This official archive is part of the national list of historic and cultural resources worthy of preservation. Although the majority of the buildings are individually listed properties and privately owned residences, many others are preserved for commercial, religious and institutional uses.
A prime example of one of these historic buildings is a Romanesque brick and brownstone structure located in the Montpelier Historic District.
The Vermont State Agricultural Building — formerly owned by National Life — was built in 1891.
My interest in this historic building derived from a visit to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (next door) last summer. The stately, four-and-a-half-story structure was wrapped in construction scaffolding. As I walked past, I noticed that it was decidedly asymmetrical, had windows of different shapes and sizes, and had a conglomeration of roof styles.
Intrigued, I decided to take a closer look.
The short flight of steps led me to enormous mahogany doors with an intricately carved semicircular frieze above them. Inside, I found floors made of Egyptian mosaic tiles, wainscoting of warm shades of brown and tan Swanton marble, and a beautiful stairway also made of marble and wrought iron.
When carefully walking around outside, I could see that the building was in the masonry restoration phase. Craftsmen were busy working on every level.
Masonry contractor Bruno Gubetta, owner of Alpine Building Restoration, was there to explain what I was looking at.
“We collaborated with SAS Architects (Smith Alvarez and Sienkiewycz) and Quinn General Contractors as the historic masonry specialists to restore the building’s façade,” Gubetta said. “We will be here for a couple of months to clean the brick, replace and reconstruct some of it, and repair the stone. Plus, we need to do some repointing (removing improperly installed mortar and reinstalling historically accurate mortar).
“Today,” Gubetta said as he pointed to the roof, “Tim and Chad’s crew are rebuilding the chimney while our other crew replaces brick on the north elevation.”
Alpine Building Restoration, which Gubetta established in 1992, began with small projects on historic homes. Within a few years, the company established a strong reputation in Vermont and won larger commercial projects.
Once it became recognized by some of Vermont’s most respected designers and architects, Alpine became a preferred historic-restoration company. Its projects in the past 20 years have included UVM’s Old Mill, Redstone Hall and Williams Hall, Middlebury’s Town Hall Theatre, the Howard Mortuary Chapel, and as many as 1,000 more historic buildings.
Other aspects of the project at 116 State included insulating the foundation, waterproofing, working on the drainage system and restoring the windows.
In addition to masonry restoration, the biggest part of the project was the copper and slate roof. Says Gubetta about replacing the roof of a historic building, “You don’t guess. Like authentic masonry, there is no substitute for experience.”
Rodd Roofing of St. Johnsbury was up to the task. The 85-year-old company specializes in commercial and residential roofs made of copper, slate, metal, cedar, tile and more. It has worked on a vast number of institutional buildings, colleges, hospitals and churches across New England.
At 116 State, Rodd Roofing installed North Country Black, a top-quality slate from northern Maine and Canada. The dark-gray slate is similar in quality and appearance to the legendary Unfading Black slate that Welsh immigrants first mined in Monson, Maine, in 1870. Between the new roof and refurbished masonry, the result is stunning.
Now, every day since my trip to the DMV last summer, I notice at least one historic building along every road I travel in Vermont. Each one is stately in its own manner, resilient against time — with a hand from the men and women who are dedicated to preserving its history.