Hardwick, News

Safeguarding History: Enhancing Historic Firehouse

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HARDWICK – The historic firehouse in Hardwick has witnessed countless moments in the town’s history, serving as a reminder of a shared past. Since the early 2000s the firehouse has been the home of the Grassroots Arts and Community Effort (GRACE), owned and operated by Rural Arts Collaborative. The firehouse is home to a collection of art, a community printmaking studio, community group meetings, Karate and Jiu Jitsu classes and more.

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Before the drainage work, water pooled around the building so badly that in a heavy rainstorm it would create a river through the backyard and waterfalls into the basement.

As with any historic building, the firehouse faces challenges that threaten its integrity and longevity. One of the most pressing issues has been persistent water damage, endangering both the structure and its contents.

Through funding from the Vermont Community Foundation, the Preservation Trust of Vermont and private donors and volunteers, the basement and exterior drainage issues were resolved this spring

The historic firehouse has long struggled with water infiltration. Over time, rainwater and groundwater have seeped into the basement, leading to damp conditions that promote mold growth, compromise structural materials, and degrade the building’s foundation. Following the July floods in 2023, the interior air quality was compromised, and programming inside the building was limited. Without exterior drainage, water pooled around the building with nearly every rainfall, pouring into the basement and exacerbating the problem.

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A view of the backyard, after exterior drains and erosion barriers are installed.

William Chidsey and Jack Daily laid out a mitigation plan that utilizes sump pumps inside the basement, a vapor barrier and clean stone, and outside french drains using perforated underground pipes to collect and redirect water away from the foundation. With the support of the Vermont Community Foundation following the flooding last year, and to the Preservation Trust of Vermont granting a large Historic Preservation grant to be used over several years, these projects did not require additional funding from donors.

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Jack Dailey of Dailey Land Maintenance and Bill Chidsey of Solar Harvester worked for several weeks.
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The interior drains were then covered with a vapor barrier and clean crushed stone, transforming the basement to a dry and usable area.

Many volunteers helped clean the basement after the 2023 flooding, hauled away trailer and truck loads of wet materials, donated the use of fans and dehumidifiers, and donated their time to pick up materials in Derby and beyond for the drainage construction.

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Trenches were dug and drainpipes installed under crushed gravel to pipe water away from the basement.

The benefits of these improvements extend far beyond the immediate issue of water damage. By ensuring the firehouse remains dry and structurally sound, it will continue to serve as a venue for community events, educational programs and a symbol of town history.

Information and photos for this story were provided by Rural Arts Collaborative.

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