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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


Addison Four Corners, January 2016.

Abandoned Vermont: Ferrisburgh Farm House

Sometimes I think I must have seen all of the abandoned (or seemingly abandoned, empty) houses in Vermont based on all of the roads I’ve traveled for work and fun over the years. It may seem ridiculous, but sometimes months pass before I find another striking one. And then out of nowhere, I’ll find another. This one caught me by surprise. Just outside of Vergennes (where all of the houses are well maintained and beautiful), this house seemed like a duplex because of the twin gables. It’s most peculiar. The house sits among a working farm; it is surrounded by modern, functioning farm buildings.

It is included in the Vermont State Historic Sites & Structures Survey (VHSSS) and the Vermont State Register of Historic Places. Little information is listed, as typical with many 1970s surveys. In fact, the information is more focused on barns than the house. It is described as a ca. 1885 house with a ground stable barn, dairy barn, and carriage barn. The house was not photographed at the time, which leads me to wonder how long it has been in a state of neglect. And the barns are maybe long, long gone?


A barn & the ca. 1885 house. It almost looks good from far away.


A collapsing porch, but what else?


Another neglected building, breaking my heart.


Zooming in with the camera, the fallen shutters and missing gable screens are apparent. Windows are open. No one is living in this house, or at least this part of the house. Pardon the washed out photo; I had to zoom in quite far!

2016_Jan20 235

The side porch is collapsing, as well. The house must be vacant. How sad for it to fall surrounded by an active farm. I wonder where the owners live.

Do you know anything about this house? I’d love to know the local stories.

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.


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.


Note the missing addition.



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


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.


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).


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



Schoolhouse entrance.


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.


The west bank of windows.


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


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.


More of the same.


To the privies.


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?

[Updated] Abandoned No More: Putney Schoolhouse 

Remember the “Abandoned Vermont: Putney Schoolhouse“?

The Putney Schoolhouse, as seen in 2013. The plywood on the left covers the original bank of windows, a defining characteristic of one room schoolhouses. Click for original post.

Originally posted in 2013 with a follow-up in 2014, readers have commented and kept me (and you) informed about the project. Last month, I was traveling through Putney and thought I’d drive by to check on the schoolhouse’s progress. To my surprise, the project is complete.

Take a look at these photos, and let me know what you think. I’ll let you look before I comment.

The Putney Schoolhouse, September 2015.

The Putney Schoolhouse, September 2015.

View from the north.

View from the north, Westminster West Road.

View from the south approach.

View from the south, Westminster West Road.

Side addition.

Side addition. The bank of windows is lost.

New fenestration.

New fenestration.

Hooray, right?! An old building rehabilitated. Right? Well, almost. The massing is appropriate and respectful of the original building. Even the small woodshed remains. The setting and feeling remain. BUT, what happened to the bank of windows? That is the most defining, most visible characteristic of a one-room schoolhouse. And now there are only two windows (see two photos above, and compare to the 2013 image).

What do you think? What would you do differently? Or is this a good compromise? Would you say it meets the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation?

And to my surprise, it’s an AirBnB rental! Check it out. While I’d like the bank of windows, I’ll admit, the inside looks beautiful.

Abandoned Vermont: Shaftsbury House

Driving by in the summertime, this house gave that abandoned aura. Driving by in the winter, it gave me the same feel. Finally, I had an opportunity to pull over and gaze at the building. The verdict? On a frigid (2 degrees) February day, this house looked frozen (actually frozen). With snow over my knees (and not the proper boots), I couldn’t get very close. Abandoned, vacant, seasonal or used for storage – it’s hard to tell.

Many readers always ask for information about the photographs on Preservation in Pink. Information is not always available. But, lucky for us, this house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Center Shaftsbury Historic District (see #22, Section 7, page 50).

The ca. 1850  Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House.

The ca. 1850 Norman R. and C. Amelia Douglass House. It looks as though someone started to paint… sort of (note the white and gray on the first story).

A bit about the architecture (from the NR): This ca. 1850 Greek Revival style house is a two-story, three by three bay gable front with sidehall plan, a two bay wing and rear attached shed. The single story porch wraps around the west and south elevations of the main house block.

The house is clad in clapboard on all sides except the area sheltered by the porch, which is flushboard. The double leaf doors with stained glass on the front porch were likely added at the beginning of the 20th century, perhaps when the windows were changed from 6/6 to 1/1.

Beautiful mature trees on the property.

Beautiful mature trees on the property. As for the house: note the 6/6 sash on the second floor and the 1/1 sash on the first floor. The first floor windows would be newer. Also note the tapered corner pilasters.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen.

Side elevation, in which the house looks frozen (one clue is the snow between the storm window and the interior sash).

A bit of history (from the NR): This house was owned and built by Norman R. Douglass (1818-1897) who from 1851-1856 was one of the principals in the Eagle Square Manufacturing Company of South Shaftsbury, a long-lived and successful company that formed for the purpose of manufacturing accurate metal carpenter’s squares. His wife was C. Amelia Douglass (1828-1919).

