By Trina Bianchi
February 11, Tuesday, starting at 7 p.m., come to the Charlotte Grange and “Meet the Candidates!” Hosted by The Charlotte News and the Charlotte Library. Meet and ask questions of all candidates running for a town office. Hear what they have to say on their plans for our town, prior to Town Meeting Day.
February 18, Tuesday, starting at 6:30 p.m., will be the monthly Acoustic Open Mic evening…songs, tunes, stories, poems. Sign up by contacting Mike Walker or come along on that night. First come, first served! The monthly events provide a fabulous opportunity to hear local performers play in an informal and very supportive environment. Hot cider and cookies provided. No admission charged, but donations welcomed!
February 21, Friday, starting at 6:30 p.m. Come for a potluck dinner with music by The Nells trio and Charlotte singer and guitarist Hugh McBride. Bring a dish to share and enjoy dinner with old and new friends and neighbors. The Grange Hall has a stove that can be used for heating dishes and/or baking pizzas. No admission, but donations welcomed!
Starting in February, with Thursday, February 6, Transition Charlotte will be holding their monthly meetings at the Charlotte Grange Hall on the first Thursday of each month. Meetings start at 6 p.m. with a potluck dinner. For more information about these meetings and Transition Charlotte, or to get involved, contact Ruah Swennerfelt.
Save the date: Sunday, March 8, starting at 4 p.m.! Pete Sutherland and Oliver Scanlon of Pete’s Posse will be presenting “Fiddlers of the Next Generation,” a showcase of their current students. As well as being popular and in-demand as performers, Pete and Oliver are passionate educators and this event will provide an opportunity for some of their current students to share their talents and tunes with a wider audience. Hope to see you there! Suggested donation: $10.00
Grange Hall is steeped in history within Charlotte, having started its life in 1870 as a debate hall for the Young Men’s Literary Association. This club spared no expense, building a beautiful two-story Italianate-style building with a flat-roofed, square belfry tower on the east side. Unfortunately, the club did not own the land on which the building stood and in 1871 the land and building were acquired by the Charlotte School District #10, and thus became the school for the children living in East Charlotte. This continued until the consolidation of all the small schools into Charlotte Central in 1949. The building was then sold and in 1958 the Charlotte Grange, which had been in existence at that time for about 50 years, purchased the building.
Little has been done over the years to change the building; the outhouse was ultimately replaced by a tiny bathroom and a furnace was installed to replace the wood stove. The cloak room became a small kitchen for Grange events. The rest of the interior has remained unchanged.
This building needs work in order to remain a viable community resource. And for that we need to consider serious fundraising. With the help of some generous donations and a small grant from SCHIP, we were able to upgrade the electrical service into the Grange Hall, including an up-to-code panel box and to repair the extensive water damage caused by the placement of the fire escape on the south side of the building. At the same time, we were able to scrape and paint the entire south side and wire brush and paint the fire escape and reposition it so as to eliminate any further water damage. With thanks to Transition Charlotte, we were also able this fall to acquire insulating window inserts for 6 of the large windows on the main floor.
Last year we applied for a grant from Historic Preservation of Vermont to repair and make functional the interior of the eight schoolhouse windows on the main floor and to restore/rehabilitate the main entry doors. These two projects alone have been estimated to cost over $12,500. We were very excited to learn that we were awarded a grant to have this work done. It is a 50/50 matching grant which means we need to have all the work completed and paid for before the 50% grant money is actually awarded.
We have, using small grants from Preservation Trust of Vermont, been able to have two studies done on the building; one to prioritize the work needed on the building and the other to make the building ADA compliant. It is our goal to preserve this building for our town, but we can’t do it without substantial financial help.
The reality is that the building is sound but needs maintenance, and grant funding does not usually cover regular maintenance. The building has no septic and no water. We have a cistern in the basement and purchase water for bathroom use and so we can do dishes; it is not potable water. We have a holding tank which needs to be pumped out on a regular basis. The building needs to be insulated and totally rewired inside. The ADA compliance plans include a new handicap ramp, a new, secondary, handicap entrance, handicap bathroom, and remodeled kitchen. We need a larger parking area.
As a Grange, we hold two rummage sales a year which constitutes our sole income stream. That money is used to keep the Hall open and provide for our annual donation of dictionaries for all Charlotte third grade students and new flags for all the veteran graves in all the town cemeteries. Mike Walker has done an outstanding job of bringing people into the Grange Hall with his monthly music events and more and more local people are now familiar with this building and hopefully can see the potential in rehabilitating and restoring the Hall as a beautiful, useful historic resource for our town.
We will continue to apply for grants but at this point we need to raise enough money to move forward with the work on the interior windows and entry doors. We need to raise the entire cost of the project so that we can do the work before the grant can be awarded.