courtesy of Magicpiano under Creative Commons

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