By Dana Gray
ST. JOHNSBURY - Groundwork for the History & Heritage Center's new exhibit hall was laid out last week in the form of an "ISO-Slab" system.
The "slab-on-grade" insulated system designed in Canada was the right plan for the construction project, said heritage center board member and project manager Bob Desrochers. It meant the foundation slab depth could be shallower to avoid having to deal too much with the clay soil at the Summer Street property, he said.
Site preparation for the system meant a level grade covered in crushed stone. Polystyrene insulation panels were then configured to form the base and a protection skirt at the walls. Wire mesh was then laid out and concrete was poured.
Work was done by RG Gosselin Inc., a Derby-based company. An RG crew on Thursday mid-morning was in the concrete leveling stage. A Carroll Concrete Co. truck was on scene providing the cement.
Once cured, the slab will be ready for construction of the planned 45' by 36' structure. Desrochers said timber support beams will form the structure's supports. He expects that material to arrive by early June.
"All in all it's a pretty simple building," he said.
The new exhibit hall will be located on the property south of the exhibition carriage barn at the history center. The new hall is necessary, said Peggy Pearl, director of the St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center, because the current amount of exhibit space in the barn and the center's Victorian home isn't enough to showcase important items from the town's past.
Among the planned exhibits for the new building are stories and items that highlight French Catholic influence on the town, including granite pillars that were salvaged from the former Notre Dame church on Prospect Street that was destroyed by fire in 1966. Another exhibit will focus on The Caledonian Record, which began in 1837 in the town. Part of that exhibit will include an old-fashioned letterpress the newspaper has and will gift to the center for display. Additional plans in the new space call for an exhibit that communicates the town's industrial beginning at Arnold Falls on the Passumpsic River, an exhibit highlighting the early sheep industry, the impact of the railroad and blacksmithing.
The building will be 1,600 square feet with an open ceiling design.
The project will also include landscaped pathways on the grounds, the addition of outdoor artifacts unaffected by the weather and a small addition to the existing main building to offer additional bathroom facilities. The expected cost to do everything is about $550,000.
Go to the center's website at www.stjhistory.org to learn more and to make a donation.