Abandoned Vermont: Ludlow House

At the corner of Main Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Ludlow, VT, sits an 1849 stone house. It’s an impressive building, one that I haven’t noticed in my travels, probably because I’m normally staring at the Fletcher Library across the street from this house. Finally, I noticed it.

This building is an 1849 stone building constructed in the unique “snecked ashlar” style (Scottish tradition), by William Spaulding. Originally there was a store on the first floor. Snecked ashlar is found only in southeast/central Vermont. (Chester village has an entire historic district of snecked ashlar, but otherwise it’s rare.) (State Survey # 1410-12.)

However, get up and close and you’ll be frightened by what you see. Structurally speaking, it’s not good. As in, I wouldn’t stand too close to that building. I think the walls are going to collapse.

I checked out Google Street View, and from the side street (Commonwealth Ave) you can see a Best Western sign on the front lawn (from Main Street it does not show). To confirm, I searched the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation online resource center. And yes, that was the answer! In the 1990s, the Best Western purchased the stone house at 83 Main Street to convert it to a 5 unit inn (click to read the Environmental Review file).  However, the Division for Historic Preservation denied the initial request as it would have adversely affected this historic building. The Division provided suggestions as to how to work with the building, rather than against it, and what features to retain and preserve. At first, Best Western even wanted to put vinyl siding on the building! As you’ll read in the file, the Hotel and the Division came to an agreement on how to move the project forward.

See, preservation is not about stopping progress! Just moving it forward with respect to the past.



83 Main Street.


Shutters falling off the front gable end.


Due to the precarious condition of the building, I wasn’t about to stand under it to read that notice.


It’s hard to capture in a photograph, but the slabs of stone are falling off the exterior wall, which is bulging at the middle. Windows are popping out of the frames.


Another angle. In the middle you can sort of see the damage in the middle of the building elevation (look for the smaller rock instead of the stone slabs).


Rear addition.


This side is just as bad as the other side. Check out the door.


Poor “snecked ashlar” house.

But, what about it now? My first guess was that the Best Western couldn’t (or wouldn’t) keep up with the maintenance. However, a bit more digging revealed in January 2015 there was an explosion in the building causing $500,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, no one was injured, but there was substantial structural damage.

Do you live in Ludlow? What’s the latest update?

Garfield District School

One room schoolhouses are easily recognizable, as we’ve discussed. I delight in what I call my “schoolhouse radar”. It’s a fun game to play. What is your favorite type of building to spot?


At the crossroads in Garfield (a small hamlet in Hyde Park), VT on a cloudy, foggy day – just before a summer storm arrived.

Near Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, VT, this building sits at a crossroads, a common place for one room schoolhouses. It has the gable roof massing of a schoolhouse and the general size, and hint of Green Revival detail (cornice returns).

While the building looks a bit dreary in the fog and clouds and the overgrown weeds, it still stands out as a schoolhouse converted to a residence, right? Maybe? Where is the bank of windows?


Pardon the fog and the clouds.


The windows don’t lend themselves to a schoolhouse, but look closely and you can tell by the paint on the rear of the schoolhouse that the bank of windows has been removed and replaced by residential windows. Still, I’d bet on it being a schoolhouse.

Next up? Consulting the trusty Online Resource Center (ORC) of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The ORC contains searchable PDFs of all of the state survey files, among many other resources.


Garfield District School, 1981. The best part: the duck and ducklings to the right of the school. Source: Vermont State Register of Historic Places file.

This building at the crossroads of Garfield was indeed a schoolhouse. According to the 1981 survey, this was the Garfield District School, constructed in 1875, operating until 1953. This was one of the first schools in Vermont certified as a “Standard School”. The Standard Schools were aptly named, as schools were rated based on standards of lighting, ventilation, teaching quality, sanitation, and other details. As of the 1981 survey, the building was a residence. The survey does not discuss the west elevation (the former window bank). However, the existing chimney replaced a cupola that enclosed the school bell.

Quebec City by Foot and by Bike

Being a tourist offers the luxury of time, assuming you’re not one to over schedule (younger me did such things – I’ve learned my lesson). Without too much of a schedule you’re free to wander, stop, stare at architecture, and take in the new sights and sounds, and hopefully local flavors (beer + gelato, anyone?). My favorite modes of transportation for city exploring are via bike and foot. Bikes cover greater distances so you can see more than when walking. It’s easier to navigate while on a bike than in a car, and you don’t have to worry about parking. You can get out of the tourist-centric areas and see more of the city. And, it’s good exercise (to work off that beer and gelato). Find a bike path or bike lane, and you’re set. Walking, of course, is best in crowded areas and really allows you to stroll hand in hand or hand in camera, whatever your preference.

Quebec City is such a place: bike friendly and pedestrian friendly. There is so much to see that you will need a bike. Just be prepared for some ridiculously steep hills. Seriously, I’d rather run up those hills than bike some. And make sure you have good brakes! The city is filled with bike paths and bike lanes, including a linear park / bike path along the St. Lawrence River (the Promenade Samuel-De Champlain). Don’t worry if you’re not into hills; it’s flat. And when you get hungry, head back into the city for some architectural eye candy and good food.

