Hartford Wants Polka Dot on Historic Register

  • Hartford officials have applied to put the Polka Dot on the National Register of Historic Places. The diner is closed and the building is for sale in White River Junction, Vt., Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2017 12:13:26 AM
Modified: 11/9/2017 10:01:24 AM

White River Junction — Town of Hartford officials are working to put the Polka Dot Diner, a longstanding, unassuming landmark of White River Junction’s railroad heritage, on the National Register of Historic Places.

Built in 1925, the North Main Street mainstay closed its doors in 2015, after longtime owner Mary Shatney said health issues and the changing times were making it impractical for her to keep slinging hash and fried honeycomb tripe — the diner’s signature dish — for a fiercely loyal customer base.

“It got so I couldn’t keep up with it,” Shatney said on Tuesday.

It’s been on the market for two years, with an asking price of $130,000. Shatney said that she was in talks with an interested party about a potential sale of the building, which carries an assessed value of $110,000 and sits on a tiny .05 acre land plot that is leased from CV Properties, a subsidiary of Canadian National Railway.

Shatney said that the building, which she and her husband bought in 1983 from Alvah “Stub” Aldrich, who purchased it in 1982 from Pauline “Polly” Stebbins and her husband, Hubert “Hubie” Stebbins.

Shatney said the Polka Dot was important to many.

“Everyday people and people from all over,” she said. “I made friends from Brazil. I have a doctor friend from Germany. A professor from Dartmouth wrote an article about it. I’m known all over.”

Shatney said she wasn’t surprised to hear that the town was moving to place the building on the National Register.

“It’s got a lot of history there,” she said.

Town officials now agree.

In 1980, when the White River Junction Historic District was first created, the application to the National Park Service, which oversees the Register, noted that it was “non-contributing because of architectural configuration and date of construction.”

A 2002 update noted that new siding and other improvements made to the building in the 1960s prevented it from being considered a contributing building to the district at that time.

The National Park Service says that buildings less than 50 years old aren’t usually considered for listing, though it does make exceptions.

“The non-contributing status is a result of these alterations,” it reads.

Matt Osborn, a town planner who works with the Hartford Historic Preservation Commission on various preservation projects, said Hartford has been considering the Polka Dot for the National Register since that 2002 expansion.

“In the 2002 historic district nomination, it was noted that it is possible that in 10 or 15 years the structure could be a contributing resource,” Osborn said.

The town’s new application currently sits with the Division of Historic Preservation in Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development.

“They will be reviewing it,” Osborn said. “Once they’ve completed their review, and there could be some changes, it will be submitted to the National Park Service for their consideration.”

Shatney’s daughter, Sherry Greene, said the family is supportive of the application, though she was unsure of whether there were any significant impacts that would affect the Polka Dot.

According to the National Park Service, listing a property can make it eligible for certain tax advantages, and to receive funding from historical preservation grants. The act of listing does not prevent a property owner from modifying or destroying a historic building in the eyes of the Park Service, though grants often require that certain preservation efforts be made by the recipient.

Though the Hartford Historic Preservation Commission has discussed drafting an ordinance that would prevent the demolition of historic buildings, there is currently no such ordinance in place.

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

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