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Putnam Block, Bennington: 2024 Preservation Award

As industrialization took hold in the 19th century, many of Vermont’s towns saw both the rise of fortunes and the rise of its built environment. In Bennington, Henry Putnam’s success with bottle top mechanics and other enterprises enabled him to become the town’s largest benefactor. In addition to funding Bennington’s public water system and the Putnam Hospital, he was also responsible for the 1870 Putnam Hotel. 

Located at the main intersection in the heart of the community, the hotel’s businesses contributed to the commercial activity of the bustling downtown and the upper floors provided visitors from out of town central and comfortable accommodations.

But since the late 1970’s, the hotel was underutilized. A few establishments occupied some of the first floor spaces, but the upper floors had been vacant for decades. 

Understanding that something needed to change, in 2016, leaders from some of Bennington’s most important institutions, including Southwestern Vermont Health Care, The Bank of Bennington, and Bennington College, came together with the goal of identifying a project that could transform and strengthen the area. Other leaders soon joined, and together they formed the Bennington Redevelopment Group.

The stars aligned as the entire four-acre Putnam Block (including the Courthouse and the Winslow Building) totaling over 80,000 square feet went on the market. 

The group acted quickly to secure an option on the property and set to planning the redevelopment.

After over three years of planning, pre-development work, fundraising and establishing, revisiting, modifying and reestablishing a capital stack with nearly sixty separate funding sources, the project was underway.

The work included preserving essential features and transforming the derelict structures into thirty-one new residential units targeting a wide range of incomes. Also included are medical clinics and offices, an IT firm, Bennington College’s Development Offices, a salon, a coffee shop, a 120-seat restaurant, and a bookstore. In total 74,000 sq. feet of historic structures were adapted. 

As hoped, the Putnam Block Redevelopment has led to significant additional private development inspired by the vision of a newly vibrant downtown. There is a new credit union establishing its first foothold in Vermont in a new building. The former Town Garage has been transformed into a cutting edge distillery. A new downtown grocery market and bakery has opened. And today, three additional new restaurants welcome patrons.

The Putnam Block Redevelopment represents the very best of community. Local leaders refused to give up despite countless hurdles placed in their way, and inspired over fifty other individuals and institutions to donate equity to the project in some form.  This project shows that strong partnerships and perseverance can absolutely breathe new life into the historic heart of the community.

Preservation Award to: 

Bennington Redevelopment Group
Bennington County Regional Commission
Stevens & Associates, P.C.
M&S Development
Bread Loaf Corporation

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