Good Reasons to Look Up: Burlington Sign Tour

Do you stroll around, always looking up? If you’re preservationist, you probably do. If you haven’t thought to look up at buildings and ceilings and cornices, give it a try. You never know what you might discover in your own town. It’s like playing tourist where you live.

Not sure where to start? Check out this Seven Days video  about Burlington signs, featuring two of my fellow UVM alums, Devin Colman and Britta Fenniman Tonn who wander around Burlington reading history through signs.

 

Finding History in NJ on the D&R Canal

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Griggstown, NJ on the D&R Canal. 

As recent photographs indicate, I was in New Jersey a few weeks ago. I’m a native Long Islander (forever a Vermont flatlander) who grew up with jokes about New Jersey. Sorry, NJ, though I know you grew up with Long Island jokes. Fair is fair. My experience with New Jersey was limited to long trips that traversed the New Jersey Turnpike (traffic!) and getting lost on the Garden State Parkway (teenagers + navigation = trouble) and the Jersey Shore (great beaches, not to be confused with the TV show). Imagine my surprise while visiting friends in Princeton and we discovered the gorgeous architecture of Princeton and the unexpected discovery of the D & R Canal State Park.

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The Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park is a 77 mile linear park that transformed the former canal towpath into a recreational resource for walking, running, biking, horseback riding and kayaking. The canal opened in the 1830s, constructed (hand dug) by mostly Irish immigrants. Originally the canal connected the Delaware River to the Raritan River, the Philadelphia and New York City markets. The canal opened in 1834 and continued in operation until 1932. The land became a park in 1974. The heyday of the canal existed prior to the railroads. Mules towed canal boats, yachts, and vessels along the towpath, in the middle of or alongside the canal. The canals operated with locks and spillways to account for the elevation changes.

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Today you can see all of these elements on the D&R Canal on foot, on bike, on horse, or even driving from lock house to lock house.

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At the edge of Princeton, NJ in the village of Kingston. 

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View of the lock at Kingston. 

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Lock tender’s house, bridge, and the lock at Kingston. 

Further down the canal you’ll come to Griggstown.

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Historic Village of Griggstown, NJ. 

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The view of the canal from the bridge in Griggstown. 

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Wood deck bridge. 

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Griggstown, NJ. The building appears abandoned from the exterior, though a peak through the windows shows that it’s not. NJ State Parks have an ongoing restoration project. 

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The Long House, formerly a store and post office and grain storage. Currently under restoration for an interpretive center. 

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The bridge tender’s station. 

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The 1834 bridge tender’s house, built for the bridge tender and his family. Historically, the bridge tender had to raise the bridge for the boats and mules to pass along the canal. 

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A perfect, tiny front door on the bridge tender’s house. 

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An abandoned state park property in Griggstown, due to flooding damage. 

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More flood damage. Keep out! 

The canal continues on, and whether you travel by foot or bike or car, I’d recommend a visit!  Read more of the D&R Canal’s history here and plan your trip.  Have you been here? Or other canals? The C&O Canal is on my list, too.

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.

The John Roberts Houses of Burlington, VT

You might be wondering what the John Roberts houses are, as I’ve recently posted a few shots from around Burlington, VT. Good question, and it’s about time I gave you some additional information.

Peering over the picket fence at a John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

John Roberts was a builder in Burlington, VT who constructed many Queen Anne style cottages throughout the city in the 1880s/90s. They are recognizable by their similar characteristics: 1.5 story, gable end facing the street, two narrow second story windows above the first floor bay window, a side porch, and decorative millwork on the upper story in the gable. This millwork is diamond cut shingles and criss-crossing patterns of applied stickwork. Many of these houses were built for about $900. There are about 50 of these houses throughout Burlington. (For reference: see the “Historic Guide to Burlington Neighborhoods, Vol. III).

A John Roberts house on North Winooski Avenue in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

 

A slightly less noticeable John Roberts house in the Old North End of Burlington, VT. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

The houses have been altered over the years as you can see in the examples I’ve shared. The bay windows are replaced or the two windows on the upper story are replaced with one window. The porches have been enclosed. The details is painted to match the rest of the house, rendering the tell-tale gable details more difficult to spot.

