Preservation Adventure in Montpelier, Vermont

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is participating in the 2012 Pacifico Beer summer promotion, Make Adventure Happen, and is competing for a portion of $100,000. As part of the contest, the National Trust “partnered with five preservation fans to highlight preservation adventures in cities and states across the country.” Preservation in Pink is thrilled to be one of those partners! This post about a preservation adventure in Montpelier, VT was written for the National Trust, and hopefully cross-posting it here on PiP will raise awareness and votes for the National Trust. This is the second adventure in the series.

Thank you to the National Trust for the opportunity, and the fun introduction:

Kaitlin writes the blog Preservation in Pink, which is one of the Trust staff’s favorite preservation-related blogs out there! According to her bio, she “loves a good preservation conversation complemented with a strong cup of coffee and accented by flamingos.” Who doesn’t?


Overlooking the City of Montpelier.

First things first: how many of you know the capital of Vermont thanks to that 1990s Cheerios commercial?

Nestled in central Vermont’s Green Mountains along the Winooski River and the historic Central Vermont Railway, Montpelier is beautiful year-round. An entire day’s itinerary can be within walking distance in this city filled with Vermont character, locally-owned businesses and eateries and architecturally picturesque and historic streetscapes; Montpelier is the perfect place for a traveling preservationist. Though more bustling during the work week or when the legislature is in session, the weekends show no shortage of residents and visitors.

At the corner of Main Street and State Street.

1. Eat, Stroll, and Shop on State and Main

Begin on State and Main Streets — the heart of Montpelier’s historic commercial district, where you’ll find restaurants, cafes, retail shops, and professional offices housed in the colorful historic building blocks.

Grab breakfast and a cup of coffee at the Coffee Corner diner or at Capitol Grounds Café & Roastery (free wifi!), or enjoy a more leisurely breakfast at Kismet. Once you’re caffeinated and fueled, you’ll be ready to browse the practical and quirky stores nearby. Whether you’re looking for used books, new books, stationery, antiques, toys, new clothes, vintage clothes, outdoor gear, house wares, jewelry, candy, pet toys, groceries, hardware, pharmacies – you can find it all in downtown Montpelier.

As you’re browsing the stores, do yourself a preservation favor and look up: turn your eyes to the ceilings of the building interiors as well as beyond the first story of the exterior. There’s always something interesting to see above your line of sight.

The Vermont State House.

2. Lunch & a tour of the Vermont State House

Grab lunch from one of the many options on State and Main (try Pinky’s for a good sandwich). If you’re visiting during the week, there are likely to be many street vendors near State and Elm Streets.

On a Saturday, swing by the farmers’ market. If the weather is nice, get lunch to go and head down State Street to the 1859 Vermont State House. Montpelier has been the capital since 1805, but this Greek Revival building is actually the third state house — the first two were lost to fires. The granite steps or the green lawn are both perfect places to pause for lunch on a warm day.

After lunch, head inside the State House for a tour, guided or self-guided. With its granite columns and steps, interior marble floors and plasterwork, the State House is a breathtaking. The house and senate chambers — the oldest in the country — are remarkably intact.

The pedestrian bridge on the recreation trail. The Taylor Street Bridge can be seen to the far right.

3. Bridges, Houses, and Parks

After lunch, a tour, and maybe resting again on the State House lawn, take to exploring. However you like to enjoy the scenery and outdoors, you have options. If you prefer walking neighborhoods for the architectural entertainment, you’re in luck. Montpelier’s neighborhoods can keep you entertained for hours. Research some walking tours to get you started.

The recreation path along the river brings you across and adjacent to the many truss bridges of Montpelier, including the 1929 Taylor Street Bridge, a steel parker through truss, which was recently rehabilitated. The path on Stone Cutters Way will take you along the rail line, through the industrial section of town, with signage along the route about Montpelier’s rail and granite industry history. Visit the historic 1907 rail turntable, a small park on Stone Cutters Way. Further down the street are the Hunger Mountain Coop and the Granite Street truss bridge.

Or, if you seek some peace, quiet, and nature, walk (though you might prefer to bike or drive) toHubbard Park for miles of trails through the forested park, recreation fields and a stone observation tower. Hubbard Park is about 194 acres, 125 of which were gifted to the City of Montpelier in 1899.

The Capitol Theater on State Street.

4. Take in Dinner and a Show

After all that sightseeing and walking, you’ll be ready for some evening entertainment. You can catch a live show at the Lost Nation Theater in the 1909 City Hall or a movie at the Capitol Theater (which has a great neon sign).

