Responding to the letter implying that the town of Pownal’s revolutionary-era Bartels Lodge may not necessarily be regarded as a "historic building," based upon the personal assessments of Ms. Strobridge-Ianni, I fear that the professional staff at our acclaimed Bennington Museum hold very disparate views on such a short-sighted proclamation.
Months ago, the Select Board chairman of Pownal was informed via email that the Bennington Museum was interested in assembling an entire exhibit regarding none other than the history of Bartels Lodge. Although Ms. Strobridge-Ianni is not aware, our lodge has indeed played a unique and historically significant role in our town’s history as an art colony.
For decades, beginning in the later 19th and well into the 20th century, according to the verifiable documentation held by the Pownal Historical Society and by the Bennington Museum, Bartels Lodge played host to hundreds of art students and teachers who traveled from outlying urban areas specifically to our town to paint the picturesque Pownal countryside. Dozens of these prodigies from Manhattan’s elite and renowned Art Student’s League were among them. Today, some of these artists have achieved great notoriety in the art world and market, and their paintings are held in private and public collections the nation over.
As far as a need for a larger town office space that can fit the bill in terms of providing increased employee comfort levels so that the employees may continue to render the services to residents that we pay for through our municipal taxes, the town has thus far refused all possibilities toward converting already pre-existing buildings -- as so many other towns within Vermont have done -- that would immensely reduce taxpayer expenditure.
Instead, the town board is concentrating all its efforts in potentially spending many tens of thousands of dollars to demolish this historic building rich with Pownal history and spending many more hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax money to build a brand new site, when the potential for retaining and refurbishing Bartels and increasing town office capacity might very well both be achieved through working cohesively with the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
Most importantly, by demolishing the antique Bartels Lodge and then building anew on that specific parcel, the town, in accordance with the state of Vermont Division of Historic Preservation, which seeks to preserve early architecture within the state, loses all ability to apply for and receive grant money to assist in building costs of any such new construction. Therefore, all costs associated with such a venture will be paid for in their entirety by Pownal tax dollars.
In short, so that both the residents and the Select Board may better comprehend the rich history that Bartels Lodge provides, as well as the trust’s ability to help to restore the lodge to bring it back onto the tax rolls, and to perhaps provide the restaurant and/or indoor community space our residents have long been clamoring for, we again suggest that the selectmen request both the trust and the Bennington Museum be present to speak jointly at a well-publicized public meeting in the near future.
With the individuals of the organizations, along with the residents working in conjunction with our town boards, I remain confident that through a spirit of cooperation and team-work, that a viable solution can be arrived at that will benefit all of the residents of the town of Pownal.