The same, but different. Can you spot it? #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

Looking at the above photo, some of you noticed that these three houses are very similar. Correct! In fact, because  of the alterations, I had to step back from the sidewalk to notice that all three are John Roberts houses. The far left has been covered in vinyl (see photo below). The middle retains the most integrity. the house on the right has replaced the gable window, and converted the porch window to a door, allowing for an additional entrance.

It’s an interesting (albeit sometimes sad) game of comparison and contrast. And it makes you wonder why owners choose to remove some details and not others, why particular windows were replaced. Observing these John Roberts houses truly shows what can happen to buildings over time if craftsmanship is not maintained and respected. Thankfully many of the John Roberts houses are mostly intact. 

Wondering about those John Roberts houses all over Burlington? I've posted about them on PiP today (link in profile). Enjoy!

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

And there are 50! Guess I’ll be out there searching for others – some good running entertainment. Do you know of any? If you leave them in the comments, and I’ll be sure to go take a look!

Revisiting Abandoned Vermont: South Ryegate Church

Last time I saw this church in South Ryegate, the rear addition was barely hanging out, as the ground below it washed away in Tropical Storm Irene. By luck, someone let me in the church that day to see the interior. Empty, neglected, but with such promise. That was 3.5 years ago. Recently while in the area, I drove by to see how the church was faring. From the front, it looked the same. This 1880 First Presbyterian Church is still beautiful.

It was still for sale, too. That was in November. As of January, the church is off the market.

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South Ryegate Church at 161 Church Street

The difference this time? The rear addition has been removed, likely due to loss of a foundation and to save the main building.

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Note the missing addition.

 

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I was not able to see what rear of the building looks like now.

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View from the next street.

 

 

Based on real estate listings, this was done a few years ago. Maybe someone bought the church this time? If I find out, I’ll let you know.

Revisiting an Abandoned Vermont property: Fair Haven Depot

I’ve been photographing abandoned and neglected Vermont properties since 2011. This year I’ve been revisiting some of these properties to find out if anything has changed. A few have found better fates, but the majority remain vacant and neglected.

The Fair Haven Depot is located just outside the center of Fair Haven. The train depot is on the Clarendon & Pittsford Rail line, formerly owned by the Delaware & Hudson Railroad, and now owned by Vermont Rail System (VRS). Until 2010, Amtrak stopped at this depot, though the stop was not inside the building. Passengers waited in a small shelter across the street. The building was surveyed in the 1980s by the Vermont Historic Sites & Structures Survey, at which time it was vacant and not used as a passenger station. That’s 30+ years ago. From what I’ve learned, the railroad is not responsive to any town or historical society attempts inquiring about the building.

Additionally, the 1930s concrete bridge that leads to the depot has been closed for a few years. There is another way around and not much traffic, so they fate of this bridge does not look good.

Interested in a walk around the depot with me? Read on.

View from the bridge. The depot looks pleasant thanks to yellow & green plywood painted to look like doors and windows. 


Vegetation and evidence of backsplash.

  

The trackside of the building. If you look closely at the foundation you can see water damage. The water pours down the hill (to the left of this photo) and flows into the foundation. 


Foundation and damage to the bricks, from water and deferred maintenance. 

  

Closer view of the damage. 


Cracks in the bricks. Critters can easily fit under that door. 

  

More brick spalling and the stone holding the bracket, which holds the roof, is not long for this world. 


More of the same. 

  

Foundation damage. 


Vegetation next to a building foundation is not good for long-term building health. 

  

The precipitation splashes from the ground to the bricks. And, as evident by the moss, there is not much sunlight to dry the ground. 


  

The side of the building that you see from the bridge. 

Something about this building breaks my heart. It must be my fondness for railroad depots. Depots are such valuable buildings to communities: transportation hubs, meeting places, often architectural gems in the town. Railroad buildings were built to last. There are many success stories of railroad buildings throughout Vermont.

What a shame that the railroad neglects its history and its beautiful, historic buildings throughout Vermont and the rest of the United States? Restoring a railroad depot always benefits the community – socially and economically and in all realms.

