Welcome to September’s edition of History & Heritage. Our purpose is to acquaint you with our mission to preserve the town’s rich history, highlight the legacy of those who have gone before and show how our past has shaped our present. We are a non-profit with 501(c)(3) status.
We are located in our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street as of August. We encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Check out our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is 421 Summer Street, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
This is the first time we have dared publicly to say “we are almost ready to open our doors!” There are still too many “balls in the air” to pinpoint the date but it will happen in the next six to eight weeks. It took a community along with friends and St. Johnsbury Academy alumni to make this dream a reality. I would like to identify some of the pieces of the puzzle it took to put this project together. While efforts were underway to secure a home to house St. Johnsbury’s treasures, we were offered temporary quarters at the former Summer Street School, for three plus years, through the generosity of Lorraine & Jim Impey. Never once were we questioned about the longevity of our stay. The Board of Trustees has worked tirelessly to establish this organization; usually Boards serve an already established organization. Each has taken on different jobs varying from finances to designing the sign on the front porch; from creating the web site to taking on collections committee work to overseeing the work of the renovations to get us up and running. Board members include Reg Wakeham, Jim Impey, Martin Bryan, Shara McCaffrey, Brenda Wilkins, Joanne Bertrand, Bob Desrochers, Sue Gallagher, Denise Scavitto, David Reynolds and me.
Gina Glidden has gotten “down & dirty” for us, weeding, trimming and thinning out the flower beds. Paul Scavitto volunteered to mow the lawn with a mower that was donated to us. Steve Slayton has been H & H’s handyman, finishing the handicap ramp, replacing broken glass, cleaning up the barn, painting and replacing rotten wood stairs. Dave Sawtelle watched over and helped with winter water blues. Dale Wells has guided us every step of the way in our renovations. The electrical and building trades of St. Johnsbury Academy got us renovated and wired last school year and the electrical class continues to work with us in the barn this year. Jennifer Paine and Jackie Dadourian have been with the project since it started and have been tireless volunteers in all matters of administration and collections. Volunteers have made dump runs, cleaned out the basement, sent out mailings, continually helped with collections, put on concerts, and orchestrated the “open houses” we have had. Without these folks and a great many more – we would not be where we are.
When we moved from Summer Street School to here, the word went out to just a few who recruited a few more. One of the funniest stories was Paul recruiting a couple of his friends, Ryan Daly and Brett Herleikson, to help him move “something” for twenty minutes or so! What sports and friends they were! I say this as we needed a shoehorn to get a desk through the doorway to the upstairs room! One of the benefits of the move is that my office is above ground! I have been a basement dweller for most of my working career!
A few of the remaining “balls in the air” include the last of the exhibit cases needing to off-gas (their finish fumes) in order to have collections in them. Lyndon Woodworking has done an outstanding job with the design and completion of cases that should last for years to come. Sean Breen and Jim Schenck of the Foundry Group have been putting in many hours of donated time lighting these cases. The basement needs to be insulated to house collections and then the collections need to move from the Fairbanks Museum. The barn has some major work going on to re-enforce itself; an entryway in the front and the “shed” that will house the exhibiting of a platform scale permanently. When the doors do open, the need for volunteers to staff the Center will be great and NO, you do not need to know all of St. J’s history to do this!
With the exception of supplies and professional labor – this has been a community/alumni/volunteer success story and it will have to remain that way in order to keep the doors open. St. Johnsbury has a rich history that has resulted in cultural facilities that most small towns do not have. We all need to embrace this, young and old, and make the St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center a destination for years to come. The Board cannot thank you enough for the outpouring of money, time, expertise and sometimes just plain dirty work that has gotten us to this point.