Preservation Awards 2001
Lamoille Housing Partnership
Since its inception in 1991, the Lamoille Housing Partnership has been working to preserve historic downtown buildings for use as affordable housing. Highlighted in this year’s nomination are three projects:
In Hardwick, the Lamoille Housing Partnership rehabilitated three derelict historic buildings into safe and decent housing as part of the Highland Hill Housing project. These properties were in serious disrepair, and certainly would have been condemned had LHP not stepped in. Now they serve as an important source of affordable housing and a valuable record of Hardwick’s architectural heritage.
In Morrisville: when first built in 1902, the Romanesque style Drowne Block housed the downtown five and-dime with professional offices upstairs. Not atypical, the second floor offices were eventually converted to apartments, and in time those apartments became rundown. Last year the building’s owner converted the storefront into a downtown post office. Lamoille Housing partnership made the project possible by condominiumizing the upper floor into 8 beautiful new apartments, retaining the historic windows, woodwork and hardwood floors.
Also in Morrisville, the Copley House, completed this past summer, has an interesting history. This gracious Queen Anne style structure was built in 1896 as a summer residence. In 1932, Alexander Copley converted the home into Morrisville’s first hospital, attaching a carriage barn to the east end for added space. In 1968, a new hospital was built, and the Copley building became a nursing home. But the 20th century was hard on the building. Tragically the original wrap around porch was removed to make way for a tacky one story addition; and, in time, the building became run down. Lamoille Housing Partnership stepped in, completely rehabbed the structure, removed the insensitive addition, and reconstructed the wrap around porch, so that today the building’s façade looks much as it did in 1932. Recently reopened, Copley House serves as home to 20 residents with severe and persistent mental illnesses.
For 10 years, Lamoille Housing Partnership has worked to improve the housing stock in Lamoille Valley. Of the 84 units in LHP’s rental housing portfolio, 81 are in historic building. LHP describes the work as satisfying: “for the heart and soul of a building will always be in the people who live within its walls.”
Vermont Youth Orchestra for the Elley-Long Music Center
The Elley-Long Music Center is the result of the generous donation of a unique historic building by St. Michael’s College with the commitment of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association to find a permanent quality rehearsal space for 350 student.
The building dates from 1895 and was originally a riding hall at Forth Ethan Allen, in Colchester. It was subsequently acquired by St. Michael’s College and served a variety of functions, including a gymnasium, before it became a storage facility. VT Youth Orchestra had been searching for many years for better rehearsal space for its growing number of orchestras. After considering building a new structure, the riding hall was offered by St. Michael’s, and was immediately embraced by all. This was an opportunity to have great rehearsal space, and at the same time reclaim an important historic structure.
Thus began the challenging capital campaign to raise the $2 million needed for renovations. The founding gift that made all of this possible came from Carolyn Long, in honor of her father, Dr. Harold Elley, and hence the Elley-Long Music Center name was born. A very ambitious campaign was launched and headed by VYOA Executive Director, Caroline Widden. Funds were secured from a HUD grant, the Kresge Foundation, and countless very generous benefactors.
Celebrating its grand opening November 17, this magnificent structure features large original windows, and a newly uncovered original wood ceiling, which opened the structure up and gave it better acoustics. An architectural highlight is an array of arched windows in the front, a motif that has been continued in the interior new walls. This magnificent structure now houses several smaller rehearsal rooms as well as two large rehearsal areas that can accommodate two orchestras simultaneously in sound-proof rooms. Thus, the rebirth of this beautiful historical building!
Housing Vermont for the Exner Block, Bellows Falls
The Exner Block was built around 1905 just off the Square in downtown Bellows Falls. It included six retail spaces and six duplex apartments above, with the intention that the retail spaces would be run by shopkeepers who, along with their families, lived in the building. By the 1920s, when the Exner family bought the building, it had gone through many changes. Due to its proximity to the railroad station, it had been converted to a rooming house. And from the 1970s, Mary Exner, whose father purchased the block, lived in the building alone until she moved into a nursing home and died in the mid-1990s. Subsequently, the bank ended up with the building and placed it up for auction in the fall of 1997. The Exner Block was extremely dilapidated, with serious foundation problems, water coming through the roof, and a mechanical system that needed total replacement.
Housing Vermont purchased the building at auction with the intent of creating affordable housing. At a Selectboard meeting, Andy Broderick, then vice-president of Housing Vermont, heard a slightly different vision for the building: affordable housing and retail space for artists.
Over the next year and a half, $1.5 million was secured from various state and federal sources for the Exner Project. In the Fall of 2000, two years after the building had been purchased at auction, the Exner Block opened providing 10 affordable living/workspaces for artists and six retail spaces with a focus on the arts. The renovation of this extraordinary, tin-sided block provided a tremendous catalyst toward downtown Bellows Falls revitalization.
