Historic Danville sugar house to get makeover

Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 4:06 PM EDT
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DANVILLE, Vt. (WCAX) - Vermont officials announced earlier this month they have awarded nearly $377,000 in grants to restore historic barns around the state as part of the Division for Historic Preservation’s Barn Preservation Grant Program. One of those 28 recipients is the Cary Sugar House in Danville. While not technically a barn, the owners of the Danville property hope to restore it to its original splendor with the goal of educating the public about the history of Vermont’s liquid gold.

Tucked up in the Danville woods, the sap is boiling at Cary & Main Company.

And as it turns out, the property has been in the middle of the maple industry since the 1800s. “George Cary essentially started the maple industry,” said David Roth, who lives in Cary’s former home in St. Johnsbury. He bought the Danville property about a year ago, knowing full well its history.

A short walk down from the commercial sugar house drops you back in time. “This entire property was one of his first sugar bushes and we’re standing in one of his first sugar houses,” Roth said.

The inside of his original sugar house in some ways looks nearly untouched, with original hardware and even Cary’s snowshoes. And outside there are 25 acres of sugar maples. “This particular building and these particular woods are steeped in the history of making maple sugar,” Roth said. A maple maven himself, Roth saw this as an opportunity to share the history of maple with the public, from Abenaki maple sugaring to George Cary’s influence. “We want to create an experience for people from all around -- in fact all around the world -- to come and see and understand and touch and feel what sugaring is all about.”

Roth applied for and received one of the Barn Preservation Grants from the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. The $15,000 will be used to safely restore the building to its historically accurate working order, including sap boiling by a wood fire. “We’ll actually also be taking away some of the additions that were made over the years by other owners of the property that are not original, so that everything that will remain and everything we will renovate will, in fact, be historically accurate and original,” Roth said.

Roth says they hope to start as soon as the snow melts and to complete it this year. “Maple syrup truly defines Vermont and we want to make sure that everything we’re doing here is historically accurate and authentic,” he said.

Roth also says he’s working with the St. Johnsbury Academy to form a maple institute where students can get hands-on experience in all aspects of the industry, from culinary to construction to forestry.