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As Windsor Mulls Purchase of Armory Building, Residents Consider Its Fate

  • At the old National Guard Armory, Ella Prebish, 9, of Windsor, Vt. rollerblades while eating a hotdog during an open house at the facility on Sep. 10, 2017. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Sue Skuja, left with her husband Uldis of Windsor Vt., look around the ols National Guardr Armory during an open house on Sept. 10, 2017. The couple had their wedding reception at the armory 50 years ago on Saturday. Marcia Mitchell, of Windsor, was also looking over the building at the open house. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2017 12:09:30 AM
Modified: 9/11/2017 10:28:16 AM

Windsor — As dogs scampered around their feet and skaters rolled by, Uldis and Sue Skuja carefully navigated around the old National Guard armory on Sunday afternoon.

While taking in the largely empty space on Ascutney Street, the couple stopped at posters along its walls that envisioned the building’s potential uses.

Some suggested the armory could play host to a farmers market and outdoor dog park. There also were recommendations to use the space for concerts, school events or a car show.

And while the Skujas were thinking of the future, they also took time to reflect on the armory’s past.

“We had our wedding reception here 50 years ago yesterday,” said Sue Skuja, “It looked so much bigger that day.”

Skuja recalled when the armory’s concrete floors were filled with dancers. And the walls, now largely barren, would instead have bright decorations.

It’s that atmosphere some officials would like to bring back to the building with a potential sale to the town.

“The idea of returning it back to this community is really special,” said Selectboard member Heather Prebish, during an open house at the armory that included a cookout and appearance by the Upper Valley Vixens roller derby team. “I think this is just an additional step forward toward showing the value of this community and the richness of all of its members.”

The armory, built in 1950, was vacated by the National Guard in 2011, and sat largely unused. The idea of bringing it under town control began to circulate last year, when residents started considering its field for use as a dog park.

“I’ve been wanting to find a space for a dog park for a long time,” said Kerry Clifford, who attended the open house with Moxie, her shepherd/border collie mix. “A lot of (dog owners) use the ball fields but it’s not ideal.”

Windsor doesn’t have a dog park, she said, and the armory’s field is already fenced in. It also offers well-shaded areas to visitors, Clifford said. So, she brought the idea to Prebish, who began researching the property.

“What I learned really is that the National Guard sort of abandoned this place and really has no intentions of returning as far as we know,” said Prebish, who helped form a town committee to look further into the possibility the town taking ownership. That group voted in December to recommend pursuing a purchase.

“At this point, it seems like there’s enough of an interest in the community for recreational uses, but also from the school,” Prebish said, adding the concrete floors would make a good training ground for the Windsor’s student robotics team.

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said there have been studies, some of which are ongoing, to determine the building’s structural health as well as whether there are environmental concerns. Town officials also met with counterparts in Ludlow, Vt., where taxpayers purchased a similar building.

“We’re comfortable that the building is structurally sound and we are comfortable there are no environmental surprises,” he said.

Work is ongoing right now to create a draft budget for the building with the intent of bringing forward a bond vote at Town Meeting in March.

Marsh estimated that renovating the building would cost a maximum of $1 million, but said bids are likely to come in much lower.

Currently, Marsh sees two camps in town: those who believe the renovation will attract events and those who want to see a specific purpose for the armory before allocating funding.

“This is a big building located right next to our community playgrounds and ball fields. It’s in pretty good shape right now but if we don’t take it over, nobody else will,” he said. “What does that mean for 15 years from now when the building’s falling into disrepair? Doing nothing isn’t an option.”

Many of those who attended Sunday’s open house were supportive of the town acquisition, including resident David Morin.

“I think it can be additional recreation space or sport space for part of the year. It can be a bazaar and craft fair and Christmas fair-type space for certain times of the year,” he said. “The possibilities are really endless.”

The armory’s side rooms could also be put to use, Morin said, adding he doesn’t want to see the armory being “pigeonholed” into one use.

However, Jan Coxon said she wants to see a use that will bring in money and aid Windsor’s economy. With the state prison slated to close this month and several other businesses gone, the town needs more employers, she said.

“If you go to downtown Windsor, there’s many many empty stores,” Coxon said. “What I’d like to see is a clean business, a manufacturing business or some type of business that would bring in money and provide jobs.”

Sue Skuja, who reminisced about her wedding reception at the armory, also worried about the impact a big project would have on taxes.

“I think the possibilities are great. I just would like to know the numbers that go with the possibilities,” she said. “I don’t want to vote on sentimental reasons.”

Tim Camerato can be reached at or 603-727-3223.

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