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New life for the old Brandon Training School - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

New life for the old Brandon Training School

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BRANDON, Vt. -

"Well, there are some stories on some of the buildings," said Kevin Birchmore of the McKernon Group. "We even have some workers that will not go in the buildings by themselves-- they are supposedly haunted."

Down the dark, dungy hallways, only a few nameplates and bathtubs remain in building J of the former Brandon Training School. Built in the early 1900s and formerly called the Vermont State School for Feebleminded Children, the institution once held 600 individuals with disabilities. And some say not everyone has left the building.

"We've had a side company of ghost hunters come in and set up cameras in some of the buildings. And I'm not going to say which one, but they say one of the buildings is the most active that they have seen," Birchmore said.

After the school closed its doors in 1993, more than 20 buildings sat empty, slowly starting to decay. But in 1997, Kevin Birchmore and the McKernon Group began purchasing building after building and doing complete renovations. And now, 20 years since the training school stood vacant, all but one of the properties are redone and occupied.

Now called Park Village, the buildings are filled with hundreds of housing units and a variety of businesses, including the most recent addition of the Compass, a music and arts center.

"We could use this for a lot of things," said Stephen Sutton of the Compass. "We could do concerts, we could do recording, we could have offices, we could have art galleries. And it just spoke to us. It had a lot of possibilities."

And although gutting the building means out with the old and in with the new, the gallery has one room dedicated toward the initial part of a Brandon Training School Museum.

"A lot of people are coming in to see the small exhibit that we have started on the history of the building and the Brandon Training School," Sutton said. "And that will develop over the years as well as we get more material. So, that is of interest because a very, very large proportion of the town, actually worked in this building."

A decade later after the school closed its doors, abandoned buildings are nearly all occupied-- some say by spirits that never left.

The Compass is working with the state to gather artifacts from the Brandon Training Center, hoping to continue building the exhibit into a museum.

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