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From the Caledonian Record by Staff Writer Katherine Fiegenbaum

Former President of the McIndoe Falls Academy Board and now Trustee, Larry Thomas and Catherine Stuart

McIndoe Falls Academy held its first outdoor market this past Sunday afternoon. Despite the heat, young and old (and their pups) showed up on the lawn of the historic Barnet building to enjoy food, drinks, art, crafts, conversation and music: “grandpa rock” by Barry Hayes.

Visitors to the market also helped the nonprofit’s board of trustees gauge interest in different ways the space might serve the community in the future. Northeast Kingdom consultant, Cynthia Stuart engaged with market goers to prioritize potential options.

Trustee Jan Wood attended the market with her daughters and grandchildren and said they were all very pleased with the event and their finds. She said the event was really an incredible group effort put together by market manager, Riley Duffie, the trustees and other community members.

Wood also spent time at the trustee’s booth with Stuart.

“I was pleased to see the community interest and enthusiasm in turning the Academy into a real community center,” Wood said. “Cynthia has been great in getting board members and the community to focus on our vision and our path forward.”

On June 1, Stuart held an initial “visioning” session with more than 25 community members. The group identified four topic areas of interest for the Academy: Events and Activities, Educational Focus, Appreciation of History and Self-Sustainability.

Within those topic areas, potential ideas were identified and visitors to the market voted on them with stickers.

Part way through the market, the events and activities board was showing the most interest: corn hole, cross-country skiing, markets, community potluck dinners and music. Interest was also shown in potential lecture series, adult enrichment classes, collaborations with historical societies, renting out Academy space for offices, and a café or using it for co-working space.

“I think we’re getting a clearer vision of what could and should happen here,” said Stuart, noting that an architect will be involved in assessing the feasibility of adapting the building for the chosen uses.

Stuart will be compiling a report based on her findings for presentation in early August. Her work is being funded by a grant from the Vermont Natural Resources Council’s Small Grants for Smart Growth Fund.

A great deal of renovation work will be needed once a clear direction is set, and the trustees are also hard at work acquiring funds for the project. Earlier this year, the Academy received a $20,000 historic preservation grant from the state of Vermont for structural repairs, the Caledonian previously reported.

On May 21, the Academy’s board learned that they will receive another, separate grant for the structural work. According to Wally Thrall, president of the Academy’s board of trustees, $5,911.50 is being awarded from the 1772 Foundation in cooperation with the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

The Academy’s board has also put in an application to acquire Congressionally-directed funding through Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office. The Barnet Select Board sent a letter in support of the application in late May.

As plans for the community center space and funding coalesce, additional markets will be held on the Academy lawn on July 25 and Aug. 29 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first market, planned for May 30, was canceled due to rain.

More details and contact information can be found on the McIndoe Falls Academy Community Center’s website at mcindoesacademy.org.

From The Caledonia Record March 27th, 2021

Four Maple Trees Donated To McIndoe Falls Academy

BY KATHERINE FIEGENBAUM

BARNET

Staff Writer

Four 25-foot sugar maple trees now line the south drive at McIndoe Falls Academy in Barnet.

Wally Thrall, an alumnus of the former school and current president of its non-profit board of trustees, spent his career in the wholesale nursery business. He reached out to one of his former suppliers, Schichtel’s Nursery in Springville, N.Y., who provided the trees at a very minimal cost to the Academy to help with its repurposing as a community center.

On Friday and Monday mornings, volunteers showed up to help plant the trees — some alumni of the school, which closed in 1969. Gary Thompson, Tom Douse, Sonny Hatley, Norman Stevenson, Jake Stevenson and Thrall trimmed the trees, helped maneuver them into place, and filled in each hole with dirt.

Crane service was provided by Rowden’s Crane Service in Wells River, as the trees weigh approximately 7,000 pounds each.

“We couldn’t have planted these big trees without the generous donation of their services,” said Thrall.

Thrall said that the south drive had lost nearly all of its old maple trees.

The one survivor, donated by the class of 1960 and planted by Norman Stevenson twenty years ago, was still alive and transplanted to the north drive last week to make room for the new matched row of trees on the south side.

The older transplanted tree replaced a very old maple removed last fall, which Thrall said had over 150 rings.

“That number of rings suggests that it was likely was the last tree left from the original plantings done shortly after construction of the Academy in 1853,” said Thrall. “Sections of the trunk of that old tree have been saved to hopefully be milled into tables or for some other use in the Academy.”

Thrall is in search of a mill with the capacity of processing the trunk of that tree, which is about 42” in diameter.

