[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.

Church Turned Condos in Toronto

Large churches struggle to find alternative uses once they no longer serve as houses of worship. Whether located in a small town or a large city, too many churches sit empty and abandoned. Once in a while you’ll come across a success story. This church in Toronto has been converted into condos. Take a look at the photos and let me know what you think.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

The Victoria Presbyterian Church converted to condos.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Only being able to see these from the outside you can see that floors have been added. The balconies are clear glass. The original windows have been removed, but the fenestration remains.

Another view of the church, now condos.

Another view of the church, now condos.

A bit about the Victoria Lofts:

Converted from a turn-of-the-century church into 38 gorgeous units, this building is beautiful, rooted in history, and ideally located.  Boasting soaring ceilings and gorgeous architecture including a dramatic sloping roof, a copper-trimmed steeple, romanesque arches and curved brick columns, suites range from 600 to 1800 square feet over one or two storeys.  Originally the West Toronto Presbyterian Church, this stunning building has been a vital part of the Junction neighbourhood since 1885, when it first opened its doors.  Renamed the Victoria Presbyterian Church to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897, this structure is one of several historic buildings in the area.  Located near the West Toronto Rail Path, a multi-use 4km path that links several Toronto neighbourhoods, the Junction is well-connected and a haven for any one seeking to reduce their carbon-footprint.  Spend an afternoon checking out the Junction Arts Festival, a neighbourhood display of music, dance and visual art, or take a fifteen-minute stroll south to High Park.

Apparently, converting churches into lofts is a thing in Toronto. Check out this post and this post. Do you want to live in a church? What do you think? A good idea? I’d like to see the inside. But, from the outside it looks pretty good. The windows would be better intact, but perhaps that wouldn’t work for the residences. In that case, the structure remains as a landmark in the neighborhood and it is legible.

Do you have a church in your town that could serve as a residence?

61 Summit Street, Burlington, VT

Interested in a beautiful house tour? Hang around with preservationists and you’ll have the privilege of touring the best places. Last Friday, the UVM HP Alumni Association visited the Wells House in Burlington, Vermont – an 1892 Queen Anne residence once home to Edward Wells, then the Delta Psi Fraternity and soon to be the UVM Alumni Association. I’d be wanting to view this house since I moved to Burlington in 2009 – it only took 5.5 years! Visit the UVM Historic Preservation Alumni blog to read more about this house and see additional photos.

Second floor stairwell.

Second floor stairwell, as the sun set. 

Second floor bedroom.

Second floor bedroom.

#ihavethisthingwithceilings

#ihavethisthingwithceilings

Trusses over pocket doors.

Trusses over pocket doors.

As an alumni association, we’re interested to know what your graduate program does. What events do you host? Tours? What would you hope to get out an alumni association? And, are you a preservationist or a friend of preservationists? You can join the UVM HP Alumni Association. We’re working hard to get events off the ground, from house tours to happy hours and much more. Spread the word. Thank you!

Preservation Photos #235

Many of Winooski's historic mill buildings have been rehabilitated to mixed-use spaces filled with lofts and commercial and retail space.

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Preservation on the Ground: Woodbury’s Armory in Burlington, VT

A historic building that sits empty for ten years is not an untold story in preservation, even if it appears to be in a prime location. The brick armory on Main Street in Burlington, VT sat empty since 2003, leaving passersby to wonder about its fate. What they did not know: this story is different. 

The Armory in its day as Hunt's Mill & Mining. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

The Armory in its day as R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company. Photo source: Housing Vermont. Click for link.

Setting the Stage: Woodbury’s Armory

Urban Woodbury built the Armory in 1904 and leased the space to the National Guard. In its storied history, the Armory has served as a car dealership, R.W. Hunt Mill & Mining Company, Sha-Na-Na’s Night Club, and as office space. Circa 2000, a popular local music venue was looking to buy the space, but couldn’t decipher logistics with the City of Burlington. Fire struck in 2003, leaving the building unoccupied and seemingly forgotten after 100 years of use.

Enter Redstone

Who would want a burned-out, muddled, old building? Most would shy away. Fortunately, not Redstone, a company well known and respected for its historic preservation and rehabilitation of Vermont buildings such as the Chace Mill in Winooski and the Maltex Building in Burlington’s South End. After the fire, Redstone purchased and mothballed the building, and began working on the dilemma of the Armory’s next chapter. Erik Hoekstra, manager of the project, met with me on a surprisingly warm January afternoon for a tour of the building and project talk.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

View from the corner of Main Street and Pine Street.

The Big (Block) Picture

The real story is that the building was never forgotten. Like its past, the future of Woodbury’s Armory is part of a bigger picture: the redevelopment of the Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block in the City of Burlington. The block includes TD Bank, Hinds Lofts, a mixed use block (King Street Housing), and a handful of private residences.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

The Armory is located at the corner of Main Street and Pine Street. Note its location between the waterfront and Church Street.

