by Doug McClure
MONTPELIER/EAST HARDWICK – The Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD) has announced the projects receiving tax credits through its Downtown and Village Center programs. Among those properties is 64 Main Street in East Hardwick, owned by Erich Stephens, which received an award of $72,712 in tax credits toward an overall project cost estimated at $538,718.
The building is described as being built between 1851 and 1863 by the ACCD, which noted that “this building has served as a local store, boarding house, and most recently, apartments” but has been vacant for a decade.
Stephens said “My wife and I have a business renovating and renting houses — typically older houses simply because we like the way the look and working with history, as it were. So, in some ways it’s just our latest project. We had seen the house vacant for many years when passing through East Hardwick, but other than that didn’t have a connection. Since buying the property, the neighbors have been very welcoming and I’ve come to appreciate what a nice place it is, and it wouldn’t surprise me if in our later years we find ourselves deciding to move there ourselves.”
The plan is for the building to return to its historical use, with energy efficiency upgrades. Patrick Kane, a former East Hardwick resident, did some initial design work. Stephens said that “the building was originally zoned three apartments from when zoning started in Hardwick, and that’s what we’ll be restoring it to. I spent a number of hours going through the landowner records, and it was interesting to me that for all of its history except relatively recently it was a business of some sort — people lived there it seems, but they were the store owners. At one point, it was indicated as being a boarding house (maybe for the workers at the sawmill that was once nearby?). So really it will be returning to a historic use, more than getting a new use.”
He said the East Hardwick Neighborhood Organization (EHNO) has been “very welcoming and helpful” and offered its support to the application. Stephens said “I described the project plans to their board, and they provided areas of concern to watch out for (e.g. parking) and pointed and guided in a number of fronts (e.g. introducing me to abutters, etc). They were very helpful in locating older pictures of the building, which helped with understanding what the building looked like historically and that we’ll be reflecting in the renovation. I’ve also heard a lot of history of the building in terms of who lived there, etc., which has been really interesting.”
Stephens added that while the Town of Hardwick “indicated at the time they had made a decision not to formally support grant applications for private developers,” the town’s staff “was all helpful and supportive. Everyone seemed glad to have the application being made, regardless of the formal Town policy.”
He said that the majority of the construction work would start in the spring due to the tight availability of contractors. Asbestos removal has already been completed by a state-licensed contractor. Stephens wanted people to know that “in case folks driving by later see demolition going on they can be assured we’re doing it correctly.”
Stephens said that there was not much remaining in terms of original historical detail and that “mostly it’s ‘90s fake wood paneling, sheet rock, [and] laminate flooring,” though it is possible that some of the newer materials may be covering up historical details.