Vermont's Oldest General Store on the Mend

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Fire damaged the 200-year-old Putney General Store in May 2008, but the local historical society is restoring the beloved store.

Credit: Putney Historical Society

UPDATE: A fire on Nov. 1, 2009, destroyed the Putney General Store.

For more than 200 years, people in the tiny village of Putney, Vermont (pop. 2,600), flocked to its general store for coffee, ice cream, and conversation. But residents had to shop elsewhere after a fire gutted the 1796 building last May. Now, with repairs under way, it's shaping up to be a happier new year for the Putney General Store.

"We don't think the building would have survived the winter," says Lyssa Papazian, board member of the Putney Historical Society, which bought the building last month.

"This village store was very important to the community," says Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which secured an option to buy the property and later transferred it to Papazian's group. "It was a gathering place. This is a community that is very passionate about its village center. It was a very busy little store."

The Putney Historical Society raised enough money to buy the building from owner Erhan Oge for $105,000. Workers are installing a new roof and repairing the water-damaged third floor. (The cause of the May 3 fire is unknown, but Putney fire chief Tom Goddard deemed it "not suspicious.")

The store has been in continuous operation since it was built in 1796. Prior to the fire, customers could still see hand-hewn beams and floor joists, harvested from surrounding timberland, on the interior.

When restoration work is completed at the end of 2009, the historical society will lease the building to a tenant who agrees to reopen the store at the heart of this southern Vermont village.

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Correction: In an earlier version of this story, we incorrectly stated that the building was originally a saw mill. Instead, it has been a general store since it was built, c. 1796. We regret the error.

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Submitted by Lyssa at: January 5, 2009
Many thanks for the article! I did want to correct the store history details - though this was the written history for some time, recent deed research has revealed that the building was built c.1796 as a general merchandise store near a former sawmill on the brook. It continuously operated as a general store until the fire this past May. Thanks again very much.