PTV Highlights: 2009

Greensboro Historical SocietyGreensboro Historical Society, Greensboro, VT
Photo by Sanders H. Milens

When the Preservation Trust was starting up 30 years ago, one of the key guiding principles was that we would focus whatever energy, expertise, and resources we had on helping local organizations and communities save and use their historic places. We didn't desire to build a big organization with lots of staff, and we didn't want to take charge of every building project or community revitalization effort. We wanted to help build local capacity to do this important work of saving Vermont's essential character.

Sometimes things actually work out just as they were planned. Over these past 30 years we've helped communities save more than a thousand buildings and put them into productive use. Just this past year, our five full and part-time staff worked on 352 projects in 155 different communities. We provide technical assistance, training opportunities, encouragement, funding, and occasionally a little nudge. But in the end, we depend upon local passion and commitment for success.

Community Supported Enterprises

Community Supported Enterprise is one way that local groups can help to define their downtowns and village centers. Village stores, restaurants, bakeries, taverns, and bookstores are the kinds of gathering places that help to strengthen the sense of community. But there are places where these services are threatened, particularly when there’s a transfer of ownership that leads to expensive debt servicing. Community Supported Enterprises allow residents to invest in neighborhood businesses and protect the services that are essential to them.

Putney is one example of a town where we have played a major role through Community Supported Enterprises. It is a community that has had to face incredible adversity and challenge. In the span of a little over a month they lost two important businesses. The local bookstore closed, and then a fire closed the Putney General Store for the first time in 200 years. The community was devastated, and the loss of these businesses meant that the entire village center struggled. The Preservation Trust worked with a group of Putney residents and raised the funds necessary to help open a community-supported bookstore. When the General Store’s owners were unable to rebuild after the first fire, we purchased an option on the property in hopes that the Historical Society would purchase it and rebuild. They did, and we've worked as partners ever since. We have since provided technical assistance, seed funds, fundraising support, and a major grant in partnership with Senator Leahy through our Village Revitalization Program. And then, just as the building shell was completed and a new slate roof installed, a second fire on November 1, 2009 reduced the building to ash. Fortunately Putney residents are all about perseverance. They have great passion for their sense of community and their village center and they are determined they are not going to lose it. They have committed to rebuilding their General Store, and we are committed to continuing to support their efforts.

In Summary:

  • This past year we worked in eight towns on nine Community Supported Enterprises.
  • We provided Field Service support to 249 historic preservation projects in 141 different towns. The Field Service Program is a partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Here are a few examples:
    • In Derby Line we worked with Village Trustees and citizens to oppose WESCO Oil Company’s permit to demolish two downtown buildings to build a Champlain Farms gas station/convenience store.
    • In Addison, we worked through the Public Advisory Committee and a “Friends” group to try to save the Lake Champlain Bridge. When structural flaws made it impossible, we refocused our efforts to recommend a design that honored its setting, minimized impact on resources, added bicycle and pedestrian amenities, and would be easy to maintain.

      Bullock Building, Readsboro, VTBullock Building, Readsboro, VT

    • In Readsboro, we worked with Readsboro Hometown Redevelopment to help them acquire and rehabilitate a key downtown building, the Bullock Block.
    • Statewide, we provided technical assistance to 35 barn-owners. We worked with 58 churches, meetinghouses, and synagogues; 22 libraries; 22 historical societies and museums; 30 town halls and community centers; and 12 arts organizations. Each building or revitalization initiative has a story about why that particular project meant so much to that community. In all cases, the headline is not about saving a building—rather it’s about people using places for the betterment of their community or for personal or collective enrichment.
  • As part of the Field Service Program, we awarded 51 Robert Sincerbeaux Fund matching grants to local groups to hire consultants for specialized technical assistance including building condition assessments, engineering studies, and fundraising consultation. These grants offer a tool for moving projects along their timeline. A number of architects, contractors and consultants fulfill these grants at a greatly reduced fee as a community service for nonprofit organizations.

    Athens Brick Meeting House
    Barnard General Store
    Bellows Falls Strategic Planning
    Belvidere One Room Schoolhouse
    Bethel Lympus Church
    Bondville Church
    Braintree Historical Society/Meetinghouse
    Brookline Benevolence Society/Church
    Burlington, Church Street Marketplace Plaques
    Burlington, Phi Gamma Delta
    Calais Town Hall
    Calais, Old West Church
    Castleton House Energy Audit
    Certified Local Government Training
    Craftsbury Academy
    Derby Line, Haskell Free Library
    East Corinth , Sugar Maple Preschool
    Enosburg Opera House Energy Audit
    Friends of Ferrisburgh
    Gayesville Community Church
    Greensboro, Circus Smirkus House & Barns
    Greensboro, Highland Lodge
    Groton, Cilley House
    Guilford , Friends of Algiers Village - Store
    Guilford Covered Bridge
    Hardwick, Jeudevine Mem. Library Energy Audit
    Hartford Library
    Jericho Center Community Center
    Lincoln, Burnham Hall Committee
    Manchester Center, Northshire Day School
    Middlebury Memorial Baptist Church
    Montgomery Historical Society - Pratt Hall
    Montpelier, Green Mt. Cemetery Chapel
    Montpelier, Bethany UCC
    Peacham Historical Society
    Perkinsville, Gethsemane Church
    Poultney Historical Society - St. John's
    Putney Historical Society - Pierce Hall
    Putney Historical Society - UCC
    Readsboro Hometown Redevelopment, Inc.
    Richmond, OneRichmond
    Richmond Town Municipal Building
    Rochester Public Library
    Rockingham Free Public Library
    Springfield, Miller Art Center
    St. Johnsbury, Main Street Fire
    Thetford Com. Center Window Workshop
    Vermont Barn Census
    Vermont Council on Rural Development - Future of Vermont
    Vermont Housing and Conservation Board
    Vermont Natural Resources Council
    West Brattleboro Association
    West Fairlee Community Development Com.
    West Glover Church