Here are some of the scenes from the bicycle and pedestrian point of view.


It’s hard to capture the scale of steepness in a photo. On a different note, check out the terraced landscaping between the sidewalk and the traveled way. Beautiful, and such good design!


VELO (BIKE) parking on Rue Saint-Jean.


A very pedestrian oriented neighborhood, though there is easy automobile parking, too. And, restaurant seating instead of parking spaces.


Heading down to the bike path along the river (Promenade Samuel-De Champlain) for beautiful views. The Quebec Bridge is in the background.


The promenade.


The Promenade Samuel-De Champlain is lined with parks, shelters, and other amenities. This is, by far, my favorite: an exhibit of historic and modern street lights. (Transportation nerd forever.) Recognize anything? There’s even a cobra light!


Through careful navigating, it’s possible to get to the Quebec Bridge by bike path. It’s a tight squeeze on the path though, so be courteous to others.


You can get off the bike path, lock your bike, and explore the Basse-Ville (Lower Town) by foot and take the Funicular up to Vieux-Quebec (Old Quebec). Note the public art swing on the left: fun for all! It’s a very family friendly place to visit.


Another scene of Basse-Ville.

I highly recommend a visit to Quebec City. Have you been? Do you prefer to a be a cyclist or a pedestrian? What cities are your favorite?

Happy Friday, friends! Happy travels.


Preservation Pop Quiz: Fisk Farm Edition

Fisk Farm is a historic estate located in Isle La Motte, VT, with an adjoining (historic) marble quarry that began operations in the 1660s. Today the quarry is a world renowned fossil preserve as a Natural National Landmark. The original stone house on the property burned in the early 20th century, but its ruins stand, and later houses and barns remain on the property. Set on the west shore of the island, with a view of Lake Champlain, it is one of the most picturesque spots.

Another Fisk Farm view for good measure. The porch and the stone house of the previous images. #presinpink

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

But, like all historic properties, there are some mysteries. Take this stone structure as your next challenge:


Set the to the left of the shingle style house in the photo above, this is the mystery object. The remains of the original stone house are in the background of this photo.

What is it? I don’t know, but I’m hoping you do. Some clues: 1) There is only one on the property. 2) Each side looks alike. 3) There are some pipes coming up from the ground. 4) Some of the insets have smaller metal pipes in them. 5) I am not taller enough to see the top.


Look alike sides.


Close up of the inset into the stone.


Another inset. Note the metal pipe.


One metal pipe coming out of the ground. This is the only one.


Another view.

Your turn. What do you think?


Panton Schoolhouse

Can you spot a one-room schoolhouse as you’re driving by? I bet after this week of one-room schoolhouses here on PiP, you can! It’s a fun game. This ca. 1895 school in Panton, Vermont sits next to the town garage and serves as town storage. It appears as though it was the former home of the town offices, and the town bulletin board is still in use on the rear addition. Take a look. These one-room schoolhouses were called “District Schools” because each town was divided into districts and each district had its own school. This was before the days of school consolidation.


Quite the sunny morning, and the iphone couldn’t avoid it. But, look at the bank of 6 windows on this school.



Note the town bulletin board on the wing. Current fliers are posted there.


Unlike most schoolhouses, this one has windows on both sides. Perhaps they were added when the building was no longer a schoolhouse.


Bank of 6 windows.


View into the schoolhouse shows storage and  original features (see the doors and beadboard).


Peering into the back windows: town highway department storage. Also, note the wall on the left. The addition was added after the original construction date.


The Town Highway Department. Photo taken standing in front of the schoolhouse.

Of course, I feel badly for this schoolhouse. While it’s sort of in use, there is so much more potential to it. Poor thing. It’s a common case for these schoolhouses, even though one room schoolhouses would be fairly easy to rehabilitate to modern uses. What do you think?

Abandoned Vermont: Salisbury Schoolhouse

The bank of windows make this easily recognizable as a one room schoolhouse.

One room schoolhouses are adorable. And they are an easily recognized architectural form. While they would be seemingly easy to adapt to an alternative use, many sit on the side of the road, underutilized. The District #8 Schoolhouse, ca. 1855, on Route 53 in Salisbury, VT is no exception. The schoolhouse sits in the middle of a farm field, serving as storage space for its owner. The 1977 survey photographs show a vestibule entry, which has since been removed. Otherwise, the schoolhouse retains its historic integrity with its character defining features such as the bank of windows.

District #8 School on the edge of a farm field.
Front entrance, no longer a vestibule. 
Peek into the windows and you’ll see the original materials of construction as well storage.
Bed frames, desks, stuff.

Hopefully its owner will see its potential soon.

