Vermont Preserves the Agricultural Past

SiloST. JOHNSBURY - Christopher Wenger moved from Boston to St. Johnsbury to raise his children outside of the city. Knowing that he wanted to purchase a property possessing land and privacy, Wenger searched throughout the Northeast Kingdom until he stumbled upon Old Silo Farm.

According to him, it was love at first sight. "This was one of the last places I saw, but I couldn't believe it when I found it because it was right at the edge of town, it has 35 acres, beautiful old buildings, and I just fell in love with it."

Wenger and his husband Brian Romeo were recently awarded $15,000 dollars from the Historic Preservation Barn Grant Program, to assist in rehabilitating their barn. The state-funded grant program was established in 1992, and has since provided over $3 million dollars to more than 360 restoration projects across the state.

Old Silo Farm was once a milk bottling and delivery operation, active until the late 60's. Wenger says that many parts of the business can still be seen throughout the existing barn. "There's the high-drive, the milking parlor that has a lot of the original stanchions inside it where they milked cows, and there's a corn crib down below which is pretty unique."

With the funding provided through the grant, Wenger and his husband hope to create a gathering space for the community. "There really aren't that many places in our immediate area that can host 100-200 people at the same time," he said. "Eventually we hope to start hosting events. Whether they're weddings, or people want to have other types of parties - anniversary parties, birthday parties, maybe let different organizations around town use it, and even if they wanted to have meetings of different kinds here."

The couple will be required to match the grant, accumulating a total project-budget of $30 thousand dollars, and although it may seem like a large sum of money, Wenger ensures that with the barn's old age, the money will be spent quickly. "We received the maximum amount for the barn grants which is $15,000 dollars and it's a matching grant, so we have to provide $15,000 dollars to go with it. Brian filled out the paperwork for the applicationthes. We had to detail the things we were looking to do to restore the barn. So for phase one, we're hoping to put in some drainage, because there's water that's coming down from the mountain and hitting the buildings and the silo and causing water damage, so we want to get that under control. And also to shore up some of the foundation under the high-drive."

The Barn Preservation Program intends to upkeep the historic agricultural buildings that are symbolic of Vermont. This is a quality that Wenger and his husband have a mutual respect for. Unlike many homeowners, who may find it more customary to tear down and rebuild new structures, the Old Silo Farm owners want to keep the history alive on their property. According to Wenger, there's no replicating the past. "I'm really interested in history and local history, and I just think that having buildings like this is such a legacy of Vermont's past. I didn't grow up in Vermont, but I grew up in a smaller rural area in Ohio, so I have a lot of appreciation for these buildings, and for trying to keep something around so that other people can experience it, look at it, come and touch it, and just be in it. If you were to tear it down and build something similar, you wouldn't have the same kind of effect at all."

Three other barns in Caledonia County were awarded $15,000 grants through the Historic Preservation Barn Grant Program; the West View Farm in Waterford, VT, the Firefly Farm in Burke, VT and the Old Somers Farm in Barnet, VT.

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