By Greg Duggan
Green Up Day proved a major success for the Friends of Historic Brennan Barn, when the group united with a local Boy Scout Troop to clean up the area around Brennan Barn.
The Friends formed last spring as a grassroots group to restore the barn and preserve a bit of local history. Vermont lists the barn, a portion of which was built in 1805, on its State Register of Historic Places. Chatting about the project at the end of the Green Up Day cleanup, Friends founder Kristen Littlefield noted that Williston used to be one of the most rural communities in the Burlington area. Sarah Hibbeler, another Friend of Historic Brennan Barn, said the barn is one of few historic structures remaining in town.
“This is what Williston used to be,” Littlefield said of the barn and the home across the street, which once served as a farmhouse. She wants to preserve the barn in part to balance out the development that has shaped Williston in more recent years.
A website created for the project says, “If properly restored, our barn will serve as a means to educate future generations about how past generations lived and worked, what values they embraced, and how the landscape shaped Williston’s once-agrarian culture.”
More than 20 scouts from Williston Troop 692 had a firsthand lesson in history on Saturday. The scouts gathered at the corner of Mountain View Road and Brennan Woods Drive to combine the barn restoration project with Vermont’s annual Green Up Day, the day when communities throughout the state pick up trash that accumulates over the winter. Led by Ben Cotton, who became involved with the barn restoration through his eighth grade project at Williston Central School, the scouts and their parents cleared out overgrowth behind the barn and picked up debris that had piled up around the structure. Along the way, the scouts reveled in the “artifacts” that many said they found, including old nails and a metal plow.
Cotton said he chose the Brennan Barn restoration as his eighth grade project because “it seemed like a great idea because it’s a good cause. It’s worth saving.”
At a minimum, the Friends of Historic Brennan Barn want to restore and preserve the barn. Littlefield said the group hopes to begin work on the foundation and basement in the fall. The group expects to need $100,000 to complete the restoration. In December, the Selectboard offered $30,000 that had been set aside for the barn’s demolition. To raise additional money, the Friends plan to solicit donations from businesses and host a fundraiser in the fall. Thomas Hark, a member of the Friends and a committee chairman with Troop 692, has an idea of selling lockers inside the barn where community organizations can store equipment.
Once restoration is complete, the Friends want the barn to remain a community resource. The group took ideas from residents at Town Meeting Day, and Littlefield said the concept of a community center keeps surfacing.
“It’s slowly, step by step, coming together,” Hark said.
Townwide, 283 volunteers helped fill 500 bags with 1.53 tons of trash, 40 tires, three TVs and two car batteries on Green Up Day.
For more information about Brennan Barn or to contribute to the restoration effort, visit http://historicbrennanbarn.wordpress.com.