Abandoned Vermont: Highgate Falls Church

It’s a good time to address underused churches in Vermont. The Vermont Historic Preservation & Downtown Conference features a work day at Christ Church on Thursday May 1, 2014. Too many of our churches sit empty with small, shrinking congregations, extremely limited (or no) funding, and an uncertain fate. The case of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Highgate, VT is one of the many that is not abandoned, but is underused. It is used seasonally for weddings. Members of the church currently attend services in nearby Swanton, VT. Currently this church appears to be in good condition.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont works with Partners for Sacred Spaces and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation to host retreats that will aid organizations in developing uses for their churches. (This year’s is May 15-16 at the Grand Isle Lake House in Grand Isle, VT.)

Constructed in 1834.

Constructed in 1834.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

Located in Highgate Falls, VT.

The rear of the church.

The rear of the church.

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

You can see clear through the window across the church. Is anything more lovely than a historic window?

Beautiful windows.

Beautiful windows.

The sign on the front of the church.

The sign on the front of the church.

This odd photo - pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone - shows the interior of the church. That is as much as I could see inside.

This odd photo – pardon the blurry foreground, blame the iphone – shows the interior of the church. That’s as much as I could see inside.

What a beauty. This church is located down the road from Highgate Manor and the Highgate Falls Lenticular truss. Read more about Highgate, a small town in Franklin County, northwestern Vermont.

 

Preservation Photos #229

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

The lenticular truss bridge in Highgate Falls, VT.

This two-span wrought iron lenticular truss bridge was constructed in 1887 by the Berlin Iron Bridge Company in Highgate Center. It currently serves pedestrians. A bit about lenticular truss bridges (and other metal truss bridges here):

Lenticular trusses consist of both upper and lower curved chords, giving the bridge the shape of a lens (hence the name lenticular). This bridge type gained popularity during the early 1880s, and a number were constructed in Vermont. 

Preservation Photos #228

Marble staircase in the old post office in White River Junction, VT. Now home to the Center for Cartoon Studies.

Marble staircase in the old post office in White River Junction, VT. Now home to the Center for Cartoon Studies.

A bit of history from the Hartford Historical Society:

Built in 1934 as a WPA Project, this building has seen life as a post office, Vermont District Court and as a privately owned office building. Located at the northeast corner of South Main and Gates Street, it is  a Neo-Classical Revival-style brick building with a round, arched opening and the inscription “United States Post Office” on its front. The first post office in White River Junction opened in 1849 after the town became a major railhead and was located at or near the train depot. It moved in 1890 to the Gates Block and subsequently relocated to this building in 1934. It was replaced by a new distribution center, built outside the historic district in 1964.

 

A Cafe sans Screens and Wifi

A coffee shop. A nice place to work, right? Or socializing?

In October, Preservation in Pink discussed the Coffee Shop Conundrum: coffee shop atmosphere and aesthetics, the cost of a cup of coffee, how much to spend in a small business, and how long to stay. Do you have coffee shop guilt? How can a coffee shop be the best atmosphere, the most inviting, and still make a profit?

You might have seen the recent NPR story on August First, a coffee shop/cafe in Burlington, Vermont that has banned screens (laptops and tablets) as of March 31, 2014. Why? Customers were squatting, staying too long and the business was losing money. Buying a few cups of coffee for a few hours was just not cutting it for profits. Additionally, when all of the tables are always full with people and laptops, it does not create the community feel that August First wanted. Rather than being social and neighborly, people were setting up shop with more space than needed and not leaving. The tables were not turning over. So August First made a bold move. Two years ago they cut the free wifi, and this year they banned screens (smartphones are allowed). The result? Sales have increased, even with people’s complaining.

August First in Burlington, VT.

August First in Burlington, VT.

While banning screens sounds crazy, you can probably understand August First’s point-of-view. Haven’t you ever walked into a cafe where the tables were all full, some with one person taking up a table for four? That isn’t fair to anyone.

If you read the comments on the NPR articles (hundreds) you’ll see that there are many issues at hand:

  1. Customers squatting at tables cuts down in revenues because tables do not turn over;
  2. Tables that do not turn over will discourage people from returning because they expect to not be able to find a table;
  3. What sort of atmosphere are the business trying to create?;
  4. Cafes are not meant to be alternate offices for freelancers (although I’m sure we’ve all wished about that!);
  5. Is there more of an issue for small business owners than chains such as Starbucks or Barnes & Noble?

The first two are easy to comprehend. Customers spending a few hours and drinking two cups of coffee, for example, will not create as much business as a group of people drinking a cup of coffee or eating a meal. Customers taking up more than one chair and space for one person, prevent more customers from choosing to drink/dine in this cafe.

