Abandoned Vermont: Addison Town Hall (Alternatively: What about Rural Preservation?)

An upfront disclaimer: The Addison Town Hall is owned by the Town of Addison. Technically, it’s vacant, not abandoned. Due to its condition and the attention it requires, I categorize it as abandoned. 

The Addison Town Hall sits at the center of the village of Addison Four Corners in Addison, Vermont, at the junction of VT Route 22A and VT Route 17. Addison is a rural agricultural community in Addison County, with some remaining working dairy farms. The shores of Lake Champlain make up the western edge of the county.

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The Addison Town Hall and the Baptist Church are at the center of Addison Four Corners. Photo: January 2016.

The Addison Town Hall holds a place in my heart, because I studied the building during graduate school, and completed a building conditions assessment in 2010. And I passed through Addison Four Corners on my way to work at the Lake Champlain Bridge site for years. Since 2010, I’ve been visually monitoring the condition of the building.

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The Addison Town Hall, as seen in January 2016.

The Town Hall was built in 1872 and has served as a school, a town hall, town offices, and grange hall. As community needs changed, the interior was adapted, including  the second floor stage addition and partitions on the first floor. (See a few interior shots here.) School has not been in session since the 1950s. Today the town hall serves only as storage for the historical society and the neighboring Baptist church.

If memory serves, since October 2010 there have been a few frightening exterior developments.

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There is a clear separation of the foundation stones, northeast corner. January 2016.

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The northeast corner of the foundation is slipping, probably due to water damage. January 2016.

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The same issues on the southeast corner of the building. January 2016.

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The banks of windows would have been added when the standard school requirements of the 1930s were instated. January 2016. You can see all sorts of damage in this photo: collapsing back shed, weathering clapboards in need of a proper paint job, broken windows.

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View from the southwest shows the larger picture of deterioration, including the cupola. January 2016.

The deterioration of the Addison Town Hall brings up a more important conversation in preservation than one building.

The Addison Town Hall is an example of building located in a still active community, but a community that is rural and without all of the financial resources to rehabilitate this structure. What happens to a building that is a visual and physical landmark in a town, when there is not an obvious use for it?

A community’s needs change, and those changes often affect the buildings. Historic buildings with outdated purposes or those that are not up to code are left by the wayside with no plans and money.  What will happen to them? Imagine if a town center lost one of its prominent buildings. Rural communities have small village centers, with only a few buildings to represent the entire village. Loss of a town hall or a church or a school is devastating.

Urban preservation is a great conversation and a fun topic. But, frankly, it’s easier than rural preservation. There are more people, more opportunities for catalysts and funding. We should be talking more about alternative, creative uses for buildings in rural areas, where a one building win/loss can have much more of an impact than in an urban environment.

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Addison Four Corners, January 2016.

Preservation Photos #222 #presinpink

via Instagram

It’s Town Meeting Day in Vermont. The Woodbury town hall has beautiful 3/3 windows.

Town Meeting Day

Today, the first Tuesday in March, is the annual Town Meeting Day throughout Vermont. If you’re from New England, this is nothing new to you. If you’re from elsewhere, it might sound a bit like something out of Gilmore Girls. However, it’s a bit more serious than that; town residents meet to hear and vote upon town financial matters and other issues for the year. Town meeting dates back to 1762 in Vermont (the first one was held in Bennington). The Vermont Secretary of State produced a Citizen’s Guide to Town Meeting Day. Read about the specifics of voting and procedures here. (The middle school version is more fun to share.)

Town Meeting Day is a state holiday, which allows many people the time to attend. Some towns have the meeting the weekend prior or at night, allowing for greater participation. Many towns now run the meeting by “Australian ballot” as opposed to “floor meeting.” The difference? Australian ballot allows for voting all day, whereas floor meeting allows only for voting at the meeting after discussion of issues. This can take all day; hence, preference for Australian ballot.

Town halls, as buildings, are an important architectural style across Vermont. Historic town halls, although they vary in construction, massing and cladding, they are generally easy to spot in town. A “Town Hall in Vermont” Multiple Property Document Form was completed in 1991 by Liz Pritchett; it is available at the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. Town halls have served as multipurpose spaces for residents; sometimes schools or churches. Today the historic town halls aren’t always the current town hall (see Middlebury’s rehabilitation from town hall to theater), since changing times often requires changing spaces. Here are four of Vermont’s town halls.

Bethel Town Hall, 1911. Image via UVM Landscape Change. Click for source.

Bristol Town Hall. Image via Henry Sheldon Museum & UVM Landscape Change. Click for source.

Middlebury Town Hall, which is now the Middlebury Town Hall Theater. Image via UVM Landscape Change. Click for source.

Addison Town Hall, 2010.

Today will be my first Vermont town meeting; I’m excited. From what I hear, there are some village v. town issues that may be present during the meeting. Sounds like I’ll need a cup of coffee. Once I know more about town meetings in Vermont, I’ll report back on my experiences and the tradition.  Vermont Public Radio provides up to date town meeting coverage and tweets (no, I’m not kidding – this is a big deal!)

Do you live in a state with town meetings? What do you think of the tradition?

p.s. Rather than its usual Tuesday slot, Preservation Photos returns tomorrow.

p.p.s. Today is also the presidential primary election in Vermont. Vote!

Weekend Homework

One day soon I will not have anymore weekend homework, but right now I have two more weekends full until this semester (i.e. my grad school career) ends. And this weekend I’m back to the Addison Town Hall, one of my favorite buildings. This time I’m working on an interior conditions assessment (which follow a windows conditions assessment and an exterior conditions assessment). Take a look at these photos:

 

The second floor and the stage.

On the stage.

View from the stage.

 

These are only on the second floor because it’s the more historic of the floors… and it has the amazing historic feeling to it. Can you imagine putting on a play for your class on that stage? Look at those little desks. I love the benches, too, likely used for town hall meetings and grange hall meetings. While I chose a cold, but sunny day to conduct my documentation, it was colder inside the building than outside! (This, of course, I expected since the building hasn’t been heated in decades.) Still, any chance to spend time in the Addison Town Hall is a treat.

That’s my homework this weekend. What about you?