Big Chair to be auctioned

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BENNINGTON — This St. Patrick's Day the world's tallest ladderback chair will go up for auction.

One citizen is leading an effort to make sure that the chair, a replica of the original chair that stood in front of the former Haynes and Kane Furniture store from the 60's through 2000, stays in Bennington. Jeffrey Grimshaw, founder of Bennington-based media organization Southern Vermont Today, has started a fundraising campaign that hopes to raise enough money to purchase and transport the giant chair to a new location in town.

Where that location would be has yet to be determined. Grimshaw said on Thursday that he hopes the chair can find a new home downtown, where it could give tourists a reason to stop, perhaps drawing their interest to the other shops, restaurants, and other attractions within walking distance.

The future of the chair was called into question when LaFlammes Inc., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October. LaFlamme's purchased the Northside Drive location of the former Haynes and Kane, which had closed in 2006. The chair, after falling into disrepair, had been disassembled in 2000. Shortly after purchasing the building, in 2012, owner Christopher LaFlamme decided to recreate the original chair, a project that required over 3,000 pounds of cedar and white pine. When a 2014 fire destroyed the building, leaving the new chair the only thing standing on the lot. LaFlammes moved to their Main Street location soon after, taking the chair along to where it currently stands.

"It is iconic and it would be a shame for us to lose it," said Grimshaw.

Grimshaw has started a GoFundMe, which as of Friday afternoon had raised about $425 in two days. There is no indication as of yet how much it will cost to acquire the chair, and if there will be other bidders involved, but Grimshaw said that any money raised above the cost of purchasing and moving the chair will go into a fund for maintaining it. The GoFundMe page lists the fundraiser's goal as $10,000, but Grimshaw said that is only a placeholder number he created because the platform requires a specific goal, when they simply hope to raise as much as possible.

"SoVT Today does not want Bennington to lose this icon that has graced our town for nearly 50 years," reads the fundraiser description. "Any donation big or small so that we can acquire The Big Chair and get it relocated here in town will be much appreciated."

As of now, Grimshaw has not yet approached the town about participating in the project, but at least one Select Board member has expressed enthusiasm about the project. "It would be a shame for that chair to be anywhere but Bennington," said Selectman Jim Carroll.

For those interested in donating, the GoFundMe can be found at www.gofundme.com/SaveTheBigChair. The auction is being run by the Thomas Hirchak Company of Morrisville, and will take place on March 17 at 10 a.m. at the former LaFlamme's location at 239 Main Street at 10 a.m. Registration and inspection of the over 500 lots of furnishing and home accents, including the giant chair will begin at 8 a.m.

Derek Carson can be reached at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com, at @DerekCarsonBB on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 122.

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