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Campaign Underway In Hartford

  • The Hartford Elks Lodge, also known as the “Horace Pease House," on Saturday, July 15, 2017, in Hartford, Vt. The Hartford Historical Society is raising funds to purchase the lodge, which is part of the official Hartford Village Historic District. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, July 17, 2017

Hartford — For members of the Hartford Historical Society, the stakes wrapped up in a fundraising effort to buy the former Elks Lodge on Route 14 in Hartford Village are big, and getting bigger.

It’s become a mission of preservation, curation and community building.

“This is the time,” said Martha Knapp, society director. “Our vision is for our village, having a village center in Hartford.”

“The primary thing is that we’ve run out of space at the Garipay House,” said Mary Nadeau, a longtime board member. She said the group soon will have to start turning away donated historical items. “We’re absolutely bursting at the seams.”

“Every house in this village that’s still here, just about, has a story of history behind it,” Knapp said, “of every family that lived here.”

The Historical Society currently uses the Garipay House, another historic structure two blocks south of the Elks Lodge along Route 14, as its base of operations. It hosts cramped events in which attendees jockey for space among antique furniture, tools and documents that represent the sum total of physical artifacts of Hartford’s past.

Because the Garipay House is too small for the growing historical collection, many items can’t be displayed and are instead stowed in the attic or in the small weathered shed out back.

To remedy the problem, Knapp announced to town officials in September that the group was launching a campaign to purchase the Elks Lodge, part of the official Hartford Village Historic District.

The lodge is known to history buffs as the “Horace Pease House,” so named for its former owner, who bought the property for $2,800 in 1883 as a showplace for his bride, Seraph.

Historical records describe an 1884 house christening that drew 150 guests, who enjoyed the gabled roof and a large open porch.

The society seeks to purchase the property from its current owner, RSD Transportation President Richard Daniels, for $590,000.

“It’s a way of memorializing Horace Pease,” said Nadeau, who has joined other society members in paying house calls to potential donors to tell the property’s story. “And this beautiful house. He built it as a wedding gift for his wife. It would be heartbreaking to see it cut up into apartments.”

Acquiring the property would be a major victory in an ongoing campaign to protect the historic district from development. Knapp said she was pleased when Twin Pines, a housing nonprofit, recently purchased and preserved two historic houses, including the old Watson Tillman House on VA Cutoff Road, but distraught to see the 1775 Benjamin Wright House demolished to make way for new development on Maple Street last year.

Buying the Horace Pease House would save it from a similar fate, Knapp said.

Society members also are pitching the property as a means for Hartford Village to preserve its ongoing civic and community building efforts. The property would be renovated, at an estimated cost of $300,000, and could serve as a community meeting space for area groups, according to the society.

The fundraising campaign has been successful to date, but it still has a long way to go before the $900,000 goal will be in sight, Knapp said.

The current total in pledges is $225,000, and Nadeau said getting to $400,000 will trigger a $100,000 match from another donor, whose name she declined to share.

While the fundraising effort, which is being coordinated by a professional consultant, has been largely silent to date, the members have signaled that they will now begin a series of public appeals.

The Elks Lodge No. 1541 lost a 2008 appeal before the Vermont Supreme Court on a sexual discrimination case based on the lodge’s denial of membership to seven female applicants.

In 2015, an attorney for the women said the lodge still owes more than $750,000 in damages and legal fees; Daniels, who is a member of the Elks in addition to owning the property, was owed more than $1 million from the Elks in 2013, according to court documents.

Town property records show that the building is appraised at $612,200 and was sold by Daniels to an entity called “14 Elk Street” for zero dollars in 2015.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.

Correction

The Hartford Historical Society's Garipay House is two blocks from the former Elks Lodge on Route 14 in Hartford Village. An earlier version of this story incorrectly described their proximity.