Chaffee Art Center embarks on restoration of its historic mansion

Chaffee Art Center embarks on restoration of its historic mansion

Original Article

RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – The Chaffee Art Center in Rutland is receiving a state grant to help repair its historic building.

“Vermont’s historic buildings are a really important part of what makes Vermont special, and a place that people want to live and work,” said Caitlin Corkins with the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

the Chaffee mansion was originally built in the 1800s. The historic building was boarded up shut for 35 years until the Rutland Area Art Association started using the site to display local works of art in 1961, and it still keeps two of the mansion’s original rooms untouched.

“When somebody comes, they get to actually feel what it was like back in that time. There’s lots of pieces of history from the family in that room,” said Sherri Birkheimer Rooker, executive director of the Chaffee Art Center.

The building became a full-fledged art center in the 1980s but now the historic mansion is in need of repairs to its exterior, which has endured Vermont’s relentless weather for over a century.

“Every day when I open the doors, I am so thankful that I get to come to a place as beautiful as this mansion and do what we can for the community,” Rooker said.

The art center, along with 18 others across the state, was recently awarded a $20,000 state matching grant which will help restore the mansion’s three chimneys.

“One of the key things that we’re looking at when we make these grant funds available is the public benefit. So, we’re definitely looking for important historic buildings but also buildings that have an important purpose and serve the people in their community,” Corkins said.

Despite the extra funding, organizers say they’re a ways away from their goal of raising $100,000. The high cost is so they can preserve the original feel of the mansion.

“So, you have to use specific mortars, specific bricks and so that’s the challenge sometimes, it might cost a little more but that’s preserving the history of the building,” Rooker said.

“I think one of the things I’ve seen over the years is when organizations like Chaffee embark on a big project like this and they get some grant support. It’s a great way to actually continue to generate interest and hopefully more funding support,” Corkins said.

The center says they hope to repair all the chimneys at the same time and that they believe any construction won’t interfere with any of their other programs.

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