Adaptive Reuse: Queen Anne to Fire House?

Driving down Route 131 in Cavendish, the streetscape through the historic district looks intact, interesting, cohesive — like many other historic Vermont villages. Take note of the gray building in the photograph below.

Route 131 in Cavendish, VT. Click to zoom.

If you’re not paying attention to the buildings, you might miss this. But if you are looking out the window, you will see that this house has a unique current use.

The Cavendish Volunteer Fire Department.

Yes, the sign on the building reads “Cavendish Vol. Fire Department.” Yes, behind those overhang garage doors on the front facade are truck bays. And yes, there were fire trucks in those bays.

Another view.

The bays fit right into the front facade and these porch posts remain. The concrete pylons beneath show the height of the former porch.

Curved sash windows remain, as well as clapboard and shingle siding and many architectural features.

Looking through the “porch.”

I’ll admit, I was a bit stunned looking at this building. What do you think about it? Unique, yes? I’ve never seen anything like it. One on hand, it’s great that the fire department fits into the district and the building remains part of the historic streetscape. On the other hand, I cringe to think of what was removed inside (the floor and architectural details).

Overall, it seems like a great compromise and solution for the “lack of space” problem that our small towns often face. Whatever it’s story, I think this building wins in a category for “most resourceful.” My suggestion would be improved bay doors. What do you think? Would you approve such a project?

Clarendon Springs Hotel

The Clarendon Springs Hotel, ca. 1835. Notice the two rows of dormers!

A beautiful large wraparound porch.

Large front entrance – wider than most doors. Notice the wear on the granite step from the past almost 200 years.

Curved porch around the building.

Tall windows on the first story.

The Clarendon Springs Hotel (or Clarendon House) most recently operated as an antiques warehouse, but originally served travelers seeking rest and relaxation from the mineral springs beginning in 1835. Historic houses are adjacent to the hotel and the green. The hotel sits overlooking a sweeping lawn with a pond and fountain. These buildings collectively functioned as a resort village and comprise the Clarendon Springs Historic District.

When I visited the district, it was eerily quiet, but immaculately kept, so I figured that it could not have been abandoned. Instead, it seemed too perfect, like a strange time warp. I was shocked to look into the windows and see that it had been gutted to the studs. Clearly, this building was not currently in use. A house across the street wasn’t exactly in use either.

Seamons Store, across from the Clarendon House. You can almost see the padlock on the front door. This store is part of the district and for sale, as well.

Odd, I thought. Later, after searching for some additional information, I came across this website – Clarendon Springs, Heart of a Vermont Village. Four buildings in this historic district are for sale as a complex. Anyone want a historic district as an investment property? If you have $4.2 million, this is the place for you! The property is breathtaking.


Disclaimer: I do not know the person selling this property; I just find it fascinating and beautiful.

Preservation Photos #130

The Joslin Memorial Library in Waitsfield, Vermont. This library was built in 1913, with about $21,000 donated by George A. Joslin, a Waitsfield resident.

Preservation Month: GSA Posters

Historic Preservation Month: it’s like a month long holiday. Sweet.

Holidays need decorations, so I searched around for some preservation posters to share. And I kept returning the GSA collection. The GSA is the U.S. General Services Administration. A brief history (from the GSA website):

GSA was established by President Harry Truman on July 1, 1949, to streamline the administrative work of the federal government. GSA consolidated the National Archives Establishment, the Federal Works Agency, and the Public Buildings Administration; the Bureau of Federal Supply and the Office of Contract Settlement; and the War Assets Administration into one federal agency tasked with administering supplies and providing workplaces for federal employees.

GSA’s original mission was to dispose of war surplus goods, manage and store government records, handle emergency preparedness, and stockpile strategic supplies for wartime. GSA also regulated the sale of various office supplies to federal agencies and managed some unusual operations, such as hemp plantations in South America.

Today, through its two largest offices – the Public Buildings Service and the Federal Acquisition Service – and various staff offices, GSA provides workspace to more than 1 million federal civilian workers, oversees the preservation of more than 480 historic buildings, facilitates the purchase of high-quality, low-cost goods and services from quality commercial vendors, and had about $39 billion in federal assets at the end of fiscal year 2010.

GSA Public Buildings Heritage Program has a collection of 100+ of its most significant buildings. You can download these posters in PDF and read the history about each building when you click on its link. Each building page is filled with images, significance, architectural descriptions and more. It is a terrific resource. They are beautiful posters. Back in 2004 at the National Trust Conference in Louisville, KY, the GSA was giving out many for free. I have a bunch, including this one framed. But browse in a variety of ways (including architectural style) and choose your favorite.

U.S. Pioneer Courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Click for history and source.

They are all beautiful buildings. Take a look at this Old Post Office and Courthouse in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Little Rock Post Office. Click for source and history.

And I’m going to have to refrain from posting too many (as a matter of practicality), but here are a few more.

Lafayette Square in Washington DC. Click for source and history.

The Richard Bolling Federal Building in Kansas City, Missouri. Click for source and history.

Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Sioux City, Iowa. Click for source and history.

Find one you need? Contact the Historic Buildings Program. Happy Preservation Month! Happy weekend!

Abandoned Vermont: Weathersfield House

This house is located in Weathersfield and is a curious case. I don’t know the story of this house but surrounding properties are in good condition and inhabited. This house appears to have been lived in within the past few years. When I see a house like this, I generally assume that the owners could not longer afford the upkeep and just left or an older person passed away and the family does not know what to do with the property.

As seen from the road. It is quite the large house.

The front entrance. Note the door surround with sidelights and a transom, weathered clapboards, wood windows beneath the aluminum storms, brick foundation and stone steps.

Peeking through the sidelights shows the worn staircase, banister and decorative newel post, wallpapered walls at the landing, and a light fixture in the top left of this image.

This is an interesting house, as all of the windows appear to be recently painted and well maintained, as if the house were recently occupied.

The gutters and drains remain attached.

The side of the house looking to the rear shows a less maintained facade. A wing has been removed and the ell in the forefront shows signs of deterioration.

Barns adjacent to the house that are occupied and maintained.

The rear of the house with the same well maintained windows (for the most part) and the deteriorating ell (look to the left).

Would anyone like to guess a date of construction? How about the architectural style?  Update: My quick guesses were a bit off. See Ann’s comment below for the history and construction date. And note that the house is in foreclosure (therefore, in need of an owner!).

Preservation Photos #124

The Justin Smith Morrill Homestead in Strafford, VT.

The Justin Smith Morrill Homestead is a Vermont State Historic Site, open May – October.  This Gothic Revival cottage, designed by Morrill, is a shade of pink.  Also on site is a carriage barn, horse barn, cow barn, sheep barn and corn crib, representing a gentleman’s farm in rural Vermont.

Preservation Photos #122

A cheery house located near the 99 steps and Blackbeard's Castle in the Charlotte Amalie Historic District on St. Thomas, USVI. Note the full length, working window shutters, a common feature here.