The sugar maple cultivar chosen to line the south drive, named “Fall Fiesta,” promises rapid growth and outstanding fall color.

Trustees of the historic building are hard at work to revitalize it as a community center for the town of Barnet and the surrounding area after a plan to restore the Academy as the Barnet town hall was shot down by voters in 2020.

Norman Stevenson, Jake Stevenson, Gary Thompson, Sonny Hatley and Tom Douse work to plant maple trees at McIndoe Falls Academy in Barnet on April 19, 2021. (Photo by Katherine Fiegenbaum)

McIndoe Falls Academy Receives Grant, Trustees Work Steadily Towards Community Center Goal

Katherine Fiegenbaum fiegenbaumk@caledonian-record.com Staff Writer

The McIndoe Falls Academy building looks fairly quiet, except every Sunday afternoon when community food shelf donations roll steadily in. However, a lot is happening behind the scenes.

The building, on the National Register of Historic Places, is a 2021 recipient of a historic preservation grant from the state of Vermont.

The $20,000 grant, to be matched with Academy funds, will pay for structural repairs to the building, built in 1853. The grant was announced on Feb. 11 by Gov. Phil Scott.

Wally Thrall, current president of the Academy’s non-profit board of trustees, said Thursday that the funds will be used for three projects: replacing support columns in the basement, reinforcing trusses in the attic, and replacing a 20-foot section of rot in the back wall.

However, before the structural work can move forward, asbestos in the attic and basement needs to be safely removed — at a cost of around $50,000.

“This building was originally built in about six months with no power tools and local materials for around $5,500,” said Thrall. “That won’t even paint it now.”

The trustees submitted one grant application yesterday to cover part of that cost, but they will need to come up with more. They have until the end of 2022 to use the historic preservation funds.

Thirty-seven applications were submitted to the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation for 2021 funding. Only 13 were selected.

A little over a year ago, Barnet voters approved funds for a brand new town office building instead of the costlier alternative of restoring McIndoe Falls Academy for the same purpose.

Thrall said that following the vote, the trustees never looked back.

In the fall of 2020, the 10-member board adopted a new mission statement: “As a self-sustaining and all-inclusive community center, McIndoe Falls Academy will continue its enduring educational purpose, enrich the region with events and activities, and inspire an appreciation of local history.”

While needed building repairs are in the works, pending funding, the board is also welcoming input from the community on what that could and should look like. The group hopes the building will not only serve residents of Barnet, but also those down the road in East Ryegate and across the river in Monroe, N.H.

“The sky’s the limit; there are so many things it could be used for,” said trustee Jan Wood on Thursday.

Thrall and Wood, both alumni of the Academy, see the building as a great opportunity for the community.

“We welcome input on how to use it and how to help make this happen,” said Wood. “It’s a big project, but it’s doable. We want to support the community any way we can.”

The crown jewel of the building is the “great hall,” located on the second floor, where students used to play basketball. The trustees hope to use this space for community events and potlucks.

Thrall thinks the hall is the perfect size for the community, once it is made accessible.

“The winters are long here and lots of people get cooped up … it’d be great to have a place to go two to three times a month, and play cards after supper,” he said.

Last February, trustees Claudia Heisholt and Jennifer Crown held a successful winter market and craft fair in the hall.

Despite the stumbling block many groups are facing — the pandemic — a safe outdoor market is scheduled to be held on Academy grounds once a month this summer. The market is in search of more craft and food vendors.

Following the asbestos abatement and structural repairs, the trustees plan to install an elevator and staircase on the backside of the building. Thrall says that the building needs a general facelift and some small improvements to plumbing and electric to bring it up to code.

Though seven members of the board of trustees are alumni of the Academy, three newer members did not attend the school. Two of them, Heisholt and Crown, started a “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” community food shelf last spring to support those in need, the Caledonian previously reported.

Canned goods, dog food and other products await those in need in a curtained-away section of the library located inside the Academy. The library is currently closed, but Thrall said the plan is to reopen it on May 1 in accordance with state regulations.

The trustees have installed free high-speed internet for use by community members. While the building is closed the open WiFi network still may be accessed outside, the strongest signal available at the south-west corner.

A small post office also occupies part of the historic structure and pays monthly rent, which covers some of the Academy’s costs.

However, most of the building’s maintenance has been done inexpensively by the trustees themselves or other interested parties. Thrall said that Larry Thomas, former president of the board, worked multiple days just in the past week to clean up snow plow debris.

