Calais, News

Multiple Town Projects Share Preservation Award

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CALAIS — The Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV) has awarded Calais a 2024 Preservation Award of community-wide recognition for multiple projects.

courtesy photo
The restored 1886 North Calais Memorial Hall on Mirror Lake was completed in 2023, ensuring that the building, land, and swimming access remains a community asset for future generations.

In a town of 1,800 residents, Calais reached its population peak in the first half of the nineteenth century. The town has a large number of historic structures and five national register districts scattered across town. Many of these places have deteriorated and become unusable over the last 50 years.

This Preservation Award is shared by the Town of Calais, Friends of the Calais Town Hall, East Calais Community Trust, North Calais Memorial Hall Association, Old West Church Association, Robinson Sawmill and R. Edwards & Co. architects.

None of the projects would have succeeded without the efforts of the citizens of Calais who have cultivated a sense of place and strengthened the community vitality of its villages and rural areas.

After the 1850 East Calais General Store closed in December 2019, the East Calais Community Trust formed and bought the building. Restoration, energy retrofits and ADA upgrades brought Vermont’s oldest continuously operated store back to life in October 2023 as the state’s first all-electric, fossil fuel-free general store. The $2.8 million dollar project includes three affordable housing units and the store is once again serving as a hub for the community.

The 1886 Memorial Hall on Mirror Lake was the centerpiece for community life in and around North Calais for over a century prior to being condemned in 2014.

The non-profit North Calais Memorial Hall Association formed to purchase and revive this gathering space. Completed in 2023, the hall is now structurally sound and features new building finishes and systems, full ADA compliancy, and a restored two-story porch. Over $860,000 was raised from funders and community members to ensure that the building, land, and swimming access would remain a community asset for future generations.

Local friends organizations have also been key to stewarding significant historic sites, including the state-owned Old West Church. Built in 1823, this pristine church hosts a wide variety of cultural and community gatherings. Leading up to the building’s 200-year celebration in 2023, volunteers raised funds for interior and exterior preservation work, including restoring the steeple. With no modern systems for lighting or heat, the Old West Church continues to connect families and communities.

The 1803 Robinson Sawmill in Kents Corner is the state’s oldest operating mill and provided much of the lumber to construct buildings throughout the area. A group of milling technology enthusiasts formed the Robinson Sawmill nonprofit, and secured funds and volunteers to rebuild the stone foundation, replace failing structural beams and revive milling operations.

The 1866 Calais Town Hall suffered years of deferred maintenance, leaving it unable to be used for the benefit of the community. A group of citizens and the Town of Calais turned the building into a year-round space for municipal meetings and community activities. Local planning, local knowledge, local expertise, and local skills saw the project through to realization. A new foundation was poured, the building raised out of the floodway, and the exterior restored.

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