Seasonal Buildings: Union Church in New Haven Mills

White, gable-roofed churches with tall steeples are anchors in Vermont’s villages, historically and visually. Small towns often have more than one church, speaking to a time when people attended churches and community meetings in greater numbers. In modern day Vermont, these large buildings remain in the same small villages, whose populations and budgets are fading. As you can see in Abandoned Vermont posts, some are empty, and others are used only seasonally:

Seasonal churches are used in the summer when the building does not need to be heated and lack of electricity, perhaps, is not a hindrance to use. Buildings closed up for the winters are not uncommon in the colder climates; many summer camps and cottages are winterized and sit alone for the winter months.


Union Church of New Haven Mills, VT, built 1851.

Union Church in New Haven Mills, VT is one of the seasonal churches. For decades it was used once per summer month for a church service, and the occasional special event.


View through the window. Front entrance to the right.

Union Church was constructed in 1851 as a church and meeting house to accommodate the growing community of New Haven Mills. Local craftsman Eastman Case constructed the building; his study of Asher Benjamin is evident in his design. Union Church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as a well-preserved example of a wood frame Greek Revival style church with features that including the temple-front gable entrance, corner pilaster, full entablature and pediments, oversized windows, and interior details. The Queen Anne style belfry was added ca. 1880.


Greek Revival details.


Interior details: pews, plaster, tin ceiling.

The 20th century brought floods and fire to the community, which led to the demise of the town and its lumber industry. The church sat empty throughout the 1930s, until Burt Rolfe, a Middlebury College student, took on the role of caretaker and preacher. Mr. Rolfe died in World War II. Neighbors, Langdon and Colleen Smith began taking care of the building and holding one monthly summer service for the next 40 years. When the Smiths died, neighbors continued to maintain the building. The church survived because of the neighbors and the community’s efforts to host events, raise money, and preserve the building. (Read the project file here for additional info.)


Through the window: failing plaster throughout the church.

The Preservation Society of the Union Church of New Haven has continued repairs as part of the long-term preservation project since the 1990s.  In 1997, the Preservation Society applied for and received a grant from the Division for Historic Preservation to stabilize the foundation and paint the building. In 2011, the Preservation Society received another grant to repair the 20/20 double hung windows.


New roof, 20/20 windows restored. Greek Revival details: pilasters, wide frieze, cornice returns, gable temple front.


In need of exterior maintenance.

It’s a beautiful building in a striking setting, overlooking the small village of New Haven Mills and set adjacent to the Lampson School. However, buildings are meant to used and if they stand in year-round communities with only seasonal use, there is lost potential. Keeping a building seasonal allows the greatest amount of preservation. No wiring is needed; the building needs to be maintained, but not altered or disturbed. However, in our cold climate, that limits the months. And what a shame to not be able to use this building all year round. Perhaps minimal modernization and addition of systems would be worth it in order to use the building.


The view as you approach from East Road. To the right is the Lampson School.


View from the Union Church, looking to the Lampson School and a farmstead.

It’s a good preservation theory discussion. What do you think? If there is use, keep the buildings as-is for the warm seasons or disturb them for year-round use?


#PastForward Recap: Leave Your Inner Snob at Home

Mary Rowe at the preservationURBAN Trust Live session, with a classic Jane Jacobs quote.


Days of good sessions and good conversations at the National Preservation Conference left me with too many thoughts and take-aways for one post. And, I’d like to continue conversations that we started at the conference. Rather than overwhelm all of us, I’ll take it one post and one conversation at a time. Interested? Read on, and join in for the comments, whether you attended the conference or not.


One of the most talked about quotes from the conference was said by Mary Rowe of MASNYC, at the Trust Live: preservationURBAN session. To a room packed with preservationists she said, “Leave your inner snob at home.” Most everyone in the audience, numbering in the hundreds, applauded.

I didn’t. I needed some time to think about that statement.