  • We provided stewardship visits to 56 properties as part of our Easement Program.
  • In partnership with Senator Leahy, the Village Revitalization Initiative awarded $675,000 to six community development and historic preservation projects.

    Chandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, VTChandler Center for the Arts, Randolph, VT

    Poultney, Green Mountain College, Bentley Hall
    Putney General Store
    Randolph, Chandler Center for the Arts
    Readsboro Bullock Block
    Richmond Round Church
    Shoreham, Newton Academy

  • Our partnership with the Freeman Foundation enabled us to award twelve Preservation Grants totaling $472,000. Descriptions of all of the grants are on our web site, but here are a few representative projects. It is hard to overstate how important each project is to its community.
    • In St. Johnsbury, a grant helped to conserve and weatherize windows at the Athenaeum. Another grant to Gilman Housing in partnership with Umbrella, a local non-profit organization, helped to convert a downtown historic building into eight new transitional housing units and a shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.
    • A grant to the Orleans County Fairgrounds helped to pay for structural repairs to two barns and the 1867 grandstand.
    • The Greensboro Bend Church received a grant that helped to fix drainage problems, jack the church, replace sills, and install new footings, floor joists and a basement floor. A big part of this story was the local fundraising effort, donated materials, and volunteer labor that went into the project. The basement is used for senior and community meals, meetings, and church functions.

    Addison, DAR Mansion
    Craftsbury Academy
    Greensboro United Methodist Church
    Greensboro Historical Society
    Lyndon Center, Upright Steeple Society
    Lyndonville, Cobleigh Library
    Newport, St. Marks Church
    Readsboro, Bullock Building
    St. Johnsbury, Fairbanks Museum
    St. Johnsbury, 1867 Building
    St. Johnsbury, Athenaeum
    Washington, United Universalist Church

  • In partnership with the Burlington Free Press, we awarded nine Barn Grants.

    Charlotte, Lutchko Barn
    Dummerston, Goodband Barn
    Fairlee, Wright Barn
    North Thetford, Berry-Bernard Barn
    Peacham, Ide Barn
    Pomfret, Chiofee Barn
    South Hero, Bergeron Barn
    South Hero, Alsop Barns
    South Londonderry, Ziegler Barn

  • We spent a lot of 2009 in the Statehouse supporting funding for the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board; and, with Smart Growth Vermont, lobbying for tax credits for the rehabilitation of historic buildings in our downtowns and village centers. We were successful in encouraging the Legislature to increase Designated Downtown and Village Center tax credits by $100,000, bringing the total to $1.7 million. This year, tax credits were awarded to 15 projects and leveraged nearly $20 million of construction activity.

Our Current Challenges

  • One challenge that we face is an increased demand for services in tough economic times. We have been fortunate and thankful for the generosity of individuals who continue to support our work. This allows us to work with local groups, to encourage continued fundraising and phasing projects, sometimes over a longer period of time. We have an incredibly talented group of preservation contractors and architects in Vermont. A disappointment in 2009 and hope for 2010 is that more stimulus funding will be targeted for rehabilitation projects. Rehabilitation work has more emphasis on labor and less on new materials—it is a great way to direct economic resources where they are most needed and with real community benefit.
  • Our work on sprawl and big box development continues. Vermont’s downtowns are fragile. We believe that downtowns need to serve the entire community with goods and services for all socio-economic levels. To that end, our position from the beginning has been to encourage big-box developers to locate in our downtowns and to do so at a scale that does not crush local business. In St. Albans, we developed plans for locating a 75,000 square foot Walmart downtown, where it would enhance the downtown and bring pedestrian traffic to neighboring businesses.
  • Sustainability and energy retrofits for historic buildings are not well understood. Well-meaning, but inappropriate insulation and weatherization treatments are threatening the fabric of historic buildings. Of particular consequence is the replacement of historic windows. Interestingly, studies have shown that reusing historic windows and adding storm windows can be a better energy saver and is definitely a greener solution than adding off-the-shelf replacement windows.

Click Here to See the accompanying Map of Where We Worked 2009