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New Avenue Receives 2022 Preservation Trust Award

New Avenue Receives 2022 Preservation Trust Award

Photo Courtesy of Sally McKay Photography

The Preservation Trust of Vermont (PTV) recently presented a Preservation Award to: Evernorth, RuralEdge, New Depot Square Commercial Properties, LLC, Duncan Wisniewski Architecture, and Bread Loaf Corporation for the successful revitalization of New Avenue. The text provided by PTV is below: 

St. Johnsbury was booming in the late 19th century. Industry was expanding, commerce growing, and the arrival of the railroads made the town a lively junction for business and vacationers alike. Following the fire and destruction of the Avenue House on Eastern Avenue and Railroad streets, the owner decided to rebuild. When the new Avenue House opened in 1898, the paper of the day commented that “St. Johnsbury can never be spoken of again as a place without a first-class hotel.”

Constructed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, this L-shaped, 50-thousand square foot, four story brick building flourished in response to the activity at the nearby rail station, and soon became an anchor building in town.

Riding the waves of economic ups and downs, the changes in industry and the evolution of transportation, the hotel operated until around 1970. In 1978 it was converted to apartments by a private developer.

In 2018, with dogged advocacy from Senator Jane Kitchel, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, leadership from St. Johnsbury Academy, and deep financial support from housing development partners across the state, Evernorth purchased the building and partnered with RuralEdge to restore the residential floors. New Depot Square Commercial Properties, LLC assembled a local investor group to take on the challenge of acquiring, renovating and leasing the street level commercial space. Their collective goal was to provide good affordable housing and a vibrant streetscape, bringing new life and vitality to St. Johnsbury.

The task was daunting: almost nothing of its original storefront facade was visible. The building’s once prominent corner turret and conical roof had been removed in the 1950’s. The entire building was suffering from deferred maintenance.

Careful research combined with the remaining historic material provided a framework for rehabilitation. With the expert guidance of Duncan Wisneski Architects and Breadloaf Construction, the design of the new storefronts incorporates the historic fluted iron columns into a bay window motif that evokes the original storefront design while complying with modern codes for accessibility. Though rebuilding the tower proved unfeasible, the intact turret rooms have been restored, including their decorative fireplaces. These rooms now function as office space, community and common spaces for the residents, and on the top floor a remarkable studio apartment. Original doors and corridor widths were documented and preserved if possible. In all, more than 200 windows were restored or replaced in-kind, some with original curved glass, providing incredible daylight and urban views, as well as views of the mountains beyond.

The completed $14.9 million New Avenue has been resoundingly welcomed into the larger community. All of the 40 apartments and commercial spaces are fully occupied and the corner is bustling once again. Not only is the project a renovation success, and it has become a catalyst for other downtown projects and activities, helping to rejuvenate and reinvigorate a critical area of downtown St. Johnsbury.

Article courtesy of Preservation Trust of Vermont:

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