The Zeno House, the Building and the History
The history of a building cannot be completely appreciated independently of the history of its inhabitants. Interestingly, 31 Court Street hasn’t had many different owners since it was rebuilt in 1881. At that time, the French Second Empire architectural style house was constructed by a local contractor at the time, Clinton Smith, who built several buildings in Middlebury, all prominently featuring magnificent Mansard roofs.
In 1935, Clara Zeno, who owned the building with her husband Bill, opened Le Claire Salon de Beaute in the front, north room. Eventually, Gladys Kelton would manage the day to day operation of the salon, occupying all of the street facing rooms of the house. The salon was closed in 1979.
Harriet and George Doey purchased the building in 1986 and began the revitalization. Over the course of a few years, George had the building back in beautiful condition. He died in 1990, leaving Harriet alone in the large house they called home.
By 1996, Harriet knew she had no interest in staying in the building. She was a client of Valerie Smith-Hastings’, who owned and operated Hair Network, which was located at 17 Court Street. Harriet showed the property to Valerie, explaining that it had been a hair salon for 44 years and offered to sell her the property. Valerie fell in love with the building and Hair Network at the Zeno House was born!
The downstairs is occupied by 5 salon suites, operated by 4 different hair stylists, including Valerie and her associates, Ashley and Renee, while the upstairs features a bed and breakfast suite as well as a massage therapist.
The Zeno House has changed very little in the century and a quarter since it was built. The colors have changed, rooms have been added and reconstructed, roofs have been replaced but the core of the building remains the same, largely because three entrepreneurial women have seen the beauty and the possibility of the space between the walls.