Preservationists have long-been accused of being elitist, blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes who preserve only the best architecture and nothing for the common folk. And it was true for some time. Historic Preservation has its roots with the Mount Vernon Ladies Association who formed to save George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon. (Let’s hear it for the women!) Despite the initial shortcomings of the movement, we wouldn’t be anywhere in preservation without those women.

Over the past 250 years historic preservation has evolved, gaining the most traction with the passage of the National Historic Preservation of 1966, the creation of preservation as a profession through graduate and undergraduate programs and shifts in the philosophy and practice of preservation. The most basic example is the inclusion of vernacular architecture (rather than solely high style architecture) as historically significant and eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

Historic preservation is a vast field, seeking to remember, document, preserve, re-use, and incorporate our past into the present and the future. From state capitals to roadside diners, Civil War battlefields to farmsteads, preservation relies on the built environment to tell our collective heritage.

Haven’t we made incredible progress in preservation?

Really, do we still have to tell people that we are not snobs? Do we still have to remind people that preservation is more than paint colors and high style architecture? And do we have to remind people that preservation works for quality of life in communities and places that matter to everyone?

Maybe we do. Collectively, we preservationists continue to great work by highlighting projects in social media to show that preservation is accessible to all, and is growing in all forms of diversity.

Snobs? Let’s think about this.

No matter what field you’re in (especially in a field that works to save resources), those who disagree will always think you’re a snob. But, among our people – we preservationists gathered together – are there really snobs among us? I can’t recall the last time I met a preservationist, young or old, emerging or experienced, and thought, “SNOB” (or whatever word you’d use akin to snob).

So, when someone comes in, who does not identify as a preservationist, and essentially tells us that preservationists can be snobs … why would we preservationists clap? Why would we agree, when we know that’s not the current state of preservation? Am I missing something? I need some contemporary examples, not the old stereotypes.

We acknowledge that not every place can be included in a preservationists’ efforts. Rather, not every place can be included in preservation efforts that are state and/or federally funded. Why? Because state and federal funding are tied to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards, the National Register of Historic Places, and the National Park Service. Places awarded funding and protection by being listed in the National Register are part of the built environment or landscape (sites, objects, structures, districts, buildings) and they have integrity.

Need a refresher on the National Register? Read this Preservation Basics post. While you’re at it, read these myths about historic preservation.  

In other words, yes, the National Register has some restrictions. It has to, or else preservationists would be trying to control or save every piece of our existing built environment. That would not go over well with anyone, nor would it be feasible. The National Register aids us in the work we do every day. Maybe it does need a refresher, but it has done us so much good so far.

There is more to historic preservation efforts than the National Register. Look at Main Street programs and community efforts. Preservationists talk about sense of place and third place and the intangible elements that make a place tangible. Preservation wants all people to have pride in where they live and to have a good quality of life, enriched by the historic built environment.

My point? When someone says preservationists are snobs, why applaud? Was it politically correct to applaud? Maybe our response allows this “snob” rumor to continue. Why not show & tell all of the great work of recent and current preservation efforts that shows the advance of preservation theory and practice. Prove by example. Preservation has come a long way.

It must be noted that Mary Rowe was an engaging and energetic speaker and the work of MASNYC is well aligned with historic preservation efforts in a manner that can greatly benefit our communities. I’m glad to have heard her speak, and as a result, to think about this issue of preservationists as snobs, especially if a leader such as Mary Rowe feels this way. Please, join in the conversation. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For discussion:

  • What do you think?
  • Were you in attendance? Did you applaud?
  • Are you a preservationist? Or not?
  • Do you think of preservationists as snobs? Why?

Other #PastForward Recaps: Emerging Professionals // Social Media

[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.

Grammar, Semantics, Theory and Tangents

Readers, if you have not been following the commentary on Monday’s post of Preservation Grammar: Historic v. Historical, I recommend you do! What started as a simple post have led to discussions on linguistics, terminology in the field, relevance to archaeology and more. Chime in; it’s fun!

To those already discussing, keep it going! Thanks for the debates and lessons so far.