Sitting alongside State Highway 37, just outside Fort Covington, New York sits this one-room brick schoolhouse. The unmistakable bank of windows caught my eye from down the road. A quick u-turn was definitely worth it to snap a few photographs. Without a sign to its name or any indication of ownership, I had to assume it was abandoned (perhaps only used for storage). If you know anything about this lonely schoolhouse, I’d love to hear.
The oddest feeling came over me on my recent trip to New York City. Odd in the sense of unexpected as opposed to strange. What was it?
I realized just how much of a New Yorker I am. The characteristics of New York City slipped my mind over the years of being away. Like a flashback, I was struck by the familiarity of accents, of last names, of food, of the pace.
I’m a New Yorker (Long Islander, if we’re being specific), born and bred, though I’ve found my home as an adult to be in Burlington, Vermont. It’s been almost six years in Vermont, much less than my time in New York.
You get used to the culture of a new home after a while. In Vermont, you can go with the typical no billboards, a focus on the local economy, green mountains and blue skies, an outdoorsy crowd of people. You get used to the habits and quirks and standard practices of wherever you live. While I’ve yet to fall into the hiking and skiing culture, count me in for the local food, environmental love, the beauty of Lake Champlain, and the pure beauty of Vermont.
Growing up on Long Island, there were many, many families with the last name O’Shea. I competed in track with another Kaitlin O’Shea! In Vermont, there are only a few O’Sheas (no relation to me). Most everyone I knew on Long Island was Irish. That is not the case in Vermont. And studying Spanish for 9 years is not as useful in Vermont; French would have been a better choice.
It’s not that I thought I had lost the New Yorker in me; I just hadn’t thought about it in a while. Have you experienced that after being away from your childhood home for a while? Vermont is my home now, and one that I love, but it’s good to know that New York will always feel like home, too, and I know where my roots are. Like the saying goes, “You can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take the New York out of the girl.”
What about you? Have you ever felt something similar?
At the corner Vermont Route 100 and “A” Street (or simply an extension of Main Street) sit two red clapboard buildings overlooking the Lamoille River at the edge of the Morrisville Historic District. Once important structures to a village, mill complexes don’t often serve industrial purposes today. If they have not been adaptively reused to meet the needs of a modern population, mill buildings sit empty. Such is the case in Morrisville. These buildings are currently owned by Morrisville Water & Light, appearing to be buildings no longer used, though in good condition.
(Some information from the National Register Nomination – these buildings are contributing structures in the Morrisville Historic District.)
The warehouse and grist mill date to 1867 as part of the Safford Mills Complex, constructed for and owned by J. Safford & Sons. The warehouse is a Greek Revival style clpaboard industrial building. While its original purpose is unclear, its location and plan suggest it was the receiving office/warehouse for the grist, saw, and wood-turning mill below. Its front is 1.5 stories, while the rear is 3.5 stories from the bottom of the bluff. Freight doors at the top and bottom and a platform elevator inside allowed flour, lumber, and other finished goods to be raised easily to the to of the bluff, thus avoiding a steep ascent by wagon via the access road.
The Saffords, owners of the mill complex, were a prominent family in Morrisville and resided in the adjacent Noyes House, a federal style brick mansion.
The good news is that Morrisville is on the upswing. Recently completed tax credit projects on Main Street show that there is interest and growth in the village. Perhaps there is life left for the Safford Mill buildings.
Any good mill projects in your small town?
Traveling across Highway 84 in Ware County, Georgia, you’ll see a worn sign with red lettering on the side of the road in Ruskin, an unincorporated community in Waycross.
The “Old Ruskin Church” intrigues a preservationist familiar with John Ruskin’s, The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Pull over, make a u-turn and turn down the southern dirt road, Griffin Road. Cross the tracks at the curve in the road is the Old Ruskin Church. This darling white church sits quietly beneath the picturesque canopy of long leaf pines, among the fallen pine straw. On a sunny day, it seemed to be one of the most serene spots to find.
