South Hero’s Old White Meeting House … a bit of local history
1816-1856: The building was built by expert volunteer community barn carpenters as a Methodist Church which transitioned to a Congregational Church.
1856 -1900: Ownership of the building was transferred to the Town in 1856 when the new Congregational Church was built on South Street and the building became known as the Meeting House as it served as the site for Town Meetings. During this time, Town Clerks operated out of their homes.
1900-1911: The second floor served as a state-approved 4-year high school level Maple Lawn Academy founded by William M. Stevens. You can still see marks on the floor where the desks were anchored.
1911-1920: The Maple Lawn Academy closed, and it is unclear how the building was used during this time period.
1920-1953: The second floor was used as a public school for various grades as needed. The East room on the 2nd floor was used as a library for a few years before the Memorial Library was built across the street (now home of the South Hero Bicentennial Museum).
1953-1999: South Hero Town Highway Department modified the first floor to house town trucks. Garage bays were cut out of the east wall and lateral structural beams removed from the cuts. If you look at the building’s roofline you will notice curved dips directly over the garage bays. The siding also curves in reaction to the sagging that happened over the years. The flooring on the first level was moved so that vehicles could enter on grade. You can still see where it was installed at about 3 feet above ground level.
1954–today: Granny’s Attic moved to the 2nd floor of the Meeting House from a small cubby on the 2nd floor of the old Community Hall which is now used as the Town Office. This non-profit volunteer organization donates 100% of their proceeds to local non-profits.
1999-2018: The South Hero Fire Department used to ground floor of the building to house fire trucks when the Town Highway Department moved to the former Malcolm Allen Garage.
2019: The new Fire and Rescue Building is completed, and the first floor of the Meeting House is vacant.
2021-today: The Selectboard has allowed the Grannies to temporarily store items in the ground floor north bay.
2012: Voters approved a $50,000 bond to repair the steeple, which was removed, reconstructed and replaced with Folsom students assisting with repainting.
2014: Preservation Trust of Vermont awarded the Town of South Hero a $250 grant for a conditions assessment by a Field Preservationist to assess the overall condition of the building. That report brought to light the need to repair some of the slate roof tiles. That work was completed with the help of a 2015 Historic Preservation Grant Award to the Town of South Hero in the amount of $3,000 (Grant #HP15-032). The total slate repair cost was $6,607.
2018-2022: Two Planning Grants provide funding for the Town to determine the structural state of the building and evaluate community support for revitalization. The second grant provided funding for conceptual plans for the building that preserves its historical integrity while also providing for accessibility, water, and septic capacity for future community use.
2022: Preservation Trust of Vermont awards a Paul Bruhn Historical Buildings Revitalization Grant to the Town of South Hero to stabilize the east wall and build a new foundation.
2022: The non-profit South Hero Foundation is created to assist with raising the funds that will be needed to complete weatherization of the Meeting House and construct an addition to house ramps for accessibility and a rear access stairway to the second floor.
2023: Senator Welch nominates South Hero’s Old White Meeting House for a Save America’s Treasures grant through the National Park Service, pending passage of the FY24 federal budget.
Design modifications were made so that this project now encompasses the Meeting House itself, with expectations of adding bathroom and kitchen facilities at a later date but will result in a revitalized building that can be used year-round.