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Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference
Wednesday, June 5th • Bellows Falls, Vermont

Come celebrate Bellows Falls and statewide successes as we look at the past, present and future of Vermont and the communities we all cherish. As a community that has reimagined itself countless times, from a gathering place and home of the western Abenaki, to a center for the forest products industry, to a haven for artists and the creative economy, Bellows Falls has welcomed the future while staying true to itself. This conference will explore that spirit of reinvention and provide participants with proven strategies for community revitalization.

Sessions are centered around the following themes and are inclusive of a wide range of topics that are relevant to communities small and large:
resiliencyadaptation, inclusive spaces, and creativity. This is an all day, in-person event in Downtown Bellows Falls with no virtual offerings.

We hope your participation will provide you with the inspiration, tools, connections, and momentum to invigorate your community!

Questions? Contact Gary Holloway Gary.Holloway@vermont.gov.

Schedule At-A-Glance

Registration & Continental Breakfast

Opening Remarks & Awards

Keynote Panel

Morning Sessions

Lunch

Early Afternoon Sessions

Late Afternoon Sessions

Reception

8:00 – 8:45 am

8:45 – 10:00 am

10:00 – 10:45 am

11:15 am – 12:30 pm

12:30 – 2:00 pm

2:00 – 3:15 pm

3:45 – 5:00 pm

5:00 – 7:00 pm

The Downtown and Historic Preservation Conference is brought to you by the Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development in partnership with the Town of Rockingham, the Bellows Falls Downtown Development Alliance and the Vermont Arts Council.

The convening is held in conjunction with the Creative Sector Convening, hosted by Vermont Arts Council and Vermont Creative Network, on June 6 in Bellows Falls. Learn about places to stay and things to do in Bellows Falls.

Please note that when you click “Register Now” a new window will pop up to take you to the registration page where you will be asked to select your choices of sessions and lunch. You may want to refer back to this page as you make your selections as the full session descriptions are not included in the registration pages.

Full Conference Schedule

Opening Remarks & Awards   8:45 – 10:00 am

Projects and leaders from around the state will be recognized for their contributions and achievements from historic preservation to exemplary leadership and commitment to Vermont’s downtowns and village centers.

Keynote Panel   10:00 – 10:45 am

The Dynamic Downtown: Many Hands, Many Voices, and a Little Bit of Grit
In Bellows Falls you can buy a bumper sticker that’s says, “Bellows Falls, not nearly as bad as you think.” That understated pluck says a lot about this Indigenous settlement, turned industrial site, turned artistic haven. How has this village survived and thrived for generations? Learn about the many community champions and voices that have helped preserve a dynamic and diverse community.

Morning Sessions   11:15 am – 12:30 pm

Tour:  Bellows Falls: Railroad Town
Hop on the train in Bellows Falls! Take the Green Fleet, the 405 first generation diesel engine on a short run to the engine house and back.

Bellows Falls Island and Under the Hill: A Historic Redevelopment in Progress
Located in the Bellows Falls Downtown District, the Bellows Falls Island and Under the Hill, provide important redevelopment opportunities.  Come learn about the industrial heritage, brownfields cleanup and steps the Town of Rockingham has taken to pursue redevelopment.  Learn about funding opportunities and the many partners needed for revitalization.

Kchi Pôntegok Akiôtloka: The Land Speaks Its Stories
The Kchi Pôntegok Petroglyph Project received a National Parks Service Underrepresented Communities Grant in 2022 to amend the National Register listing of the Bellows Fall petroglyph site. Team members discuss their research and the implications for the Western Abenaki and other non-federally recognized tribes in the United States.

Creative Community Resilience 
Explore creative ways a community can come together to overcome the challenges of a catastrophic event and adapt to the inevitable change that follows.

VT Homes For All Toolkit: Missing Middle Housing Solutions
Learn about actionable tools and resources in the newly developed Homes for All Toolkit for novice and emerging small-scale home builders, seeking to start developing new and renovated homes in Vermont. Using an infill parcel in Bellows Falls as a case study, we’ll explore how the Rockingham Incremental Development Working Group is helping Rockingham/Bellows Falls become a development-ready community – and how you can apply these lessons to your community or housing project as a community development professional or local leader looking for new housing tools to support Vermonters.

Lunch & Learn   12:30 – 2:00 pm

Lunch will be available at 12:30. All offerings below start at 1pm.

Tour: Saxton’s River: A Village Reimagines its Three Churches
Take a tour of Main Street in Saxton’s River, where three church buildings have been adapted for reuse. Learn the circumstances of each conversation, the challenges, and the success found in the process contributing to a more inclusive future for the village. Note: this is an extended tour and goes through the early afternoon session, ending by 3:15.