The Old Ruskin Church, ca. 1899, belonged to the Ruskin Commonwealth, a Utopian socialist community incorporated in 1899. This community was founded by 240 people who moved near Waycross in 1899 from the Ruskin Colony in Tennessee (1896-1899). As the name suggests, the community was founded on principles of the English social reformer John Ruskin. See photographs of the community here. Unfortunately, the settlement lasted only a few years, disbanding in 1901 due to poor farming land, poor business ventures, disease and poverty.
Who owns this church? What goes on here? There was no indication. Do you know anything about it? Please share!
It’s not everyday that you encounter an octagonal stone schoolhouse; but drive on Route 22 through the tiny hamlet of Boquet in the town of Essex, NY and you’ll come across this historic 1826 structure. Designed by architect Benjamin Gilbert, the school served the population around the local, growing sawmills. The octagon was later popularized by Thomas Jefferson at Poplar Forest (read more here from AARCH). Today the building is owned by the town and open for tours by appointment. Many original features remain in this octagonal schoolhouse. The community is undertaking a fundraiser to raise money for restoration of the building. Read more here. And there’s an old set of swings, too. Take a look!
Today, find Preservation in Pink at Happy Vermont, a travel blog by Vermont writer Erica Houskeeper. Interested in historic buildings and abandoned buildings, Erica asked if I would be interested in talking about Vermont’s abandoned buildings in time for Halloween. Of course! Read the post here and let Erica know your thoughts.
For years, I’ve been dreaming of Washington, D.C. When you think the top of the preservation world, you think Washington, D.C., right? (Well, I do.) Thankfully, a flamingo wedding just outside D.C. was the perfect reason for a mini-excursion to D.C. and for the annual flamingo reunion. It was a flurry of jaw-dropping architecture, good food, bicycling, and flamingo-ing. While a sort visit, the best way to use that time was wandering around, hopping on and off Capital BikeShare bikes, and just enjoying the sights. However, be warned, D.C. wasn’t all that bike friendly in terms of bike lanes.
Next visit, I need more time to see the museums and the monuments. What’s your favorite part of Washington D.C.?
If you’re a preservationist in Vermont, you know Wilmington for the 2012 Historic Preservation and Downtown conference and the 2011 flooding of Tropical Storm Irene, among other reasons. If you’re an out-of-stater, you probably know Wilmington as a ski town; Mount Snow is just up the road. And maybe you’ve all heard about Dot’s Restaurant (The NY Times reported on its reopening last December). Wilmington is a beautiful small town in southern Vermont with a good stock of architecture, amenities for visitors and pleasant streets. Take a look (side note: click on the photographs to enlarge, and see them with better clarity).
Looking for more history? Read the entire National Register nomination here. It’s now available online thanks to the massive digitization effort by Vermont Division for Historic Preservation (our SHPO office). And it’s almost leaf peeping season, followed by ski season. Enjoy Vermont if you’re coming for a visit!
Over the years, I’ve driven past this house many times getting that “abandoned” vibe from it, then noticing broken windows, overgrown brush, yet a mowed lawn. Maybe it wasn’t entirely abandoned, but certainly no one lived in this house. Finally I stopped to take some photographs. Considering how long it’s been neglected and vacant, it is in good condition. Who needs a house in Reading, Vermont? Advice for when you cannot information about a property (e.g. if it’s for sale): call the town offices.
What a beautiful property, isn’t it? It hasn’t been surveyed (that I can find), and is not listed in the State or National Register. However, I’m sure you could make a strong case for eligibility in Reading, VT. What do you love most: original windows, hardwood, wood details, doorknobs, slate roof?
Dirt roads, lake views, farm houses, cornfields, open fields, vineyards, ice cream: South Hero is part of the Champlain Islands in northwestern Vermont and is bustling with summer visitors. Hop on your bike as far south as Burlington, cruise the Island Line (including a bike ferry) and end up in South Hero to pedal along the lake shore and dirt roads. A recent bike ride in South Hero took me past this seemingly abandoned (or at least forgotten for this year) farmhouse and its matching stables. A few photographs taken from the road.