A Grand Re-Opening Celebration for the Socialist Labor Party (SLP) Hall in Barre, Vermont, was held on September 2, 2000 in the Hall. The outpouring of help and enthusiasm from citizens from all walks of life who came to the celebration demonstrates how a modest building with a remarkable history galvanized a group of townspeople both young and old to take pride in the historic preservation of their hometown.
The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust has been a nationwide leader in community land trusts. They have invested in and rehabilitated historic properties that would otherwise have been demolished; created hundreds of affordable homes; supported community development, and reinvigorated downtowns and village centers.
For over 30 years, this work has been led by Connie Snow. Connie has developed a highly professional rural community development entity, serving and meeting a variety of needs and undertaking an exhaustive list of area projects.
The story begins with three buildings on Clark and Canal Streets, just five minutes from downtown Brattleboro, that were slated for destruction to make way for a mini mall. Neighbors rallied to save the buildings, and the small nonprofit under Connie’s leadership stepped in to help. Since then they have expanded into every corner of Windham and southern Windsor Counties, rehabilitated a remarkable 890 homes and apartments, including 717 apartments, 40 mobile home lots, 133 shared equity homes and 15 commercial rentals.
Downtown Brattleboro would not be what it is today were it not for Connie’s efforts. Following a tragic fire and an engineering analysis, the Fire Chief agreed that the Wilder Block could be rehabilitated rather than demolished. Connie stepped in at a critical juncture, purchased the building, and restored both commercial and residential uses. The rehabilitation of the Abbott Block in Brattleboro was also critical to keeping a key business — the Holstein Association -– in Brattleboro when it was threatening to move from a neighborhood suffering from disinvestment.
Connie also was behind one of the crown jewels of downtown community development: the Brattleboro Food Co-op. Formerly, the co-op was in a strip mall set back from the street, with parking in front. The new co-op building project thoughtfully restored the historic streetscape, added needed downtown housing on the third and fourth floors, created a new park and improved flood resiliency.
Other efforts include: the establishment of Pliny Park, a community park in downtown Brattleboro; the rehabilitation of the Tontine Building in Guilford and the creation of clean and improved infrastructure and 24 homes in that community; additional projects in Wilmington, Whitingham, Putney and Bellows Falls, Springfield Windsor and more.
Yet the story of Connie’s work goes beyond the restoration of historic buildings for affordable housing and the revitalization of downtowns and village centers.
Connie’s indominatable spirit has transformed a fledgling group of volunteers into a powerhouse organization. Her leadership has enabled area residents to participate in the governance of the organization, supported their aspirations for home ownership, and provided an inclusive place for all of our citizens. Her work has transformed not only individual properties but also connected these properties – and the people who live in them — into thriving neighborhoods.
For 30 years, Connie Snow has practiced – and perfected – the art of building community.
Preservation Award to Connie Snow for 30 years of work with the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, Brattleboro, VT.