Good news came last week for the Conant family farm on the Winooski River in Richmond. Repair work on the two cupolas of the farm’s 1915 dairy barn, a familiar landmark to drivers who pass through Richmond on I-89 and US 2, was one of 32 projects across Vermont which received grant funding at a Statehouse ceremony.
The ceremony honored recipients of this year’s Historic Preservation and Barn Preservation Grants.
Over the coming year, the grant programs will distribute more than $400,000 in matching grants to projects around the state for the rehabilitation and repair of civic buildings and barns. The work supported by the grants ranges from the shoring up of the Conant family’s barn to the restoration of the bell tower windows in Burlington’s Unitarian Universalist Meeting House, an important community venue for events such as First Night.
Gov. Phil Scott praised the Historic Preservation Division’s protection of Vermont’s agricultural landscapes and historic downtowns. “The success of these projects, like the ones we are recognizing today, is part of the reason people choose Vermont as a place to work, live, and visit,” he said.
Michael Schirling, secretary of the commerce agency, emphasized the importance of the two programs despite the moderate size of their grants, which are capped at $20,000 for civic buildings and $15,000 for barns.
“These are relatively small investments that have enormous impact, so they’re money really well spent,” he said.
Scott connected the difficulties faced in preserving historic properties to the condition of Vermont’s housing stock more generally. “It’s not just the historic downtown buildings that are centuries old and agricultural buildings that are expensive to maintain and restore,” he said, “Vermont’s housing stock faces similar economic barriers. In the future, I’d like to see programs like this one expanded to encourage renovating old housing stock across the state.”
In 2016, funding for the Historic Preservation and Barn Grant programs was reduced from $225,000 for each program to $200,000, but Caitlin Corkin, administrator of the grant programs, is optimistic about the stability of funding going forward.
“We never know for sure, but we are hopeful that we’ll have level funding,” Corkin said. “The Senate Institutions Committee and House Institutions and Corrections Committee have been really supportive of the program over the years.”