Monday July 22, 2013

NORWICH (AP) -- Two historic one-room schoolhouses in the Vermont town of Norwich have been added to the National Register of Historic Places, a distinction that will help in their restorations.

The restoration projects will be eligible for certain federal investment tax credits now that the schoolhouses are on the listing.

"Not only are these community treasures, they are Norwich treasures, they’re Vermont treasures, and now that they’re on the register, they are national treasures," said Brian Cook, president of the Root District Game Club, which has used one of the schoolhouses as a community center.

Nancy Hoggson, chairwoman of the town’s Historic Preservation Commission, also hopes the recognition from the National Parks Service will bring in new opportunities for funding.

"It can really strengthen a grant application. It reinforces for the funder that these really are historically significant buildings," Hoggson said.

The Root Schoolhouse and the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse have been used as community centers since the 1950s.

The Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse opened in 1791 and was rebuilt in 1921 after a fire, according to the Norwich Historical Society. It operated as a schoolhouse until 1946. The Root School was built in 1937 to replace a schoolhouse that had burned the year before. It closed in 1945 because of dwindling enrollment.

They are the only two schoolhouses left in Norwich, which had five remaining in the 1950s. Since then, two were destroyed by fires and one was turned into a home, the Valley News reports (http://bit.ly/1asNMUMA).

Until now, the Root District Game Club, a small organization of families that live near the Root Schoolhouse, has been able to chip in small donations to keep the building in good condition, said Cook.

But now the foundation is falling apart and the work needed is too much for the group to handle alone.

"We think that it’s a pretty cool story that the two houses that went to these community groups, those same groups for more than 60 years have been taking care of these buildings," he said. "But the buildings’ needs have become greater."

The game club has stopped all community events in the Root Schoolhouse because of the crumbling foundation. Fixing it could be a six-figure repair, Cook said.

The Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse, which hosts holiday celebrations, Halloween parties and regular potluck dinners, needs less work although the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse Association wants to install a water and septic system, Hoggson said.

According to the Norwich Historical Society’s website, the association was awarded a $22,500 matching grant from the state of Vermont for cultural facilities in September 2012. The group also has received a $10,000 grant from the Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation with a $4,000 pledge to be matched in 2014, Hoggson said.