Exterior painting of the whole building, organized by members of the Contra Dance Umbrella, with help from Lewis Neill of the Church of Christ, long time rental partners at the Hall.
Replaced kitchen windows which were rotting away. Installed a new railing on the fire exit at the NW corner of the building. All labor by volunteers.
Insulated the attic and front of the building with blown-in cellulose, adding about 12” in the attic. All labor by volunteers.
Constructed a new entrance, including an ADA-compliant ramp on the NE corner of the building, and put in an ADA/accessible bathroom on the main floor. This work was partially financed by a $20,000 grant from the “Cultural Facilities” program, administered by the VT Arts Council, plus financing and a mortgage to pay the balance due, from the VT State Grange, both of which we greatly appreciate! Our electrical system received a much-needed upgrade, as mandated by the Fire Marshal and building inspector. Much volunteer labor was given, including construction of new folding-chair storage bins on wheels under the stage and painting.
We replaced all the fluorescent fixtures in the lower level with new, energy-efficient Super T8 fluorescent fixtures, with the help of a substantial rebate from Efficiency Vermont.
With extra energy provided by a new support organization, the “Friends of the Capital City Grange Hall” (FCCGH), we replaced the flooring in the main Hall. The FCCGH applied for grants from several organizations, including VSECU and the Recreational Facilities Fund, plus raising significant support from the loyal dance community. Our old floor was quite worn out from decades of dancing, the tongue-and-groove joints were starting to fall apart, and many nail-heads were exposed. The lumber was harvested by a family-owned lumber mill in Pittsfield, VT, one of whose owners has danced at the Grange Hall for about 30 years, and was kiln-dried and milled into flooring by a flooring company in Bristol VT. We asked for it to be milled a bit thicker than average, with the extra thickness “above the tongue”.
Volunteers removed the old flooring in just a couple of days, and then the flooring was laid out, installed, sanded and finished by a professional installation company. We had tested a couple of penetrating finish options on sections of the old floor, choosing a tung-oil based “Waterlox” finish. The Hall was kept vacant for about 3 more weeks to allow the finish to cure completely before we held events on it. Contra dances were held at the Socialist Labor Hall in Barre, which we greatly appreciated! Other tenants were equally helpful in re-scheduling or re-locating their events while the floor cured.
We invited an inspection by the Fire Marshal, to establish our actual legal capacity. He set our upstairs capacity at 277—but our lower basement level’s capacity at only 49, because of the limitations of our fire exits. This initiated a project to design improvements to our exits—but also to improve the bathrooms in the basement level. These remain largely as they were built in the early 1950s, and present difficulties in cleaning as well as cramped quarters.
The FCCGH also continued their contributions to the Hall, by having all new, insulated, double-hung windows installed in the main Hall and in the west side of the basement level, completing the window replacement project begun in 2005. The Friends also purchased new folding tables for the main Hall, and floor protective mats to allow renters to serve food and beverages upstairs when needed, while protecting the dance floor which produces 75% of our rental income.
The bathroom and fire exit planning led to a grant application being submitted by the FCCGH, for a complete renovation of the bathrooms. The decision (endorsed by the Grange meeting) was to plan for a “unisex” bathroom consisting of a common hand-washing area, plus 4 fully-enclosed stalls with lighting and ventilation, for use by anyone. A separate, ADA-compliant bathroom is also included on the basement level, plus new changing areas. The changing areas are particularly designed for use by the dancers who need to change before and during dance events.
As the planning and grant applications were being completed, we got the results of our annual furnace inspection and service—this year, saying that our old furnace is wearing out, and is obsolete so that it cannot be fixed. We are researching choices for a new heating system, aiming for more energy-efficient units.
The Grange also suffered the loss of our sign, knocked down by an unknown truck or car. We are planning a new and improved sign, more visible and giving more information about the Hall and what goes on there.
With help from the “VT Digital Economy” Project, the Friends got Wi-Fi installed in the Hall, and designed and built this new website for the Grange.
For the future
Plans include installation of a lift to make it possible for disabled Hall users to get to the stage and the basement levels. We’d like to make big improvements in the kitchen, to make it more useful, attractive and easier to clean. We’d like to replace the original entrance doors on the South end of the building with new ones providing windows, and also much better weather-sealing.
All improvements are planned to increase the attractiveness of the Hall to potential renters, by making it more flexible, user-friendly, cleanable and hospitable. While not seeking to create luxury, we want to bring the Hall up-to-date with new technology and modern fixtures to make it a comfortable venue for community events.