33 Bridge Street
Grab lunch and walk to 33 Bridge Street, a former paper mill that houses artists, glass blowing studios, local radio station, and Stage 33 Live, a small theater. Artists include Grace & Miss Mouse Soaps, Kekic Glass, Sherwin Art Glass, Hunter Studio, Scott J. Morgan, Gail Hynes Photography, The WOOL- Black Sheep Radio 91.5. Meet artists and watch demonstrations.

Visit the Grand Ladies
A guided tour through the neighborhoods of Bellows Falls where the lovely ‘Painted Ladies’ reside! From Mansard to Greek Revival to the glorious Queen Anne you will be breathless at their beauty!

Two Centuries of the Square in Bellows Falls
Bellows Falls’s Square, the commercial center of the village since the 1790s, has evolved over the years, and has recovered from numerous fires. The result is a fascinating assortment of architectural styles. This tour will examine the history of the Square, showing historic buildings and their modern adaptations.

Frank Adams Grist Mill (Limit 14)
This tour will take a small group through the history of this 1800 working grist mill operation and structure and the Bellows Falls Historical Society’s future plans.

Tour:  Bellows Falls: Railroad Town
Hop on the train in Bellows Falls! Take the Green Fleet, the 405 first generation diesel engine on a short run to the engine house and back.

Early Afternoon Sessions   2:00 – 3:15 pm

Tour:  Under the Hill:  A Tour of Mill Sites in Bellows Falls
Take a walking tour “under the hill” in Bellows Falls, home to the origins of the towns industry.  Originally the location of the canal locks, it became home to the Fall Mountain Paper Company. This tour will visit the remaining mill buildings and show the sites of the other mills.

Keeping the Home Fries Burning: Community Supported Enterprises and the Miss Bellows Falls Diner
How do you reimagine a beloved community enterprise that faces overwhelming economic headwinds? Rockingham for Progress, a volunteer non-profit, outlines steps that community organizations can take to transform a dream to reality while honoring the past.

Floodproofing Strategies for Historic Buildings 
With increasing flood intensity and frequency, buildings in our historic settlements need unique strategies to add resilience while retaining their historic value.  This session will briefly cover the physics and rules of flood mitigation and then share strategies available specifically to historic structures with a discussion of the risks and costs.  Numerous case studies will provide examples and hope for building back better.

Creative Spaces from the Inside Out
The arts drive economic and cultural development in Windham, exemplified by four creative spaces in old buildings, such as a former car dealership, and an Odd Fellows lodge. They now house vibrant centers for performing and visual arts while keeping their historic character. Hear stories of resilience and creativity from arts leaders in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro.

Coordinated Calais: One Town’s Preservation Story 
Within the past year the town of Calais has seen three of its most historically significant buildings fully restored and rehabilitated. Gathering places were revived, resiliency improved and community ownership embraced. Join us in discussing lessons learned in balancing preservation with bringing historic resources into the 21st century.

Late Afternoon Sessions   3:45 – 5:00 pm

Film – Vanish: Disappearing Icons of a Rural America
A remarkable story of past and present, Vanish chronicles the “visual preservation” adventures of fine art photographer, Jim Westphalen, as he travels across the country seeking out and creating stunning imagery of America’s disappearing rural structures.

Tour: Rockingham Meeting House: The Story of a National Historic Landmark
Take a tour of the Rockingham Meeting House! Built in 1787, the Meeting House was awards National Landmark status in 2000 as a rare eighteenth-century New England meeting bouse. This session will explore opportunities and challenges for caring for an NHL, the role of a Historic Structures Report in preservation work, and graveyard and historic landscape conservation strategies.

Bellows Falls Pride and the Andrews Inn: The Rural Gay Experiment
The Andrews Inn was run as a gay-friendly bar and hotel in the downtown of Bellows Falls in 1974, when few such places existed anywhere, let alone a small New England mill town. In the forty years since the Inn closed, the existence of this groundbreaking LGBTQ+ establishment was rarely acknowledged or talked about – until recently.

Art Walks: Creative Economic Drivers 
Presentation of case studies of Vermont art walk/gallery hop/art stroll types of events with practical, applicable tactics for promoting participation, downtown vitality, and the purchase of artwork.

“Get on Board!”: Inviting New Voices for Leadership
Vermont communities are volunteer-powered, but a lack of volunteers is one of the most common challenges identified by towns and community project leaders. Learn how a recent pilot program called ‘SoVT Get on Board’ took on the work of inviting and training new volunteers.

Reception   5:00 – 7:00 pm

A reception with food and drink will be provided at the Welcome Center along with music and an opportunity to network with folks.

Please note that when you click “Register Now” a new window will pop up to take you to the registration page where you will be asked to select your choices of sessions and lunch. You may want to refer back to this page as you make your selections as the full session descriptions are not included in the registration pages.

For questions about the conference or registration, please contact Gary Holloway Gary.Holloway@vermont.gov.

Thank you to our 2024 Conference Sponsors!

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