You have your choice of many nearby restaurants — a short walk and you’re sure to find something you like. Try Sarducci’s in a former grain storage building, Positive Pie, or Julio’s Cantina, both in the historic building blocks on State Street. Following the show, grab a drink at one of the local establishments, where you’re sure to find locally brewed Vermont beer or a good glass of wine.

Historic buildings, excellent natural scenery, local coffee and food, shopping, good entertainment — all in a city that is livable and walkable? Preservationists, come visit Montpelier. You’ll love it!

You can support our preservation work by voting daily at A contest code is required to vote — codes are available on specially marked packages of Pacifico beer, in bars and restaurants, by texting 23000, or by clicking “GET CODE” online.


Preservation Photos #144

A rare, but appropriate summer scene: wood storm windows in their proper use. Note how the storms are tilted out from the top and held open with a latch, and a screen inserted when the lower sash is raised. Beautiful!

As found on College Street in Montpelier, VT.

The Highs and Lows of House Hunting

What could be more fun than perusing real estate listings and imagining which home you’d like to buy? For as long as I can remember, I have browsed, just for the heck of it. My mom, my sisters and I would crowd around the IBM computer – back when we had dial-up – and scroll through the listings. We must have wanted an adventure. Even when I haven’t been in the market to buy a house, the real estate section of Preservation Magazine is thrilling. My other favorite site is Preservation North Carolina – imagine buying and restoring those homes – a dream come true!

Of course, it’s so much easier and more fun to browse and dream when it’s not exactly reality. When you aren’t tied to a particular location, for whatever the reason, that big farmhouse in the middle of nowhere looks perfect.

As you can infer, Vinny and I are in the market for a house in central Vermont. We have our priorities and a realistic budget to keep in mind, which automatically eliminates the majority of the housing stock in Vermont. Since we grew up on Long Island, we’re quite familiar with the high cost of living. Unfortunately, Vermont also has that reputation. Housing is expensive, even in this market, and even when you are not afraid of a “fixer-upper.” (I draw the line at needing new foundations and floor beams.)

So what’s a house-hunting preservationist to do? We keep looking and looking and reminding ourselves that buying a home does not mean that we have to live in it forever. Still there are some things that cannot be compromised. For instance, I will not buy a home that was built after 1940, give or take (I have my reasons). I cannot live in a ranch house because I grew up in one. We want some form of a yard – for the barbecue and a patio. And the house must get a lot of sunlight. So really that’s just basic needs in a house for us. What are yours? How about wants? I want a house with architectural character – so much that I should call it a need.

One house we loved did not work out. Another just was not what the pictures implied; they are deceiving. With few afffordable homes on the market, in places where we can live, this can be disheartening. I will not bore you with all of our house hunting, but there is one house that we will remember for a long time.

To start with, look up 89 Prospect Street in Montpelier, VT. Some listings have more pictures than other sites.

This house caught our eye first because of the price and then because of the detail and the original windows. The listing said that most of the hard work had been done already. From pictures the inside appeared gutted. But we were intrigued and so excited to see it. We were lucky to have the owner there to tell us the story of the house and his story with it.

The current owner bought the house 1-2 years ago and has been working on it ever since. When he bought it, an 89 year old man had been living there in one part of the firsr floor. He had not been upstairs in more than a few years. The roof leaked and the floors were caving in. So the new owner tore our the plaster (aaah! no!) and the floors. He salvaged as much as he wanted. This did include leaving the original windows and removing, labeling and storing window and door trim. I was so excited when he said the R value is barely achieved through windows; walls are more important. The owner has been rebuilding the foundation and has replaced floor joists and beams and rewired the electricity. His work has been incredible in effort and appreciation of the house (it is not perfect if we are talking restoration, but commendable).

This 2.5 story, 1895 Queen Anne house was breathtaking. We were practically speechless. It is simply amazing just how captivating a house can be, even one that has been stripped and gutted. The best part, aside from the windows, was the wall construction: vertical 1×4″ boards make up all of the walls. Talk about a solid house.

The house is beautiful, as simple and as understated as that sounds.

We wish we could buy it. What’s the catch? The amount of work left is immense; we would go bankrupt. Nor would we be able to heat it. The attic is bigger than our current apartment; the entire house is just too much house for us.

So we are wishing that the right people find 89 Prospect Street; a spectacular house awaits them. We are grateful for the experience of seeing that house.

As for us? We will keep on house hunting and wishing that all houses find someone to love them. It is a long road ahead.

Preservation Photos #76

The harsh Vermont winter has uncovered the historic cobblestone streets under the modern asphalt in Montpelier.