ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – The Historic Rockingham Meeting House, which is located along Route 103 on Meeting House Road and owned by the Town of Rockingham, is in serious need of repairs after a recent “conservation conversation” meeting, hosted by the Rockingham Historic Preservation Commission and the Rockingham Meeting House Association.
The RHPC is a certified local government commission, working to preserve our heritage through partnerships with local, state, and federal governments. Working under the guidelines of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the commission opens doors to potentially receive crucial grant funding from the Vermont Division of Historic Preservation and National Park Service.
Built between 1787 and 1801, and a national historic landmark since 2000, the building that once served as a town hall and also a church (the first-ever in Rockingham), is in need of an estimated $720,000 in repairs, according to RHPC Coordinator, Walter Wallace.
Back in January, Dr. Susan Buck, a renowned art conservator who also specializes in art architectural restoration, was brought in from her lab in Williamsburg, Va., to collect interior and exterior paint and wood samples from the meeting house, funerial bier, and hearse barn, which all make up the historic landmark.
Wallace indicated that structural and historical repairs are needed for the nearly 225-year-old meeting house, including a full assessment of its foundation, extensive plaster restoration, exterior woodwork repairs, window replacement, and select interior woodworking repairs as well. However, despite the building being recognized as a National Landmark, the title does not come with any sort of automatic funding, therefore, funds must be generated through national and state grants and private donations.
Over the last several years, residents have appropriated around $20,000 each year towards building repairs, including an estimated $100,000 in 2020 for plaster restoration and assessment expenses. Additionally, because the building has the “historic” label, specific guidelines must also be followed when completing repair work.
After meeting with an architect and contractor to help calculate all the repairs and costs, it is estimated that more than half of the $720,000 would go towards plaster restoration, with another $175,000 for exterior woodwork repairs and painting, $50,000 to repair the foundation, $90,000 for window replacement, and $30,000 for interior woodwork.
In March, the project received a $7,500 state “historic preservation” grant that will be utilized to organize a conference and training for those interested in preserving the meeting house graveyard. Several of the gravestones date back as far as the late 1700s, and include many of Rockingham’s first settlers. Without the help of local residents however, restoring the graveyard would be an enormous additional expense to absorb.
There are also plans to remove the building’s historic marker – which is currently placed along Route 103 and difficult to be viewed – and re-erect it on Meeting House Road so that it can be easily visible to the public.
Moving forward, a meeting to discuss the restoration project is planned for May 7, to be held at the Rockingham Meeting House and hosted by the RMHA. For more information, call 802-463-3964, or by email at email@example.com.