Do you have a similar story from your community? What advice can you offer? I’d love to know. This depot deserves to be saved. Have some thoughts? #savethefairhavendepot

Abandoned Vermont: 1829 Sudbury Schoolhouse

Not necessarily abandoned, but certainly neglected.

Most one-room schoolhouses that you’ll find in Vermont are wood frame construction and wood clapboard. For that reason, this Greek Revival one-room schoolhouse of marble construction at the intersection of Route 73 and Route 30 in Sudbury, VT jumps out at the passersby. Known as the District No. 3 School or the Sudbury Hill School, it dates to 1829 (for alterations) and ca. 1821 (original construction).

Today the school appears secure, dry, and safe, but vacant. Do you know who owns or uses the school? If you’re interested in exploring the school and looking in the windows, look at these photographs and captions.

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The little schoolhouse sits on the side of the road with a message board, but no news to report in November 2015.

West facade.

Sudbury School No. 3. Look at the gable end and you can see that the roof might have been raised (hence the 1821 and 1829 construction dates).

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Windows were not needed on the north side. At back of the school are the attached privies.

 

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Schoolhouse entrance.

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The bank of windows was likely added later when school standards were developed. Look closely and you can see an original window (now filled in) to the right of the window bank and on the front left of the gable end.

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The west bank of windows.

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Desks, books, miscellaneous items, chalkboard, as see through the window.

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The schoolhouse appears to have been used in the last half century, based on the desks and the heating duct. Now it serves as storage.

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More of the same.

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To the privies.

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Marble fieldstone construction.

You can find the National Register Nomination here via www.orc.vermont.gov.

What do you think? Beautiful, yes? Would you rather have a vacant/neglected building like this converted to a private residence, a town office, or a museum that is open sparingly?

The Smallest Bank in Vermont

Six years of traveling Vermont for work and for fun, and there are still some towns I haven’t passed through. Vermont 251 Club states that Vermont has 251 towns and cities. Many towns have more than one village, so the 251 is semi-misleading. Orwell, Vermont is one of those that I haven’t visited. The town center sits on Route 73, which connects Route 22A and Route 30, main north/south roads in Vermont. With some time to spare recently, I decided to turn off Route 22A and head into Orwell. I’m glad I did, as I found the most adorable (technical term, of course) bank.

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The First National Bank of Orwell. The 1832 bank on the left, the 1878 vault in the center, and a later frame addition on the right.

 

The Farmer’s Bank of Orwell was established in 1832 in the 2-story transitional Federal-Greek Revival brick house. In 1878 the bank rechartered as the First National Bank of Orwell and added a new vault and teller counters housed in a new addition, the unusual High Victorian Gothic 3-bay building to the right. This little bank does a lot of talking with its brick and slate cornice arcading and its pointed arch window heads.

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The 1878 vault.

 

The bank still operates as the National Bank of Orwell and received media acclaim and attention when the big banks were suffering losses and going under in the 2008 financial crisis. The New York Times reported on the bank (with some great interior photos) as did Seven Days, a local Vermont paper.

Three cheers for the locally operated banks (and visiting new towns). Find any unexpected gems on your travels lately?

Who Wore it Better? 

Facades on similar buildings, architecturally speaking, who are neighbors on the same street in Johnson, VT. Take a look.

Typical New England, two-story, gable-front commercial buildings.

An altered first floor porch, but looking vibrant.

An altered first floor porch, but looking vibrant.

And it’s neighbor:

Original porch and window details, but some alterations evident.

Original porch and window details, but some alterations evident including the bracketed roof over the fire escape (safety in New England winters).

These two are not the same exact building, but strikingly similar at first glance to stop and gaze. What do you think? Is one better than the other? No wrong answers, just pondering evolution of streetscapes.

Ramp Entrances: Who Wore it Better? 

The same building, the same needs, and two entirely different results. 

 

Exhibit A: Access ramp of wood and transparent pipe railings.

  

Exhibit B: the more noticeable variety.

And, the funny thing is: the ramp on the left was constructed before the ramp on the right. My vote goes to A, for wearing it better. B obscures the historic buidling. Though, I mean no disrespect to Speeder & Earl’s coffeee; I love the coffee! 

 What do you think?