Others have stepped in when the need arises: for pressure washing, painting or other jobs. Planter boxes soon will show up outside, as well as donated trees to line the driveway.

While some value the building for nostalgia purposes, Thrall sees it as an opportunity.

“It’s a beautiful building,” he said. “If it falls down, it won’t be replaced. We want the community to feel like it’s theirs too, not just the ten trustees.”

More information and the contact information for the group can be found at mcindoesacademy.org.

The North Star Monthly

Barnet

Town Clerk: Benjamin Heisholt
Select Board: Dylan Ford, Benjamin Gates, and Mark Jefferson

January 11. 2021

McIndoe Falls Academy – Benjamin Gates read an email from Wally Thrall, president of the board of trustee. It said, the board of trustees, “are in the process of of developing a summer/winter market at the McIndoe Falls Academy, and part of that process is applying for a Better Places Grant from the Preservation Trust of Vermont.” The Academy is seeking  letter of support from the board stating that it supports the establishment of an ongoing market at the Academy. Dylan Ford moved to sign a letter of support for the establishment of an ongoing market at the McIndoe Falls Academy. Seconded by Mr. Jefferson and approved by voice vote.

Free High Speed Cable Internet is now available
at the front of the building!
McIndoe Falls Academy trustees have just had High Speed Cable Internet installed for use by local community members. Due to Covid-19, the Academy Library is still closed to the public, but the High Speed Internet can be accessed by parking in the front of the building. The strongest signal is at the southwest corner of the building. It’s free and no password is required.

MCINDOE FALLS Academy Trustees Hope To Revive Historic StructureTrustees, Alum, Of Long-Shuttered School Working To Raise Support, FundsBY AMY ASH NIXONStaff WriterMcINDOE FALLS — When hopes to convert the McIndoe Falls Academy building into a new municipal center were dashed at the annual meeting in March, trustees of the long-shuttered Academy put their sights on the future.Wally Thrall, president of the McIndoe Falls Academy’s Board of Trustees, and two other trustees, Alice Frazer and Norman Stevenson, met at their historic high school building on Friday to discuss a plan to re-imagine their cherished Academy as the heart of the village.The group has been researching historic grants and is looking for letters of support from individuals and community groups who share a vision for the historic gem to be brought back to life, with ideas on how that could happen, and how the building would be used.McIndoe Falls Academy has been closed since 1969, but a group of longtime friends who attended school in the grand 3-story structure have remained committed to care-taking the old lady.In March, voters decisively turned down the group’s offer to gift the structure, set on a flat piece of land in the center of this village of the Town of Barnet, and an endowment fund, to be used as a new municipal building and more. Instead, a new build will be embarked on for needed town office space.Thrall was in the Class of 1969 — the final graduating class for the school. He was one of 16 graduates the final year the school operated.McIndoes Academy was built in 1853, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.The State of Vermont closed the school that year. It marked the culmination of The Hilldale League of schools that had operated in Concord, Wells River, Newbury and Peacham.When voters turned down the trustees’ offer to gift their high school building, just about a week before the pandemic began to intensify and then caused the State of Emergency to declared, the trustees were just beginning to look ahead and decided in the short-term to put the building to use as a food shelf to meet rising community need for commodities.Now, in the private library operated within the Academy building, along with books are cans of soup and stew, and all manner of donated shelf-stable foods, as well as household goods to distribute.The idea has worked well, the group said Friday. Signs advertising the food shelf and the fact it’s hosted by McIndoe Falls Academy can be seen throughout Barnet’s five villages.With things easing up some, the group has set its sights now on moving ahead with plans to polish the building — which has strong bones and does not need significant work, stresses Thrall — and figuring out how to open it as a community center.“They won’t be building structures like this anymore,” says Stevenson, who spoke briefly about how he had to move with his classmates to the Peacham Academy for his senior year when McIndoe Falls Academy was closed. He still carries regrets about those days.The group already has non-profit status, so is able to accept tax-deductible contributions. A capital campaign is in the offing, but details have yet to be finalized. A new website is coming and a domain name has been reserved, but is not yet live, at www.McIA.org. Thrall said, “McIA was a commonly used short way of writing McIndoes Academy.”Trustees are asking interested groups to come forward and share ideas for how they see McIndoe Falls Academy being utilized — letters of interest and support are critical for grant applications, they said in an interview in recent days.Thrall wrote this out as the group’s statement, “Our goal is to develop a dynamic year-round community center for those living in the local towns, to foster a strong sense of togetherness, and to enrich the lives of those living here with cultural events, social gatherings, and educational opportunities.”An event held around Valentine’s Day this year — just before the vote — which featured an indoor farmers’ market and music, offered tours of the building and many people, noted Frazer, an alum and trustee who lives just across the river in Monroe, N.H., had never been inside the historic building.In some rooms on the upper floor, it is as though time has stood still. There is a green chalkboard with decades-old, neat white chalk penmanship still on it, chairs, and the old stage that is filled with memories and memorabilia from the trustees’ long-ago school days. A list they had prepared about why the historic building should be preserved explained that the school was like their family.For many years, a small post office, open just a few hours a day, but with access to postal boxes, has rented a space on the first level in the rear, for a little more than $1,000 a month.That income helps to maintain the building and cover its expenses; a five-year lease with the postal service is in place.Barnet Library Director Dylan Ford, also chair of the town’s Select Board, said she would like to have a satellite library inside the McIndoe Falls Academy when it is re-purposed.Another thing the trustees are seeking are interested contractors and possible donors to offer either discounted or in-kind services for some of the investment that will be needed to update the building and renovate it, such as septic work and code issues being brought into compliance.One of the important issues to be addressed is making the building accessible for people with disabilities, including a needed elevator for the Academy, which is very large, about 8,000 square feet.The group is hoping to begin work in the not-too-distant future, if things fall into place, hoping to see things play out in about a year’s time.Thrall imagines pot luck dinners and a real community spirit, and he believes the building coming back to life could be that magnet.“This building is in really good shape,” he said.Letters of support can be mailed to: McIndoe Falls Academy, P.O. Box 129, McIndoe Falls, VT 05050 or emailed to: McIA1853@gmail. com.

