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.



83 Main Street.


Shutters falling off the front gable end.


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


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.


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).


Rear addition.


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


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?

With Your Coffee [Monday Edition]

Silos at Dealer.com, Pine Street, Burlington, VT. Painted by local artist Mary Lacy.

Good morning! How’s it going? Is September incredibly busy for everyone – what happened to summer days? In need of a preservation conversation spark? Here are some recent finds relating to transportation and place. Read anything good lately? Working on anything fun? Let me know.


Garfield District School

One room schoolhouses are easily recognizable, as we’ve discussed. I delight in what I call my “schoolhouse radar”. It’s a fun game to play. What is your favorite type of building to spot?


At the crossroads in Garfield (a small hamlet in Hyde Park), VT on a cloudy, foggy day – just before a summer storm arrived.

Near Green River Reservoir in Hyde Park, VT, this building sits at a crossroads, a common place for one room schoolhouses. It has the gable roof massing of a schoolhouse and the general size, and hint of Green Revival detail (cornice returns).

While the building looks a bit dreary in the fog and clouds and the overgrown weeds, it still stands out as a schoolhouse converted to a residence, right? Maybe? Where is the bank of windows?


Pardon the fog and the clouds.


The windows don’t lend themselves to a schoolhouse, but look closely and you can tell by the paint on the rear of the schoolhouse that the bank of windows has been removed and replaced by residential windows. Still, I’d bet on it being a schoolhouse.

Next up? Consulting the trusty Online Resource Center (ORC) of the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation. The ORC contains searchable PDFs of all of the state survey files, among many other resources.


Garfield District School, 1981. The best part: the duck and ducklings to the right of the school. Source: Vermont State Register of Historic Places file.

This building at the crossroads of Garfield was indeed a schoolhouse. According to the 1981 survey, this was the Garfield District School, constructed in 1875, operating until 1953. This was one of the first schools in Vermont certified as a “Standard School”. The Standard Schools were aptly named, as schools were rated based on standards of lighting, ventilation, teaching quality, sanitation, and other details. As of the 1981 survey, the building was a residence. The survey does not discuss the west elevation (the former window bank). However, the existing chimney replaced a cupola that enclosed the school bell.

Preservation Pop Quiz: Fisk Farm Edition

Fisk Farm is a historic estate located in Isle La Motte, VT, with an adjoining (historic) marble quarry that began operations in the 1660s. Today the quarry is a world renowned fossil preserve as a Natural National Landmark. The original stone house on the property burned in the early 20th century, but its ruins stand, and later houses and barns remain on the property. Set on the west shore of the island, with a view of Lake Champlain, it is one of the most picturesque spots.

Another Fisk Farm view for good measure. The porch and the stone house of the previous images. #presinpink

A photo posted by Preservation in Pink (@presinpink) on

But, like all historic properties, there are some mysteries. Take this stone structure as your next challenge:


Set the to the left of the shingle style house in the photo above, this is the mystery object. The remains of the original stone house are in the background of this photo.

What is it? I don’t know, but I’m hoping you do. Some clues: 1) There is only one on the property. 2) Each side looks alike. 3) There are some pipes coming up from the ground. 4) Some of the insets have smaller metal pipes in them. 5) I am not taller enough to see the top.


Look alike sides.


Close up of the inset into the stone.


Another inset. Note the metal pipe.


One metal pipe coming out of the ground. This is the only one.


Another view.

Your turn. What do you think?


Panton Schoolhouse

Can you spot a one-room schoolhouse as you’re driving by? I bet after this week of one-room schoolhouses here on PiP, you can! It’s a fun game. This ca. 1895 school in Panton, Vermont sits next to the town garage and serves as town storage. It appears as though it was the former home of the town offices, and the town bulletin board is still in use on the rear addition. Take a look. These one-room schoolhouses were called “District Schools” because each town was divided into districts and each district had its own school. This was before the days of school consolidation.


Quite the sunny morning, and the iphone couldn’t avoid it. But, look at the bank of 6 windows on this school.



Note the town bulletin board on the wing. Current fliers are posted there.


Unlike most schoolhouses, this one has windows on both sides. Perhaps they were added when the building was no longer a schoolhouse.


Bank of 6 windows.


View into the schoolhouse shows storage and  original features (see the doors and beadboard).


Peering into the back windows: town highway department storage. Also, note the wall on the left. The addition was added after the original construction date.


The Town Highway Department. Photo taken standing in front of the schoolhouse.

Of course, I feel badly for this schoolhouse. While it’s sort of in use, there is so much more potential to it. Poor thing. It’s a common case for these schoolhouses, even though one room schoolhouses would be fairly easy to rehabilitate to modern uses. What do you think?

