Abandoned Vermont: Addison Town Hall (Alternatively: What about Rural Preservation?)

An upfront disclaimer: The Addison Town Hall is owned by the Town of Addison. Technically, it’s vacant, not abandoned. Due to its condition and the attention it requires, I categorize it as abandoned. 

The Addison Town Hall sits at the center of the village of Addison Four Corners in Addison, Vermont, at the junction of VT Route 22A and VT Route 17. Addison is a rural agricultural community in Addison County, with some remaining working dairy farms. The shores of Lake Champlain make up the western edge of the county.

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The Addison Town Hall and the Baptist Church are at the center of Addison Four Corners. Photo: January 2016.

The Addison Town Hall holds a place in my heart, because I studied the building during graduate school, and completed a building conditions assessment in 2010. And I passed through Addison Four Corners on my way to work at the Lake Champlain Bridge site for years. Since 2010, I’ve been visually monitoring the condition of the building.

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The Addison Town Hall, as seen in January 2016.

The Town Hall was built in 1872 and has served as a school, a town hall, town offices, and grange hall. As community needs changed, the interior was adapted, including  the second floor stage addition and partitions on the first floor. (See a few interior shots here.) School has not been in session since the 1950s. Today the town hall serves only as storage for the historical society and the neighboring Baptist church.

If memory serves, since October 2010 there have been a few frightening exterior developments.

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There is a clear separation of the foundation stones, northeast corner. January 2016.

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The northeast corner of the foundation is slipping, probably due to water damage. January 2016.

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The same issues on the southeast corner of the building. January 2016.

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The banks of windows would have been added when the standard school requirements of the 1930s were instated. January 2016. You can see all sorts of damage in this photo: collapsing back shed, weathering clapboards in need of a proper paint job, broken windows.

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View from the southwest shows the larger picture of deterioration, including the cupola. January 2016.

The deterioration of the Addison Town Hall brings up a more important conversation in preservation than one building.

The Addison Town Hall is an example of building located in a still active community, but a community that is rural and without all of the financial resources to rehabilitate this structure. What happens to a building that is a visual and physical landmark in a town, when there is not an obvious use for it?

A community’s needs change, and those changes often affect the buildings. Historic buildings with outdated purposes or those that are not up to code are left by the wayside with no plans and money.  What will happen to them? Imagine if a town center lost one of its prominent buildings. Rural communities have small village centers, with only a few buildings to represent the entire village. Loss of a town hall or a church or a school is devastating.

Urban preservation is a great conversation and a fun topic. But, frankly, it’s easier than rural preservation. There are more people, more opportunities for catalysts and funding. We should be talking more about alternative, creative uses for buildings in rural areas, where a one building win/loss can have much more of an impact than in an urban environment.

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Addison Four Corners, January 2016.

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8 thoughts on “Abandoned Vermont: Addison Town Hall (Alternatively: What about Rural Preservation?)

  1. Raina Regan says:

    100% agree! I see the passion to rehab/restore these community landmarks in rural communities I work with, but finding the funding is often such a difficult challenge. I work with one group in the teeny tiny community of Hall, Indiana – they are working to restore their historic 1914 school building. They really try to think creatively about funding, but finding a use is definitely a challenge.

    I’ll have to try and think of some great rural preservation success stories. Because you are right. Sometimes all they have is one or two buildings\ and to lose them is devastating.

  2. Judy Stock says:

    It is so sad to see the older buildings left to deteriorate. Makes me wish I had the funds to restore these building. The longer they are neglected the more work they require.

  3. larryshure says:

    What is the state-of-the-art for rural preservation? Has the 1997 edition of Saving America’s Countryside been superseded? This is really removed from what I do, but I expect linking individual preservation projects with larger planning efforts to establish heritage areas would be a productive direction.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Hi Larry,

      That’s an excellent question. At the moment, I don’t have the complete answer but I will start looking into it and get back to you. Thanks for the suggestion and helping to continue the conversation.

      Cheers!

  4. megvermont says:

    Hi Kaitlin – I think our local librarian is interested in talking with you about doing a summer program here about old buildings. How does she get in touch with you? thanks, Meg Streeter

    Meg Streeter, CRS Meg Streeter Real Estate 4 South Main Street/P. O. Box 818 Wilmington, Vermont 05363

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