The McIndoes Academy Trustee meeting is held the last Tuesday of the month.

McIndoe Falls Academy held its first outdoor market this past Sunday afternoon. Despite the heat, young and old (and their pups) showed up on the lawn of the historic Barnet building to enjoy food, drinks, art, crafts, conversation and music: “grandpa rock” by Barry Hayes.

July 8, 2020. Caledonia Record by Amy Ash Nixon

Visitors to the market also helped the nonprofit’s board of trustees gauge interest in different ways the space might serve the community in the future. Northeast Kingdom consultant, Cynthia Stuart engaged with market goers to prioritize potential options.

Trustee Jan Wood attended the market with her daughters and grandchildren and said they were all very pleased with the event and their finds. She said the event was really an incredible group effort put together by market manager, Riley Duffie, the trustees and other community members.

Wood also spent time at the trustee’s booth with Stuart.

“I was pleased to see the community interest and enthusiasm in turning the Academy into a real community center,” Wood said. “Cynthia has been great in getting board members and the community to focus on our vision and our path forward.”

On June 1, Stuart held an initial “visioning” session with more than 25 community members. The group identified four topic areas of interest for the Academy: Events and Activities, Educational Focus, Appreciation of History and Self-Sustainability.

Within those topic areas, potential ideas were identified and visitors to the market voted on them with stickers.

Part way through the market, the events and activities board was showing the most interest: corn hole, cross-country skiing, markets, community potluck dinners and music. Interest was also shown in potential lecture series, adult enrichment classes, collaborations with historical societies, renting out Academy space for offices, and a café or using it for co-working space.

“I think we’re getting a clearer vision of what could and should happen here,” said Stuart, noting that an architect will be involved in assessing the feasibility of adapting the building for the chosen uses.

Stuart will be compiling a report based on her findings for presentation in early August. Her work is being funded by a grant from the Vermont Natural Resources Council’s Small Grants for Smart Growth Fund.

A great deal of renovation work will be needed once a clear direction is set, and the trustees are also hard at work acquiring funds for the project. Earlier this year, the Academy received a $20,000 historic preservation grant from the state of Vermont for structural repairs, the Caledonian previously reported.

On May 21, the Academy’s board learned that they will receive another, separate grant for the structural work. According to Wally Thrall, president of the Academy’s board of trustees, $5,911.50 is being awarded from the 1772 Foundation in cooperation with the Preservation Trust of Vermont.

The Academy’s board has also put in an application to acquire Congressionally-directed funding through Sen. Patrick Leahy’s office. The Barnet Select Board sent a letter in support of the application in late May.

As plans for the community center space and funding coalesce, additional markets will be held on the Academy lawn on July 25 and Aug. 29 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The first market, planned for May 30, was canceled due to rain.

More details and contact information can be found on the McIndoe Falls Academy Community Center’s website at mcindoesacademy.org.