Fire Destroys 1796 Vermont General Store

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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

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.'"

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Submitted by Question at: December 11, 2009
Since it was burned twice, maybe they should try to figure out why someone burned it, before they rebuild -- so that the third structure won't be burned as well ?

Submitted by Old House Girl at: December 11, 2009
A Vermont town like Putney needs a general store. Rebuilding is not about replicating--whether they do replicate or build something contemporary--it's about a community gathering place. I lived in New England, such places are important.

Submitted by Brian at: November 20, 2009
Haha, TaxiManSteve, you sound kind of pessimistic. What other choice do they have but to rebuild it? Leave it as a dirt lot? You can't undo that fire damage. At least they can keep the tradition alive.

Submitted by TaxiManSteve at: November 20, 2009
Maybe... But a replica is a replica... Like Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth, Ma. or Old Fort No. 4 in Charleston, NH... A recreated store might have great educational value, but is it still authentic history?....Real heritage?... Even one existing wall of the original structure, like the 20 % original wood in the USS Constitution would make all the difference.