Clark and Rhoda Stone lived here in 1869 and in 1880. The Child’s Gazetteer lists Stone as a livestock dealer and farmer with two hundred acres of land, as well as one hundred acres of timber land in Glastenbury and part interested in 2,500 acres on West Mountain in Shaftsbury. Subsequent owners included Ralph Bottom and Harry Ellison.

Sunny, frigid day.

Sunny, frigid day, and nothing shoveled or plowed.

View from across the street.

View from across the street.

At the time of the National Register nomination (1988), the property was owned by Priscilla & Woflgang Ludwig and the house was rented to tenants. A search reveals that Ludwig Dairy remains in operation in Shaftsbury, today. Where does this leave the beautiful house, 27 years after the NR? Often old farmhouses are used for storage or seasonal use, as descendants built new houses down the road for one reason or another. The Douglass House appears to be generally maintained and on land used by the family farm.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

This is large cement block barn sits behind the Douglass House. It and a few other farm buildings appear to be in use.

The conclusion? It’s not quite abandoned, but it certainly does not appear to be lived in. Hopefully there is a brighter future for this Greek Revival house.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

The picturesque road adjacent to the Douglass House.

Abandoned Vermont: Safford Mills Complex

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 Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

The Safford Mills Complex as seen from Route 100.

Side of the warehouse.

Side of the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Looking up the hill to the warehouse.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

Closed up, but looking well maintained on the exterior.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The box cornice, pilaster, gable returns, and lintels are typical of Greek Revival architecture.

The grist mill.

The adjacent grist mill is also Greek Revival style with corner pilasters, gable returns, and (now hidden) 6/6 window sashes. This 2.5 story mill has a 35’x35′ footprint, a steeply pitched roof, and 4 bay fenestration.

View back to Main Street.

View back to Main Street.

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 Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

The Noyes House (now a Museum) across the street from the mill complex.

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?

Abandoned Vermont: Hyde Manor

Happy Halloween preservationists and all. Here’s a special Abandoned Vermont: one of the largest, most notable (and probably haunted, if you’re into that sort of thing) – the Hyde Manor. Historical information is from the book, The Historic Architecture of Rutland County. Find more links at the end of this post.

Historic Hyde Manor. Click for source and more information.

Historic Hyde Manor. Click for source and more information.

“Resort development began in Sudbury at mid (19th) century. The Hyde family had long run a tavern and inn on the turnpike south of the village, but a fire destroyed the old inn in 1862, and in 1865 the 4 story Italianate style Hyde Manor was constructed. A mineral spring on the property was a prime attraction, and after 1871 guests arrived by rail via the Addison Branch railroad in neighboring Whiting and traveled south through Sudbury village to the manor. A hotel in the village and a nearby dance hall appear to have benefited from this traffic.

As Hyde Manor prospered and the tastes of the resort going public changed in the last years of the 19th century, numerous outbuildings with special recreational functions were added to the resort, including a casino (c. 1885) and an octagonal structure (c. 1900) used for gentlemen’s card games and smoking. Visitors could also elect a mile and a half carriage ride to the Manor boathouse (c. 1870) to enjoy an excursion on Lake Hortonia. Nearby, the Hortonia offered hotel lodging for those vacationers who preferred to stay directly on the lakeshore. At the turn of the century, as vacationers sought more informal ways to enjoy their leisure, summer residences began to appear in Sudbury.”

Recreation, leisure, and travel continued to change in American society; resort hotels such as Hyde Manor fell out of favor. The automobile era and the chain hotel emergence wiped out older establishments. The opening of the interstate further changed travel patterns. As customers dwindle, income shrinks and maintenance is postponed or neglected. Hyde Manor could no longer afford operations or maintenance, and it closed in the 1970s. Today the building has deteriorated to point of collapsed wings and floors, complete structural failure, and more.

Sadly, this is not a building that could be rehabilitated. Instead Hyde Manor sits quietly in ruins, more so with every passing season. Owners live on the property and must watch it give way to gravity, the earth, and time. And even in its current condition, you can stand on the side of the road and imagine what a beautiful, luxurious place this must have been for visitors.

Hyde Manor, 2011.

Hyde Manor, 2011.

Structural failure.

Structural failure.

More structural failure.

More structural failure.

Spooky curtains blowing in the wind!

Spooky curtains blowing in the wind!

Broken windows, curtains, shutters.

Broken windows, curtains, shutters.

Through a window. Unsafe floor conditions!

Through a window. Unsafe floor conditions!

The property is big, and creepy.

The property is big, and creepy.

The front of the manor.

The front of the manor.

So many architectural details remain on this failing building.

So many architectural details remain on this failing building.

For more information read here: The Fall of Hyde Manor, Haunted Hotel, Hyde Manor (historic photos, too), and more Hyde Manor. Note to the curious: respect the owners’ property and privacy.

Featured: Happy Vermont

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.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Click to read the article by Erica Houskeeper at Happy Vermont.

Happy exploring!