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Preserving Vermont’s history: 13 projects awarded state grants

Published: Feb. 21, 2021 at 9:29 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The East Calais General Store has been a Washington County staple for as long as anyone can remember. So when it closed in December 2019, it brought a lot of disappointment to the community.

“It has been here since 1850, it has been a general store forever,” explained Jan Ohlsson of the East Calais Community Trust. “Without the store here in the community, we’ve lost a sense of, I guess of being, you know? This store was instrumental between here and Hardwick. We consider it almost the gateway to the Northeast Kingdom.”

But when the East Calais Community Trust bought the store in June 2020, they set out to reopen the landmark shop with a $900,000 renovation budget.

“The exterior will all be redone, the windows that need to be restored will be restored. There will be new windows put in. There are three apartments that we have here and we’ll be renovating those as well,” Ohlsson explains.

Fortunately, they’re getting some help from the state, a historic preservation grant from the Agency of Commerce and Community Development for $20,000.

They’re hardly alone. Thirteen projects were awarded grants for 2021, totaling more than $204,000.

A statement from the Caitlin Corkins at the Agency of Commerce and Community Development said, “These are places that not only tell the story of Vermont’s history, they also are the places where we continue to create and foster community. Whether it is a town hall, a library, a general store, a house of worship, or a community center, these places encourage sense of place for people in these communities, providing public services, as well as a place for us to gather, meet our neighbors, and celebrate. We will need these places more than ever once we get through the pandemic!”

In Burlington, the First Unitarian Universalist Church was selected to receive $20,000, as well.

“Well we are one of the first to be on the national historic registry of buildings in Vermont and it is the oldest existing church in Vermont,” explained facilities manager David McFeeters.

It’s part of a $40,000 renovation, with most of the cost going right to labor.

“The mortar is a lime mortar and it has to be just the right hardness and just the right color. And so a professional that can do that to preserve the brick will be doing [it,]” he said.

In addition to the mortar, they’ll also be repairing the rotting south doors -- crucial projects to maintain the integrity of the iconic brick building.

“We’ve got 200 years and we certainly would like to have another 200 years,” McFeeters said.

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