Yet, some businesses might want the creative writing/academic/business crowd to settle in for a while and appreciate the space. Some people crave working in environments where you are allowed to drink coffee (as in, not the library) and hear the hum of everyday life around you while you work. As discussed in Coffee Shop Conundrum, Starbucks is not an environment where you’d want to say a while (in my opinion). A local, cozy, friendly coffee shop is. At that point, the issue becomes about respect and etiquette, issues often overlooked when screens are in front of our faces. Do not use the coffee shop as your office and spend enough money when you are there. However, what is the appropriate amount of money?

The issue of coffee shop space diverges into credit card v. cash purchases and the evolving nature of how we communicate, interact, and work.

Are there solutions? Well, for those who do not understand that a coffee shop is not an office, they should consider collaborative/co-working office space: renting a desk in an office with other freelancers. If you find the right space, you’ll find your ideal coffee shop/work atmosphere. Even the small city of Montpelier, Vermont has such a space – Local 64. Look around in your city.

What about a different approach? How about a pay-as-you-go space? A cafe in the U.K. and one in Buenos Aires serve as the examples. You pay for the amount of time that you’re in the cafe, not for anything else. It hearkens back to the days of the internet cafe, when you were paying for internet. It’s another version of the co-working space.

And then there are variations. Some coffee shops give you a code when you place an order. Once you run out of internet time, you have to buy something else to get additional time. Other places request that you limit your time and table space during busy hours. Perhaps creating a screen section would work.

Of course, each business can do what is best for its business and create the environment it would like. As we become more mobile and screen-attached, small businesses will have to be creative and find solutions to keep up their profits. Good job to August First for being braving and finding what works for them. Not to mention, the food is delicious, and August First is located in a historic building.

What do you think? Are there other issues? Does your favorite coffee shop have wifi? Any other solutions? What’s the balance?

Abandoned Vermont: Brandon House

Please note that this house is for sale, not abandoned. But I cannot answer to how long it’s been for sale. 

House for sale can hold the appearance and aura of abandonment. Of course there are reasons for this. Perhaps a family member died and it’s an estate sale. Or it was a seasonal home, rarely used. This house in Brandon, Vermont gives that longing look, the look that abandoned or neglected houses carry. It strikes me as a house filled with relics of the last family to the live there; culturally interesting items, but not much that someone would want to truck back to his or her home.

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Aside from that modern garage door, the house maintains much of its architectural integrity.

White house in the white winter snow. The windows look dark and cold, and the house immediately seemed to have that abandoned lure.

White house in the white winter snow. The windows look dark and cold, and the house immediately seemed to have that abandoned lure.

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A beautiful ca. 1850 Greek Revival house.

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For sale by owner, the sign says.

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With a beautiful barn.

Cross your fingers for this house; all it needs is a new owner and some love.

New Media for Preservationists: STELLER

As preservationists, as people, sharing stories, photographs, and memories is an important part of how we communicate, commemorate, and connect. We seek to reach family members, friends, colleagues, strangers, and more. Living in the digital (or internet) age, we have so many options for sharing: blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, cloud streaming, digital publications – it’s endless, really, and incredibly exciting. There is always something new right around the corner.

The newest story/photo sharing app is called STELLER. In a nutshell, you create mini-books with photos, text, and videos and then share them with the world. It reminds me of Instagram, but in a more published feeling. And the best part of this is that viewers do not need the app. You can send your story link to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, email or a text message. (Right now, this app is only available for Apple devices, so you can only make a STELLER story with the app on your Apple device. Hopefully that changes soon.)

My introduction to STELLER is entirely credited to Raina (@rainaregan on Twitter or @raiosunshine on Instagram). We love to talk social media and preservation and cats, and started to discuss the potential does an app like this hold for historic preservation?

A picture is worth 1,000 words, so they say; seeing is believing and understanding the words of preservation. An app that shares photographs is fun and connects people to one another socially, professionally, near and far. What can STELLER do? Education guides, travel guides, themes, marketing, just to name a few. Or, on a personal level, it can create memory books and offer stories and collections of a trip, an event, a day. Since it’s a brand new app, we’re just experimenting with it.

My first STELLER story is a collection of Vermont winter photos. Click here or on the image below.

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And check out Raina’s first story about Indiana Courthouses. (She’s also one of the best Instagrammers out there, so follow her @raiosunshine.)

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What do you think? Are you on STELLER? Is this just another social media photo fad, or do you see its potential? 

Christ Church in Island Pond

As mentioned, now is the time to register for the Vermont Preservation Conference (May 2, 2014). The day before, please join us for a work day to aid in the restoration of Christ Church in Island Pond. You don’t have to be experienced, just able to follow directions and willing to help. A few photos of Christ Church in its current condition show the siding that needs to be replaced, windows repaired, and painting to be done. The interior is beautiful, and also needs some cleaning. Come join, it’ll be a preservation party!

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