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Church buys former Elks lodge, pledging to create community center

  • The Hartford Elks Lodge, also known as the “Horace Pease House," on Saturday, July 15, 2017, in Hartford, Vt. (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
Published: 2/5/2020 10:08:57 PM
Modified: 2/10/2020 3:10:14 PM

HARTFORD — A non-denominational Christian church is preparing to convert the former Hartford Elks Lodge into a community center.

This week, Praise Chapel, which bought the building in December, announced that it aims to expand its outreach mission — a Cornerstone Community Center that currently hosts youth after-school activities and summer camps, a child care center and a food pantry — into the Hartford Village landmark, which the church abuts.

“We have waiting lists for everything we do,” Praise Chapel co-Pastor Kathy Janisse said Wednesday. “This will give us room to expand and launch programs that the Upper Valley really needs.”

Praise Chapel, which Janisse said was founded in 1989 and has about 100 enrolled members, bought the Route 14 property from Richard Daniels, a member of the disbanded Elks Club, for $592,000. The Hartford Historical Society decided in 2018 that it could not afford to buy the property for its new headquarters.

Pointing in particular to Cornerstone’s secular Potter’s House School & Child Care Center, the Vermont Economic Development Authority announced in mid-January that it had worked with Community National Bank on financing the purchase.

“We’re happy it fell into good hands,” Daniels’ daughter, Julie Lyford, said Wednesday of the former Elks building. “It sounds like they do a lot of community projects that help a lot of people.”

In addition to expanding existing programs, Janisse said that Cornerstone also aims to center a wi-fi cafe around the Elks’ original horseshoe bar, rent out function rooms for weddings, banquets and other large events, host a culinary career academy and start a program in which senior citizens would interact with younger people.

“Some of the seniors we’ve talked to said they don’t like to be called ‘seniors,’ and that they don’t like to just be around a lot of old people,” Janisse said. “We asked them to come with a name that reflected a bridge-the-generations approach, and we came up with ‘Seasons.’ ”

To ready the building, Janisse said volunteers have been clearing out the structure that “was filled from attic to basement with 80 years worth of stuff. I think we took out over 30 truckloads. and I don’t know how many dumpster containers.”

The Elks Club bought the building in 1981, but eventually disbanded in the wake of a sexual discrimination lawsuit after it refused to admit seven woman applicants as members. Daniels then bought the building for $500,000 in 2014.

The structure was known as the Horace Pease House and also as Sunnyacre and was built in 1884 by Pease as a wedding gift for his bride, Seraph Pease.

While the clearing out and the renovation work — including the restoration of the Pease house, which is part of the Hartford Village Historic District — will take some time, Cornerstone plans to hold a “launch party” at its new home on March 12 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

“We want to let the Upper Valley know,” Janisse said, “that we want something for everyone here.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

Correction

Horace Pease gave the name Sunnyacre to the house he built in Hartford Village in 1884. An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect first name for Pease and an incorrect original name for the property, which recently was home to the Hartford Elks Lodge and has been purchased by the neighboring Praise Chapel.




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