Housing Vermont is to be applauded for their mission to provide quality affordable housing and partnering with a local organization to make the Exner Block vision, a reality.
Barre Historical Society for the Old Labor Hall, Barre
The three-story brick Labor Hall in Barre was constructed in 1900 by immigrant granite workers, volunteering after their six day work week. The building housed a meeting hall, cooperative store, bakery and bottling works, and the Granite Workers Union. But, the historic significance of the Labor Hall goes well beyond the building itself. For nearly four decades the Labor Hall was an epicenter of radicalism and reform attracting internationally known political and labor leaders-Samuel Gompers, Mother Jones, and Emma Goldman, to name a few. Here Socialists, Anarchists and Union leaders vigorously debated the future direction of America’s labor movement.
As important as its early history is, its rescue effort, headed by Karen Lane, is also an important story of perseverance. Ms. Lane came to Barre in the late 1970s to head Barre’s Ethnic Heritage Project. She and others sought on several occasions to secure the building, which had become, after auction, a warehouse in the late 1930s. Those efforts were fruitless. In 1994, when Karen was notified about plans for foreclosure and sale, she swung into action. With co-conspirators JoEllen Mulvaney and John Hanna, they reinvigorated the Barre Historical society, jawboned the bank into providing an option at a reasonable price, and began a fundraising campaign.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board made an initial grant of $50,000 toward acquisition and community fundraising secured the balance. With the building saved from the auction block, the Historical Society undertook other grants and fundraising activities now totaling over $500,000. As in the beginning, union members donated time, labor and money. Last Labor Day, the building reopened. In contrast to countless memorials honoring the prominent and powerful, this building is once again a living and working community hall that pays homage to the ordinary workers who struggled and died trying to achieve a decent life for themselves and their fellow laborer. The Historical Society’s rescue effort to save and restore this critically important building, inspire all of us.
Duncan and Megs Keir and the Town of Huntington Selectboard for the Fuller House Project
In February 1999, the Fuller House, located in the center of lower Huntington Village, was described as standing on its last legs. Two years later, after much hard work, the house is a bright spot on Main Street, serving as the post office, temporary home of the library, and private offices. There are many people who contributed to the success of this project. However, it was primarily the combined efforts of Duncan and Megs Keir, representing the private sector, and the Selectboard for the Town of Huntington, representing the public sector, which are most directly responsible for this model preservation program.
When the US Postal Service announced in 1998 that it had outgrown its current Huntington location, one location, a lot outside of the main village was identified as a possible new building site. But there was strong sentiment for the Post Office to remain in the village to assist the community’s goal of creating an attractive village growth center. At that point, Duncan and Megs Keir viewed the 1840 Fuller House as a good candidate. They were able to purchase the run-down property and received a small grant to do a feasibility study.
Financing became a challenge, but multiple interests rallied, with the Town leading the way with a Commerce and Community Development grant, subsequently loaned to the Fuller House. Additional support came from private investors as well as from state and federal programs. The long and interesting struggle culminated in April of this year when the US Post Office moved in for business.
Through the insight, determination, and perseverance of the Keirs, the Selectboard, and numerous Huntington residents, the goals as expressed in the Huntington Town Plan were achieved; i.e., preserving and protecting historic resources and directing growth to the town’s village districts.
East Braintree Congregational Church
The Braintree Christian Church, founded in 1817, was originally located on top of the hill on the north side of Peth Village. In the late 1840s, the membership disagreed over what branch of religion it would follow, and it was decided to move the church to East Braintree, hoping its location on a main road (Route 12) would result in increased membership. Officially dedicated in the present location in 1852, it reorganized in 1871 as a Congregational church, which it remains today.
During the 150+ years in its present location, the church became known for the tilt of its steeple. Whether this tilt dates back to its original construction or early renovations its unknown. However in 1974, the lean became more pronounced and a few supporting timbers were replaces. This did not correct the problem, and in the summer of 1998, when its bell refused to ring, it was discovered that the structure had seriously deteriorated. If it wasn’t taken down and repaired, it probably would come down on its own!
Given the cost ($22,000+) to repair, the easy way out for a congregation of 14 members would have been to permanently remove the steeple and do a roof repair. In what they called a “leap of faith,” the Trustees voted to pay Jay Southgate $1,600 to remove the steeple and winterize the roof while they campaigned to raise the needed money for repairs.
They applied for grants, launched a Save the Steeple Fund, held benefit concerts, a raffle and food sales. A local country store provided a jar for patrons to contribute to the Fund. Services donated by volunteers such has painting shutters and trim and repairing the weathervane helped keep costs down. On March 2nd, 2000, with the help of generous grants from the VT Division for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Trust, plus fundraising proceeds, the restored steeple was hoisted back into place. It stands erect for the first time in recent history, preserved for current and future generations. A huge accomplishment for a congregation of this size, and one worthy of recognition!
