Fire Destroys 1796 Vermont General Store
By Margaret Foster | Online Only | Nov. 19, 2009
The tiny town of Putney, Vt., pop. 2,600, suffered a blow this month when its general store burned down in an arson fire.
The Putney General Store, built c. 1796 and damaged by fire in May 2008, was being restored. The social hub of the town, the general store was scheduled to reopen in May 2010.
On Nov. 1, however, a fire roared through the structure. "It's totally gone; there's nothing left," says Lyssa Papazian, board member of the Putney Historical Society, which owned the store and raised $700,000 toward its restoration.
Remarkably, the society has decided to rebuild the structure. "I'm not ready to write it off as lost," Papazian says. "[The general store] is not just the boards; it's not just the nails—it's still the store, and we'll reopen the building, and it'll still be there. It's the people. It's the people that love it and use it."
Residents gathered for a vigil on Nov. 6 to mourn the general store. This weekend, local musicians, artists, storytellers, and poets of all ages will participate in a fundraiser called "Re: Store" toward rebuilding the Putney General Store—estimated to cost $800,000, according to Papazian's preliminary estimate.
"Putney is all about perseverance," says Paul Bruhn, executive director of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, which has been a longtime partner in the restoration project. "There was a lot of grieving, but they got over that pretty quickly and said, 'We've got to move forward.'"
For more photos, stories, and tips, subscribe to the print edition of Preservation magazine.