George J. Stannard, born in 1820, was a Vermonter through-and-through. He was born in the town of Georgia, worked businesses in St. Albans and owned the small farmhouse along Route 7 in Milton.
History books, however, remember Stannard as a war hero, whose commands during the battle of Gettysburg helped swing the tide of the battle and, ultimately, the war.
Stannard’s Milton house has since become the target for preservation, and while plans to preserve and restore the house have required some patience, physical restoration efforts can begin soon, members of the Gen. Stannard House Committee said during a Saturday event called Stannard Camp, hosted by Essex’s branch of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.
According to the committee’s historian Terry Richards, who gave a presentation on the house’s restoration plans, the house’s original structure is confirmed intact, and the town of Milton is prepared to take ownership of the property, meaning restoration is officially possible for the almost-200-year-old home.
“We have affirmation that the roof beams, the floor beams and the roof rafters are solid. Those spruce logs from 1839 are intact,” Richards said. “This tells us that we can restore the house.”
The Stannard house currently stands in front of the Gardeners’ Supply warehouse near the southern edge of Milton. The house, whose silhouette slouches with years of disuse, is all that remains of a larger property that once included a barn retrofitted for a one-armed farmer like Stannard, who had lost his arm during the war.
The Stannard house’s current owner, Bob Miller of REM Development, has agreed to give the house and property to the town for the sake of preservation, according to Richards.
Richards added Miller has also approved removing the house’s garage, an ahistorical extension added sometime in the 1950s. Its removal is one of the first steps in the committee’s restoration plans.
All that is left before renovations can begin is for the town to officially declare ownership of the house and for the house’s Act 250 forms to be accepted, according to one of the Gen. Stannard House Committee’s co-chairs, Kate Cadreact.
Passed in 1970, Act 250 regulates the impact of development in Vermont by setting standards on items like a site’s utilities or its impact on the surrounding natural areas.
Following approvals and the physical stabilization of the house, the final plans for the preservation of the house as a historical site are a little more open ended. According to Richards, the house might not even stay at its current location.
“Some folks say [the property] is sacred ground and [the house] has to stay there,” Richards said. “I used to be one of them… Well, if you ever try to turn into Gardener Supply on Route 7 at rush hour in the morning or evening, it’s not a pleasant thing.”
If the house is moved, the current site along Route 7 would likely be set up as a picnic area organized around the original foundation of the house. A historical marker would also be installed, declaring the site as the historic home of Gen. Stannard.
The house itself, meanwhile, could take up residence at the current Bombardier property in downtown Milton, according to Cadreact.
“Since the Bombardier property has become available, we are thinking of moving the house there because of accessibility,” Cadreact said. “You could have Civil War reenactments or other functions around the house, since there’s so much room there.”
Moving the house would also be cheaper, Richards added, explaining that using the faux foundation afforded by a move would be less expensive and easier than fully restoring the existing foundation.
The Bombardier site could also be beneficial due to its onsite barn, which is a contemporary to the Stannard house’s own missing barn, Richards said. The original barn retrofitted for Stannard’s use in the 1860s was burned down during a Milton Fire Department exercise in 1989.
In the three years the Gen. Stannard House Committee has campaigned to preserve the house, it has raised enough money through community donations and grants to stabilize it and possibly move it, Richards said.
While serving with distinction through earlier phases of the war, Stannard is best known for his role in the 1863 battle of Gettysburg. During that battle, Stannard ordered some of his men to swing around the exposed right flank of the infamous Pickett’s Charge, the Confederacy’s last ditch assault at Gettysburg. Fire from Stannard’s men crumpled the right flank of Pickett’s Charge and helped turn the tide of the battle.
While fundraising for the house’s roughly $280,000 restoration tag should become easier once the town assumes ownership of the house and while stabilization is now in sight, there’s still a long way to go before the house is ready to take on its new role as a proper historical site. Richards said the group has $25,000 in the bank and expects $30,000 from a forthcoming grant.
“Probably our best goal is to have everything up and running in time for Gen. Stannard’s 200th anniversary,” Richards said. “Gen. Stannard was born in October 1820. October 2020 sounds like a nice time for a celebration.”