Welcome to December’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 the Summer Street School building while renovations are being made before we move to our new permanent home at 421 Summer Street. The 250 Club achieved its goal making it possible to buy the property and we did just that on August 29th! It took a community along with friends and alumni to make this dream a reality. We encourage your support in making this historic home a wonderful place for exhibiting, preserving and collecting St. Johnsbury’s history. Please check out our progress and the site on December 13th from 2 – 4 pm. Also visit our web site at www.stjhistory.org and our Facebook page. Our mailing address is P.O. Box 223, St. Johnsbury, Vt., 05819 and phone number is 802 – 424 – 1090.
As the year 2014 gets ready to be archived, we at History & Heritage are thankful for many things. Thanks to many of you, our 250 Club was successful in raising $250 thousand dollars to purchase and begin work on the former Primmer & Piper Law Office at 421 Summer Street. We are most grateful to the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board whose grant award of $60 thousand pushed us over the finish line. St. Johnsbury Academy building trade students have been hard at work on the wiring and the renovation of a former shed area for a classroom. They are also working on a handicap entrance.
The carriage barn floor has been torn up, the building jacked up and soon a new floor will be in place. In time, this will be public space for our larger collections. The Work Camp is playing a major role in this phase. The progress is great and History & Heritage is grateful for the expertise of Dale Wells, Roo Mold, Michael Bugbee and our own Jim Impey. I admit wishing I could fast forward everything but am practicing “patience, Margaret!”
Another noteworthy happening this year has been the umbrella of History & Heritage getting larger. Two former non-profits have come under the care of History & Heritage. The oldest is the Bicentennial St. johnsbury House Foundation, Inc. organized in October of 1975 with Hugh Impey as President of the Trustees. Their mission was to save the St. Johnsbury House from being torn down.
The second, St. Johnsbury Railroad Heritage Society was formed just short of ten years ago by Nat Tripp and several partners. Their mission was to inform the public of the importance, past and present, of railroads in St. Johnsbury and the region. They had many artifacts on display at the Welcome Center which will continue to be housed there as they tell the story of the St. Johnsbury Railroad.
Relevant to these two nonprofits, I found it most interesting to read a letter written by Marguerite Impey to the editor of the Caledonian Record (August 26, 1975) in which she wrote, “In St. Johnsbury we are fortunate to have had leaders and benefactors who planned well for the future, as evidenced in our many large, well constructed buildings. Right now, we have two such buildings very close to the chopping block…My present plea is please preserve the St. Johnsbury House and Railroad Station.” We all know that these two buildings are still part of our landscape. Hugh Impey passed away in 1980 and Marguerite stayed involved in the St. Johnsbury House Foundation for the rest of her life. The Foundation supported small projects in and around St. Johnsbury for many years. Prior to her passing, she agreed that it was time for the Foundation to be part of the preservation of St. Johnsbury’s treasures.
Nat’s group of railroad enthusiasts put on very successful train rides, turning over profits to the depot restoration, the downtown organization and the town itself. Many people came forward with artifacts that embellish that history. As Nat points out, the downtown was established because of the railroad. And we all know that the Fairbanks men had huge fingers in the pie of getting the railroad here! Nat’s enthusiasm is contagious and we are honored to carry on the work of the preservation of the railroad era. Nat said, “It has been a great joy to discover and help preserve this history, but it is only part of our greater history and needs to be woven together as I’m sure the History and Heritage Center can.”
Because of the work and enthusiasm of both groups, St. Johnsbury’s History has a great story to show and tell. We are honored to be entrusted to carry on their work and look forward to show casing much more in the future.
All of us at the History & Heritage Center wish you the best of the season and look forward to a great New Year. We hope you will join us for our Holiday Open House on the 13th from 2 – 4 pm to get a preview of what is to come.