Safeguarding and showcasing St. Johnsbury's treasures - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Safeguarding and showcasing St. Johnsbury's treasures

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Jammed into this generic storage space are some of St. Johnsbury's greatest treasures.

"The wagon is the original wagon that the Fairbanks came in," says Peggy Pearl. "That's what they came to St. Johnsbury in. It was designed by Thaddeus."

If anyone is on a first name basis with the people who put St. Johnsbury on the map, it is Peggy Pearl.

Reporter: "How long have you been working and been involved in St. Johnsbury history?"

Pearl: "I probably would have to say since I was knee high to a grasshopper working with my dad in the cemetery because he was very historically minded and it was there that I started hearing stories."

Peggy Pearl spent most of her career at a spot built by the Fairbanks family, the Fairbanks Museum.

"I spent 37 years at the museum pretty much teaching history," she says.

At 66, her passion is preserving St. Johnsbury's history. Part of that passion includes finding a permanent home for all of these treasures.

"This room has, as you can see, hundreds of boxes with various collections in them," she says.

Volunteers went through every single box and decided what should go to the new History and Heritage Center.

"So that took about a years worth of time, with all the collections in the different places to go through," she says.

Reporter: "So what would be in a box like this?"

Pearl: "In this particular ones here there are ornaments and these ornaments had a tie into St. Johnsbury."

"We were doing a project on Charlotte Fairbanks last semester and we just hit a wall, so I sent Peggy an email that said, help Charlotte Fairbanks and I saw her three hours later and she brought me four resources," says Denise Scavitto.

Denise Scavitto and Angela Drew both teach at the St. Johnsbury Academy, the school started by the Fairbanks family. They know what a resource Peggy Pearl is and wanted to help her make the dream of a history and heritage center come true.

"Right now we're working on posting photos of the 1884 views of St. Johnsbury book," she says.

They set up this Facebook page to start spreading the word.

"We started to learn about how she was trying to get this organization started and finding a home for it and we really wanted to help and a way that we thought we could help was helping to get the word out," says Angela Drew.

"This was the selling point for me. The house is great, but this we can easily incorporate the horse drawn vehicles we have. I'd like to see a permanent platform scale set up, so that school kids can be educated and see what put St. Johnsbury on the map," Pearl says.

Pearl needs to raise $250,000 to buy this house and carriage house on Summer Street for the new center. She's about halfway there.

Reporter: "What is it about St. Johnsbury that makes it so special?"

Pearl: "Well, I just think St. Johnsbury is gifted by what the Fairbanks gave back to the town. They could have put their money anywhere, including just their pockets."

Instead, their generous gifts to this small hub in the Northeast Kingdom can be seen every time you drive down Main Street.

Freshman humanities classes at the Academy are getting in on the project. They're researching the history of the home where the center will be located.  Another group is looking at Civil War veterans from this area and the connections to the war. They will help with displays once the history and heritage center is up and running.

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