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.

 

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83 Main Street.

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Shutters falling off the front gable end.

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

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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.

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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).

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Rear addition.

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

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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?

Preservation Photos #212

Ludlow, VT with Okemo Mountain in the background.

Ludlow, VT with Okemo Mountain in the background.

Ludlow, VT is a popular ski town in southern Vermont.

Preservation Solution? Reversible Exterior Window Shades?

What do you do in the dog days of summer? Hide from the sun, of course. Remember the end of the school year during review and finals when classrooms would be sweltering? Large pull down shades could help control the temperature and industrial size fans, but it was still hot.

Quite often when historic school buildings are renovated for modern use, the ceilings are dropped and windows altered in order to provide better climate control. So, what would you think if you saw this building?

Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

At first glance it looks like the upper sash of these windows have been blocked, presumably because ceilings are lowered. Black River High School in Ludlow, VT

Every window has the same alteration.

Every window has the same alteration.

Closer viewing.

Closer viewing.

Another angle for inspection.

Another angle for inspection.

Except, the material seems to just be pinned or screwed in from the outside. And in fact, that’s just what they are. After peering into a window, it was evident that the ceilings had not been dropped and the upper sashes remained.

Closer view.

Closer view.

Interesting, yes? The questions I’d ask is (1) Why on the outside, rather than the inside, as the facade is drastically altered still; (2) How long ago were these installed?; (3) How easy can they be removed?; (4) Is the purpose for climate control?

What do you think? Is this a good preservation solution? If it’s completely removable and reversible, does that change your mind? Does this have the same effect on the exterior that dropping the ceilings has on the interior?

And for more imagery fun, if you haven’t seen the new instagram account @preservationfail, check it out. Would you call this a preservation fail?

Preservation Photos #135

An interior room in the Castle Hill Resort & Spa in Ludlow, VT. It is a National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotel of America.