By Karen Wyman
How often do you pass by a quintessential Vermont barn or a building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places? If you live or work in Williston, chances are you do so frequently. The real question is: have you ever taken a moment to truly appreciate this rich history that surrounds us?
I admit I am guilty of taking such things for granted. Every day, I drive by a beautiful, albeit decrepit, barn without giving it a second thought. It was simply a landmark I used when giving directions, “turn right at the old red barn.” This all changed after talking to my very passionate friend, Kristen, who inspired me to explore, respect and seek to preserve our town’s treasures. She has spent hours researching the various grants and programs available to help fund the restoration of this very barn that I just thought of as my own personal mile marker.
Her enthusiasm was contagious as she explained the barn’s history to me. Apparently, it had been built in two sections; the western section was constructed in 1860 and the milk house was then added to the northeast corner around 1940. She found that it would be eligible for grant money and that its current owner, the Town of Williston, has until August to submit for the funding. She has taken it upon herself to encourage the town to start this application process. The idea of restoring this piece of our town’s history to its original grandeur excited me. What a great way to bring the community together—an old-fashioned barn raising! My mind flooded with visions of a renovated barn where our town could hold community dances, theatrical performances, art shows, craft fairs… the possibilities seemed endless.
While daydreaming of living in a Warren Kimble scene, I realized I wanted to learn more about Williston’s past. The obvious place to start my inquiry was The Williston Historical Society. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dedicated group, they maintain the Vermont Room at the Dorothy Alling Memorial Library. However, they are probably better known as the annual sponsors of the July 3 ice cream social! As you can imagine, they maintain a plethora of information, including the answer to a question my girls always ask me. “What is that little building next to the library?” Now I can answer correctly instead of telling them a story about how Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs used to live there (hey, I never claimed to be a perfect parent!). I now know that it is Williston’s only remaining one-room schoolhouse. The WHS renovated it, and it now belongs to the school district. Who knew? (Probably a lot of you, but it was news to me!)
There are many other preserved artifacts related to our beloved town, and on Thursday, May 31, from 6:30 to 8:30pm, you can spend an evening learning all about them. The Voyager House of Williston Central School, together with the Williston Historical Society, will be presenting “The Williston History Roadshow.” Here’s your chance to learn some fascinating facts to impress your neighbors about the Williston of yesteryear. I know my family was astounded to learn that at one time our house might have been oceanfront property. If only we could use that description if we ever try to sell our house! Maybe that actually explains why our lawn soil is like sand?
Hopefully this summer as you drive, walk or bike around Williston, you will take some time to appreciate the historical architecture that adorns our landscape. As a community, we need to make sure these structures are well cared for and maintained, so that we may uphold the beautiful blend of rural and urban development we are known for. This is especially important now that we don’t have “original home of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” going for us!
Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for seven years, and lives with her husband and twin 5-year-old daughters.