In addition to being a part of this block redevelopment, the Armory stands as an important link between Burlington’s successful Church Street pedestrian mall and the popular Lake Champlain Waterfront.

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A landscaping plan, courtesy of Redstone, edited by author. Main Street is at the top of the image.

As Hoekstra and Redstone worked to develop a successful plan, the company invested in new windows, new stone sills, brick repointing and a new roof in 2007 for the Armory.  Not forgotten, but rather, the building was waiting for a sound, successful plan to germinate. According to Hoekstra, parking and finances were great challenges of this project. Parking is at a premium in the City of Burlington, and a building like the Armory didn’t come with parking. Working with property acquired from TD Bank, Redstone was able redesign the remaining open block space – then a surface parking lot – and provide enough parking.  In terms of finances, the Armory could not succeed alone as standalone project. It had to be bigger. It needed the entire block.   In the end, there are many funding partners and sources including Vermont State Tax Credits and New Market Tax Credits.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The first floor of the Armory shows where a pool will be located and where the floor above had to be removed.

The Plan

As of February 2014, construction is well underway at the Armory. The Main-Pine-King-St. Paul block will soon be home to a new hotel, parking garage, and retail space. Woodbury’s Armory, on the Main Street/Pine Street corner will serve as the hotel lobby for the Hilton Garden Inn. The first floor of the Armory will house the hotel pool and retail space, hopefully a restaurant to add to Burlington’s eclectic mix of eateries. To the south and extending east from Armory will be an addition to house the 2 story parking garage with 4 floors of hotel rooms above. Sensitive to streetscape and the historic context, the garage/hotel addition will have different height elevation on St. Paul Street and Pine Street. Guests will access the lobby from the porte-cochère off Main Street.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

The King Street and Main Street elevations of the project. Photo courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

St. Paul Street and Pine Street elevations. Courtesy of Redstone.

Preservationists might ask why a chain hotel? Hoekstra said that although Redstone hoped for a boutique hotel, banks were only agreeable to funding an established, large business with a loyal customer base. The Hilton Garden Inn will be operated under a franchise agreement with Hilton, but will be locally owned by Redstone and partners.  Hilton has been amenable in terms of designing a unique space and incorporating the Armory’s historic features into the rehabilitation. The 139 room hotel is set to open by the end of 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

The Armory under construction, February 2014.

Why the Armory & Historic Preservation?

As Erik Hoekstra stated, Redstone prefers preservation and rehabilitation projects because of the challenge and commitment to the community. Sprawl development does not give that same satisfaction of project completion. Urban infill, smart growth, and redevelopment make the job more interesting.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

One of the best finds of the restoration was uncovering the Armory carved into the granite lintel.

Hoekstra credits his interest in historic buildings and development to growing up in several historic houses, including a Sears Roebuck Catalog house in LaGrange, IL. Hoekstra studied real estate and finance and worked in New York City before coming to Vermont in 2001 to work with Housing Vermont and later Redstone. He studied Real Estate Development in the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Interested in Hoekstra’s line of work? He advises that there are many roads to working in development and historic preservation. Some include working in construction, property management, finance or a non-profit organization like Housing Vermont. Hoekstra says that no matter the type of company, the process is still the same: Design, permit, finance, legal, construction.

When asked about his favorite part of this project, Hoekstra said that it’s seeing all of the puzzle pieces fit together. And that is always a preservation success story.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

A view looking north on Pine Street.

Adaptive Reuse Followed by Vacancy?

Let’s ponder adaptive reuse and vacant buildings. It’s a sad day when a chain store buys out a smaller company, whatever the reason. Does it sting any less when that chain store now occupies the existing building? What if it’s just a larger chain buying a smaller chain? Does it hurt less than any chain buying an independent store? What happens when that chain store subsequently relocates, leaving the former mom & pop store location unoccupied? It’s akin to a big box store building a massive store outside of town and then relocating to an even larger store, and leaving its original site vacant.

While in Indianapolis, I came across this closed Dunkin Donuts building with the Googie style sign.

On the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania.

On the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania.

A bit of searching revealed a long history of Roselyn Bakery, a regional franchise of 40+ locations throughout Indiana. See this photograph of the Roselyn Bakery sign. The bakery operated in many stores until 1999, at which point the business shut down bakeries and began selling only to grocery stores. Following the bakery, a Panda Express Chinese Restaurant occupied the building for a while until Dunkin Donuts moved in, operating from 2008-2013.
And now? Plans are under review. Let’s hope the Googie sign remains. Roselyn’s Bakery signs still exist around Indy. Check out Down the Road and Visual Lingual.

Closer view of the V-shape rotating sign (it's still rotating).

Closer view of the V-shape rotating sign (it’s still rotating).

What is your barometer for businesses buying one another? Or do we chalk it up to capitalism and business plans? My preference is local businesses, smaller chains, and then larger chains that respect historical significance of location and building. So, it does sting a bit less when a big business makes an effort to be a part of an existing community, as opposed to trying to compete for a removed location. And while some buildings have a greater presence in a downtown block, it’s important to consider the bigger picture. Every occupied building makes a difference for an urban core or downtown.

