Abandoned Addison Co. Building to Become VT Music Sanctuary

joyner-illustration.jpg By Casey Kaufman Illustration by Ginny Joyner

Can an effort to preserve Vermont's music also help save a historic landscape? That is the goal of Big Heavy World’s newest project; the restoration of a century-old abandoned building to become a climate controlled archive of music from the 'Green Mountain State'.

With headquarters in downtown Burlington, Big Heavy World is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and promoting Vermont's original music. Staffed mostly by volunteering teens, it was founded in 1996 and has been collecting and cataloging Vermont-made music as The Vermont Music Library since 1998.

The building is located on a rock ledge overlooking the valley along Lewis Creek at the north end of Starksboro's historic village district. Starksboro is in Addison County, a region that's emblematic of Vermont's agricultural traditions. "Our attraction to the structure arose from its location," says Big Heavy World Executive Director James Lockridge. "The archive building overlooks Lewis Creek Farm and the Hogback Mountains. It's scenic and peaceful, a great home for the music." This restoration will be a nice addition to the area’s recent trend of preserving buildings on the verge of demolition as opposed to neglecting or gutting them.

Known as the L.S. Gordon Store, the building was constructed in 1908 and served as a general store in the once-bustling mill town. It was purchased for Big Heavy World by a family that will be devoting itself to a true historic restoration, returning the structure to its original appearance. It once had large plate-glass windows, installed when the technology to produce the large sheets of glass was very new. New glass produced authentically on old, original machines will be procured as replacements. “It is such a pleasure to see a building like this rescued, especially this one," says Elsa Gilbertson, Regional Historic Site Administrator for the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation and resident of Starksboro.

The restoration is a reflection of Vermonters valuing their culture and its history, as well as the spirit of volunteerism that has been apparent throughout the project. The Myers Container Service Corp provided two 30-yard dumpsters for a site clean-up, a boon to the organization that struggles for operational support. On July 8, a hot Saturday, eight volunteers gathered to work throughout the day to clear away trash, empty paint cans, and old shingles surrounding the building. “I was glad to be there and see all of the volunteers working together,” says Katy McElroy, a Hamilton College intern at Big Heavy World who helped load buckets with debris and brigade them for disposal. “It was great to see all of the progress that was made by the end of the day.” Pepsi donated soda to keep the workers cool.

Others are lending their support as well: The Preservation Trust of Vermont subsidized a condition assessment of the building with a grant from its Robert Sincerbeaux Fund and John Moyers, owner of the Old Bristol Trading Post, contributed windows from his renovation project to be re-purposed as cabinetry glass in the music archive.

The project has to make its way successfully through town zoning processes before carpentry can begin, but everyone involved so far is optimistic and working together. "Gordon's store is a bit of a diamond in the rough," says preservationist Eliot Lothrop of Building Heritage, LLC. "The Vermont Music Library Archives is an excellent fit and will be a great landmark on the edge of the village."

For more information, please visit http://www.vmls.org or contact:
Casey Kaufman
The Big Heavy World Foundation, Inc.
(802) 865-1140
P.O. Box 428
Burlington, VT 05402