Cornwall Schoolhouse

Our tour of Vermont one-room schoolhouses continues. Here’s one in Cornwall, VT off Route 30 that I’ve wanted to photograph for years. The Cornwall District No. 3 schoolhouse was constructed in 1830. It operated as a school until the 1950s.

cornwall school 3

Cornwall, VT. District No. 3 school. Stereoscopic view, ca. 1890. 

Today the school is a seasonal residence. The entrance has been enclosed and the vertical siding has been replaced with horizontal clapboards, but the details and characteristics remain intact (brackets, arch, steeple, slate roof, bank of windows). The house looks lonely on a spring day, but looks well maintained.





Looks like a pretty good seasonal residence, doesn’t it? I hope people still use it.

Abandoned Vermont: Salisbury Schoolhouse

The bank of windows make this easily recognizable as a one room schoolhouse.

One room schoolhouses are adorable. And they are an easily recognized architectural form. While they would be seemingly easy to adapt to an alternative use, many sit on the side of the road, underutilized. The District #8 Schoolhouse, ca. 1855, on Route 53 in Salisbury, VT is no exception. The schoolhouse sits in the middle of a farm field, serving as storage space for its owner. The 1977 survey photographs show a vestibule entry, which has since been removed. Otherwise, the schoolhouse retains its historic integrity with its character defining features such as the bank of windows.

District #8 School on the edge of a farm field.
Front entrance, no longer a vestibule. 
Peek into the windows and you’ll see the original materials of construction as well storage.
Bed frames, desks, stuff.

Hopefully its owner will see its potential soon.

With Your Coffee


Traveling this weekend? Feels like spring. Have fun! Seen here: Vermont I-89.

Hello preservation friends and happy weekend! How goes it? Big successes to share? Are you simply glad to have made it through the week (preservation and life can do that to you once in a while. You are not alone)? What are you working on these days? Have you watched House of Cards yet? I’m super psyched to do some binge-watching. Here are a few links from around the web if you’re looking for something to read this weekend.

What have you been reading lately?

Coffee cheers!🙂


Abandoned Vermont: St. Albans Drive-in Theater (R.I.P)


St. Albans Drive-in Movie Theater, as seen in May 2012. 

As of the 2012 photograph of the St. Albans Drive-in Theater, it was not abandoned. It was still open and operating, one of Vermont’s four remaining drive-in movie theaters.  As of 2014, the drive-in closed after 66 years of business, partially due to costs required to upgrade to the mandated digital projection from film reels. As of 2014, the land was for sale, and still is. Such is the fate of many drive-in theaters, especially on valuable land.

Because I’m a sentimental nostalgic fool for roadside America and Vermont, I wanted to photograph the St. Albans Drive-in Theater one more time, before it disappeared. On a cold, windy, February day, I said my goodbyes to this bit of roadside America.


View from across US Route 7. Not as cheery as the 2012 view. February 2016. 


Entrance & ticket booth to the drive-in. Still lined with lights. February 2016. 


The speakers at the St. Ablans Drive-in theater were removed years ago. Instead, viewers tuned into the radio station. February 2016. 


Ticket booth. February 2016. 


No admission charge today. February 2016. 


The screen is in disrepair and new traffic lights are in place for the development across the road. February 2016. 


Stepping back you can vaguely see the remaining mounds in the earth for the cars to park. February 2016. 


The snack bar (right) and the movie projection room (left). Note the chain protecting the projection. Windows are all broken. February 2016. 


View of the playground and the dilapidated screen. February 2016. 


The playground (swingset) remains intact, if not jumping out of the ground with its concrete foundation. Slide, two swings, rings, trapeze, bar, and see-saw. February 2016. 


Beneath the screen looking into the drive-in. February 2016. 


Pieces of the screen have fallen to the ground. February 2016. 


Possibly from up there. February 2016. 


The back of the screen. February 2016. 


Some drive-in screens have their structures concealed. This one is out in the open, nothing too fancy. With high winds, the structure has to be sturdy. February 2016. 


From the entrance road. February 2016. the marquee is barely visible, but you can see it to the right of the screen supports. February 2016. 

I can’t say for certain, but I would bet that one factor in the closure of the St. Albans drive-in is the construction and opening of this across the street:

As seen from the Walmart entrance road. February 2016.

With its October 2013 opening, I shared my lament.

Here is a great article from the St. Albans Messenger that highlights history and memories of the drive-in.

RIP St. Albans Drive-in. You’ll be missed by many.

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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


Addison Four Corners, January 2016.