Paramount Center, Rutland
The Paramount Theater and members of the Rutland region have together completed a very successful historic restoration of the Paramount Theater as well as an acclaimed inaugural season of performances. Throughout the year audiences embraced the theater and blend of diverse offerings presented within its shimmering elegance. And while the theater, in all its brilliance, has been a delight to behold, it was the spirit of the dedication and devotion of the community that shone most brightly.
Built in 1913, the 1,000 seat Paramount theater was constructed for live performance. The outstanding acoustics, excellent sight lines, and richly decorated auditorium made the Paramount the premier venue for performing arts in southern Vermont. But fashions and economics change, and the theater closed in 1975. The theater sat empty and neglected until the Center on the Alley, Inc. was formed to purchase the theater for use as a performing arts center. In 1988, the Paramount Center, Inc assumed ownership. Although in a state of disrepair, the theater was structurally sound and essentially intact with much of its decorative detail remaining. Long range planning and fundraising began. The firm of Nimtz, Berryhill, and Fegeil developed the architectural plan, and in January 1999, the John A. Russell Corporation was selected for the historic restoration. Construction began that spring.
The successful restoration of the Paramount Theater was completed in February 2000 and an opening Gala in March honored the artisans and contributors who made the historic restoration project possible. Its restoration has been the final perhaps most meaningful component of Rutland’s successful redevelopment campaign.
City of St. Albans for the American House Annex and Franklin Heights
In early 1996, the Franklin Lamoille Bank, owner of the American House Annex and Franklin Heights buildings, in downtown St. Albans, indicated to the City that they intended to demolish the building. While in a severe state of deterioration and unoccupied, demolition would tear a hole in the downtown commercial district and remove one of St. Albans’ oldest buildings.
Built in 1815, the American House annex and Franklin Heights Building is listed on the National Register and occupies an important visual street intersection. The City took a rare and bold move, buying the building in order to save it. Teaming up with Lake Champlain Housing, a local non-profit housing group, they developed a plan for creating retail/office space on the lower two floors and housing on the upper two. Rehabilitation plans included compliance with the Secretary of Interior’s Standard for Historic Preservation. The Town applied for and received funds from a number of sources including the Vermont Community Development Block Program, HUD, Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, funding from the City and other sources.
The renovation of the American House Annex and Franklin Heights Building has allowed the City of St. Albans to demonstrate to the local downtown business community their commitment to the downtown. By investing in the project, the City was not only able to preserve a downtown landmark, but also to enrich the economic and architectural fabric of the downtown St. Albans community.
Honor Awards prior to 2001
W. Thomas Anderson
Barre Historical Society
Barre Opera House
Bethel Lympus Church
Billings Farm and Museum
Bennington Regional Affordable Housing Corporation
Brattleboro Area Community Land Trust
Brattleboro Museum and Art Center
Bridport Restoration Project
Burlington Community Land trust
Burlington Youth Employment Program
Central Vermont Community Land Trust
Chandler Music Hall and Cultural Center
East Braintree Congregational Church
Drs. John Elliot & Lloyd Thompson III
Erastus Thayer Housing Limited Partnership
Flynn Theatre for the Performing Arts
Gilman Housing Trust
Greater St. Johnsbury Central Business District Association
Green River Village Preservation Trust
Greensboro Town Hall Committee
Hartland Historical Society
Haskell Free Library and Opera House
Ralph Nading Hill
Alan Hunt, Vermont Housing Finance Agency
Inn on the Green
Johnson School Board
Duncan and Megs Keir
Ladies Village Improvement Society of Enosburg Falls
Lake Champlain Maritime Museum
Lamoille Housing Partnership
U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy
Left Bank Gallery
Lydia and John Makau
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park
Montgomery Historical Society
Montpelier Heritage Group
National bank of Middlebury
Old Village Church Committee of the Newbury Women’s Club
Paramount Center, Rutland
Pawlet Projects Committee and the People of Pawlet
Antonio and Ernest Pomerleau
Preservation institute for the Building Crafts
Randolph Community Development Corporation
Reading Historical Society
Redstone Commercial Group
Richmond Town Center Committee
Bernard Robillard, Robillard Flats Farm
Rose Street Artists’ Cooperative
The Round Barn Farm Inn
Roxbury Village School Board
Town of Royalton and Royalton Academy Building Committee
Rutland County Community Land Trust
City of St. Albans
St. Albans Revitalization Committee
Mr. & Mrs. William R. Scott
Stagecoach Transportation Services
Stannard Historical Society
Swanton Historical Society
United Counseling Services of Bennington County
UVM Historic Preservation Graduate Program
Vermont Arts Exchange
Vermont Historical Society
Vermont Housing & Conservation Board
The Vermont Land Trust
Vermont Studio School
Vermont Youth Orchestra
Vergennes Partnership, Inc.
John Warren House
Weathersfield Center Church Building Committee
The Wilson House