Heard in a Gilmore Girls Episode

Have you heard?! Gilmore Girls is coming back for a revival season – an 8th season. I’m so excited that I can barely contain myself. It’ll be a mini season (about 4 episodes), but it’s better than nothing. Here’s a fun fact for you: the show started in 2000, and at the time I was the same age (15) as Rory Gilmore (the daughter). Almost 16 years later, I’m still watching the show. But now, when I watch season one, I’m almost as old as Lorelai (the mother, who was 32 when the show started). HAAAA. Whatever, I’ll love Gilmore Girls forever and ever.

dragonfly inn

Lorelai and Rory dreaming about The Dragonfly Inn in Season 1. Source: http://gilmoregirls.wikia.com/wiki/Dragonfly_Inn

While re-watching a Season 4 episode (“Chicken or Beef?“), I noticed a perfect preservation line to go along with Preservation Month and #thisplacematters. Lorelai and Sookie are standing on the porch of the Dragonfly Inn, taking it all in before restoration commences. Lorelai says to Sookie:

Just sometimes, it hits me. This place had a long history before us, has a long future after us. I keep thinking it’s apart of our lives, but, really, it’s the reverse. For a little while. . .I don’t know. . .it’s like we’re apart of its life.

And that is why preservation is important. Happy Preservation Month!

p.s. Join the UVM Historic Preservation Alumni Association for a behind scenes tour of a local rehabilitation project.

Irish Soda Bread for St. Patrick’s Day

Irish soda bread is one of my favorite baked goods and one of my favorite traditions in baking. Just as Christmas cookies belong to Christmas, Irish soda bread belongs to St. Patrick’s Day. I bake it once per year. If you work with me, you’ll probably get a slice of bread every year. My mom would bake one or two loaves per year and we girls would gobble it up with breakfast, or as a snack, or as dessert. I recall having a hard time getting the batter to stick entirely. It took quite a few years of practice before mixing the ingredients wasn’t an entire arm workout. Practice makes perfect.

What is the origin of Irish soda bread? Soda bread is a traditional bread baked in poorer countries, and was very common during the Irish potato famine. The Irish didn’t invent it, but they’re known for it. The traditional recipe calls for basic ingredients: flour, baking soda, soured milk, and salt. The baking soda took the place of yeast. Loaves were baked on the griddle of an open hearth. The traditional cross in the loaf made before baking was to ward off the devil and protect the household. (Read more here.)

The recipe that my mother and grandmother passed on to us girls is not exactly traditional. Our recipe calls for sour cream, baking powder, sugar, and raisins. However, it’s tradition to me.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  

Finding History in NJ on the D&R Canal


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.


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.


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.


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


View of the lock at Kingston. 


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

Further down the canal you’ll come to Griggstown.


Historic Village of Griggstown, NJ. 


The view of the canal from the bridge in Griggstown. 


Wood deck bridge. 


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. 


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


The bridge tender’s station. 


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. 


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


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


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: St. Albans Drive-in Theater (R.I.P)


St. Albans Drive-in Movie Theater, as seen in May 2012. 

As of the 2012 photograph of the St. Albans Drive-in Theater, it was not abandoned. It was still open and operating, one of Vermont’s four remaining drive-in movie theaters.  As of 2014, the drive-in closed after 66 years of business, partially due to costs required to upgrade to the mandated digital projection from film reels. As of 2014, the land was for sale, and still is. Such is the fate of many drive-in theaters, especially on valuable land.

Because I’m a sentimental nostalgic fool for roadside America and Vermont, I wanted to photograph the St. Albans Drive-in Theater one more time, before it disappeared. On a cold, windy, February day, I said my goodbyes to this bit of roadside America.


View from across US Route 7. Not as cheery as the 2012 view. February 2016. 


Entrance & ticket booth to the drive-in. Still lined with lights. February 2016. 


The speakers at the St. Ablans Drive-in theater were removed years ago. Instead, viewers tuned into the radio station. February 2016. 


Ticket booth. February 2016. 


No admission charge today. February 2016. 


The screen is in disrepair and new traffic lights are in place for the development across the road. February 2016. 


Stepping back you can vaguely see the remaining mounds in the earth for the cars to park. February 2016. 


The snack bar (right) and the movie projection room (left). Note the chain protecting the projection. Windows are all broken. February 2016. 


View of the playground and the dilapidated screen. February 2016. 


The playground (swingset) remains intact, if not jumping out of the ground with its concrete foundation. Slide, two swings, rings, trapeze, bar, and see-saw. February 2016. 


Beneath the screen looking into the drive-in. February 2016. 


Pieces of the screen have fallen to the ground. February 2016. 


Possibly from up there. February 2016. 


The back of the screen. February 2016. 


Some drive-in screens have their structures concealed. This one is out in the open, nothing too fancy. With high winds, the structure has to be sturdy. February 2016. 


From the entrance road. February 2016. the marquee is barely visible, but you can see it to the right of the screen supports. February 2016. 

I can’t say for certain, but I would bet that one factor in the closure of the St. Albans drive-in is the construction and opening of this across the street:

As seen from the Walmart entrance road. February 2016.

With its October 2013 opening, I shared my lament.

Here is a great article from the St. Albans Messenger that highlights history and memories of the drive-in.

RIP St. Albans Drive-in. You’ll be missed by many.