History Saved 3: Meeting House in Rockingham, Vermont

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Picture of Rockingham Vermont Meeting House

Rockingham Vermont Meeting House

The Brattleboro Reformer recently had a story on the restoration of the Meeting House in Rockingham, Vermont:

One of the oldest public buildings still in existence in Vermont, the Rockingham Meeting House, built in 1787, may last a little longer thanks to repairs done on the building.

Plaster repairs on the building have been completed, and a workshop will be held in January to teach anyone interested how to do their own repairs.

The building had little chunks falling off, and there were areas where the plaster was sagging, said Malin Deon the town of Rockingham’s Certified Local Government coordinator.

“The repairs that we did were to about 1,800 square feet of the ceiling in the Rockingham Meeting House,” said Deon. “The plaster there was the original plaster from the late 18th century when the Meeting House was built.”

The Historic Preservation Commission received a matching grant from the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation for the repairs covering half of the total cost with the town contributing the rest. The total cost for the plaster repairs was $47,090 with more work still to be done.

“I’ve been fixing plaster for almost 30 years now,” said Rory Brennan, preservation plaster professional from Brattleboro.

The Rockingham Meeting House has had almost nothing done to it since 1906, he said.

Brennan said he has worked on buildings such as the Vermont and Massachusetts State Houses.

“He stabilized all the plaster, filled in areas where plaster was missing and he did it all in a manner that was keeping with the historic nature of the building,” said Deon.

We need more artisans like Rory Brennan before we forget how to preserve these historic gems. Also, since the supply of good plasterers is so low note the high cost of such preservation. We aren’t bemoaning the cost, it is just a reflection of supply and demand. Young folks should take notice.

For more on the history of the Rockingham Meeting House, see this brochure on from the town’s website. Here is a clip:

The Rockingham Meeting House is the oldest public building in Vermont that still exists in a condition close to its original state.  The Meeting House was built between 1787 and 1801 to serve the needs of religious services and civic events in the town of Rockingham, whose first focus of settlement had been in the village immediately surrounding it. The town expected to expand rapidly and planned a meeting house large enough to meet its needs.

As time went on, settlement in the town shifted to Bellows Falls and Saxtons River, while the village of Rockingham remained small and rural. The Congregational church which used the Meeting House for its services survived only until 1839, and annual Town Meetings continued to be held there until 1869.

The building stood unused for decades and suffered vandalism and loss of its contents, but in 1906, after a fire which destroyed many buildings in the village, people of the town and the surrounding area recognized that the Meeting House was a well-preserved historical and architectural treasure and raised funds for its restoration . . . 

The Rockingham Meeting House was designated by the Secretary of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark on May 16, 2000. It is owned and maintained by the town of Rockingham.

Here is the National Register Nomination Information for the Rockingham Meeting House that features a very intricate description of the architecture and history of the building.

And be sure to “like” the Rockingham Meeting House Facebook page . . .

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