Vergennes Depot Update

Remember the Vergennes Depot? (Seen in October 2012 and December 2012.) A lot has happened since then! Rehabilitation is well under way with new siding, restored windows, original detail exposed, historically accurate colors and much more to come. Who wants to move in?

View from the Vergennes/Ferrisburgh Park-n-Ride.

View from the Vergennes/Ferrisburgh Park-n-Ride.

And it's still located track side.

And it’s still located track side.

Looking down the tracks; the depot was located just a 1/4 mile that way.

Looking down the tracks; the depot was located just a 1/4 mile that way.

Restored windows, new clapboard siding.

Restored windows, new clapboard siding.

Close up of the windows.

Close up of the windows. And the new foundation.

Recessed arcades, an original detail.

Recessed arcades, an original detail.

Beautiful colors!

Beautiful colors!

There is still work to be done on the exterior and interior, and tenants to find for the building. But what a transformation! If you’re on Route 7 or nearby Vergennes/Ferrisburgh, head over to the Park & Ride to see this beauty!

Preservation Photos #192

The Taftsville Covered Bridge undergoing rehabilitation.

The Taftsville Covered Bridge undergoing rehabilitation.

Yes, there is actually a bridge under all of that falsework. Remember what it looked like un-covered? Take note of the new roof. You can see the arch on the right, in between the blue scaffolding.

A Truly Glamorous Gym

Atmosphere and ambiance contribute to enjoyment of a place, as preservationists know, whether that place is a restaurant, a library, a streetscape, a residence, an office, a classroom or even an athletic facility. If a place is pleasant and gives you that happy-to-be-there feeling, then you are likely to return. Sometimes this decision is blatant; other times, it is subconscious.

The St. Paul Athletic Club in St. Paul, MN is one of those breathtaking places that will make you glad to be there, whether it’s for social reasons or health reasons. You have to see it to believe it (see photos below – click for larger images and better clarity).

Opened in 1916 as a social and athletic club, it was recently renovated and reopened in winter 2013 by new owners with a true vision for restoring the function and the glamour of the athletic club. The club is located on 7 stories of the 13-story building. The current owners have brought the building back to life, and are an important link in the chain of downtown St. Paul revitalization and growth. (This Finance & Commerce article gives an overview of the financial side of the reopening.)

How would you like to workout in this room?

How would you like to workout in this room? Chandeliers, lamps, decorative plaster: I could barely believe my eyes.

Details, details.

Details, details.

Multiple floors of beautiful rooms and workout equipment.

Multiple floors of beautiful rooms and workout equipment.

Oddly enough, however, it was entirely empty when I was exploring.

Oddly enough, however, it was entirely empty when I was exploring.

Good views from these windows.

Good views from these windows.

Another running track above the weights.

Another running track above the weights.

A view into the pool.

A view into the pool.

Beautiful mosaic tile floor.

Beautiful mosaic tile floor.

Incredible windows at the pool; wish I had time to swim!

Incredible windows at the pool; wish I had time to swim!

What do you think? Are you as impressed as I am? A historic building rehabilitated , and retaining its function as an important business in downtown and serving the people with a current need – sounds great. Hopefully the membership increases, and the club succeeds. Read about the original grand opening here.

Perhaps more athletic facilities should consider historic buildings – have you seen any? Would you be more likely to join a gym if it looked and functioned like the St. Paul Athletic Club? Would you pay more to support a business that operates with such care in a historic building?

Looking up at the St. Paul Athletic Club.

Looking up at the St. Paul Athletic Club. Spectacular.

(By the way, I am writing about the St. Paul Athletic Club because I am impressed and think it’s a great success story. If you live in St. Paul or nearby, you should join. And I like to show my support for historic buildings. I have not received any compensation for promoting this business.)

A New Foundation: Vergennes Railroad Depot

Back in October, the Vergennes Railroad Depot was moved via hydraulic jacks to rest in its new home, adjacent to the Ferrisburgh Park & Ride (which is just over the Vergennes/Ferrisburgh town line on Vermont Route 22A).

On the move in October 2012.

Since then the depot has been set on a foundation and rehabilitation work is well underway. Here are a few images for an update. One thing to know about the depot is that it is now on the opposite side of the tracks, however, the building remains oriented correctly, with the bay windows and semaphore facing the tracks.

Early December 2012.

Early December 2012. This side faces the park & ride.

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Early December 2012. The windows are being restored, and thus are not in place. And check out that new concrete foundation.

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Early December 2012.

And for some updates later in December:

Mid December 2012.

Mid December 2012. Track side. Note the bay window and semaphore.

Mid December 2012.

Mid December 2012. What a sight! The relocation brings much more visibility to the building. Rehabilitation is in progress and the community is excited.

More updates to come. Any good rehabilitation stories to share from your corner of the world?