Marching forward

General Stannard House Committee eyes future restoration options

Two years after it was donated to the town of Milton, the General Stannard House Committee is moving toward finalizing the town’s ownership of the historic Milton home. The committee is currently considering the idea of moving the Civil War hero’s former house to town property on Bombardier Road. (Photo by Tom Marble)

Nearly two years after it was donated to the town of Milton, the General Stannard House Committee is focused on finalizing the town’s ownership of the Civil War general’s historic home.

Although the town has already agreed to take possession of the two-story structure on Route 7 donated by the parent lot owner Bob Miller, the committee can’t move forward with any restoration plans until the deal is official.

Taking over the 6,800-square-foot lot, formed by a town-approved variance in September 2015, and the Vermont general’s former stomping grounds is contingent upon the committee securing final subdivision approval from the development review board.

The committee must also receive the Act 250 board’s OK before moving ahead.

“Right now we need to get that property in town hands before we have further conversation,” GSHC co-chair Bill Kaigle said.

The committee expects to complete the Act 250 application within the next two weeks, co-chair Kate Cadreact said, and the final DRB subdivision, variance and conditional use was slated to be submitted Wednesday, Kaigle said.

Despite starting in February 2016, the committee halted its state application process last April after discussion was raised about relocating the Stannard House to town property on Bombardier Road – an option that is still being considered.

Colloquially called the Bombardier property, the 4.8-acre lot was sold to the town by Ruth Bombardier in her late husband’s memory and is being considered as the new location for the general’s home because of improved access for heritage tourism in the town core.

It also features a barn that is over 100 years old, which could be retrofitted to match pictures and diagrams of the barns from that time period, Kaigle said.

“There are surrounding grounds, and we could host events,” Cadreact said. “Being on Route 7 is dangerous, and it would get more visibility on the Bombardier property.”

Although the town must secure ownership before the committee can fully explore the option, Kaigle agreed moving the structure would be beneficial.

“Mainly for the opportunities. It aligns with activity in our town core,” he said.

Since pausing the application processes a year ago, the committee has sought advice from a handful of organizations about what a potential relocation would entail.

In October 2016, the committee hired Messier House Moving & Construction to estimate the cost of the and learned it would cost approximately $20,000.

That option may be cheaper than restoring the home on-site, Kaigle and Cadreact wrote in their latest update to the selectboard, because the foundation wouldn’t need to be disassembled and restored.

Instead, the home would be placed on a concrete slab, and a stone-façade foundation would be installed.

The town would be responsible for disconnecting all utilities and plumbing, removing any trees, limbs or wires that cause hindrance and reconnecting any masonry work after relocation, Kaigle said.

The committee also considered the consequences a move of that magnitude may have on the historic home.

In October 2014, the GSHC was advised by the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation not to move the home because it would threaten its historical and structural integrity. The committee has since invited a Vermont state preservation officer to visit the land and make a recommendation.

“Initially they loved the concept,” Kaigle said. “With a preservation project, you want to give its best shot at best use. Yes, the house wouldn’t be in the spot where Stannard used it, but it could be better interpreted.”

Following the visit, the GSHC received a letter of support from the Vermont Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, who later officially approved the concept in July 2016.

The group has also taken steps to secure funding for any action it decides to take once the property transfer process is complete.

In February, committee members testified with Howard Coffin, a Vermont author and historian, in front of the Senate Institutions Committee to ask lawmakers to allocate $30,000 to the General Stannard House Restoration Fund.

The money was previously earmarked for a Vermont Civil War monument in Virginia that eventually fell through, according to the GSHC’s update to the selectboard. The committee agreed, though the funds are not yet disbursed, Kaigle said.

In addition to working toward making the Stannard House a prominent piece of Milton’s Civil War history, the GSHC is also working toward securing the Medal of Honor for Gen. Stannard.

Stannard sustained multiple injuries during his service, including the loss of an arm while defending Fort Harrison at the end of the war.

“He did a whole lot more than some other people that got the Medal of Honor,” said Liam McKone, a Civil War author and historian and president of the Fenian Historical Society. “He could have pushed for it, but he was not terribly well politically connected.”

McKone originally sparked the initiative to pursue the honor, but Coffin has largely spearheaded the movement, Cadreact said.

“He has the skill and knowledge, and he is willing to go to Washington for us,” she added.

Moving forward, the committee will continue its work on grant applications – including the Vermont Historic Preservation Grant due in October – in order to maintain its commitment to self-financing projects.

“We’ve learned a lot and have not been without our mistakes, and we’re devoted to seeing this project to fruition,” the committee’s selectboard memo read.

The GSHC will continue to update the selectboard on a quarterly basis.

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