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Preservation Champion: Ashley LaFlam, Ferrisburgh

Preservation Champion: Ashley LaFlam, Ferrisburgh

A few years ago, Ashley LaFlam read in the Addison Independent that the town of Ferrisburgh wasn’t sure what to do with their c.1840 Union Meeting Hall, a brick building in the middle of town. She asked if she could see the inside, and she knew immediately: not only does this building need to be saved, but it also needs to be used.

Co-owner of a local construction company with her husband and mother of three young kids, Ashley is the president of the Friends of the Union Meeting Hall. The group started just before Covid hit, but that hasn’t deterred them from moving forward with the work necessary to bring the building into active use for a myriad of community functions and gatherings. An assessment report funded by the Preservation Trust has been critical to understanding what needs to be done: fire code work, adding ADA entrances and bathrooms, structural work, gothic window restoration, and roof repairs. With enthusiastic support of the town, the steeple was restored this summer. Grants have been secured from the Vermont Arts Council and the Vermont Community Foundation’s Walter Cerf Fund, and local contributions have been steady and strong.

For Ashley and other members of the board, though, the project isn’t just about fixing up the old building, it is about revitalizing the town center. Following recent events including maple sugaring with school groups, community movie nights, music performances, hosting food vendors, and participating in “Ferrisburgh Day,” they are already feeling the ripple effect of bringing new focus to the town center. A trail committee has formed to look at building walking trails in the town center, the town is looking to improve the septic system, and there is movement to add crosswalks to the busy intersections. Ashley and her crew have sparked an interest in getting behind the idea that Ferrisburgh can have an amazing and vital town center.

At the beginning of this project, Ashley was shown an early 20th watercolor and ink drawing by distant relative Helen LaFlam. The painting depicts townspeople dancing in the Union Meeting Hall, some dressed in fancy clothes and other “more ordinary” people. Not only does this bring to mind hosting an art show, but it is also inspiring for Ashley in other ways: she can’t wait to see more events happening in the building, and is working with others at strengthening relations in the community to make the project a success.

“We are making this building a centerpiece of community engagement, and working on providing programming to lift everyone up. This is what it was historically, and we are on a great path to grow that. It is very exciting.”

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