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 South (old entrance) end 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.
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 were lucky enough to have an HVAC expert, Bill Chidsey come and join the Grange, and he installed a more economical furnace burner. He also installed digital thermostats which can be set remotely to turn on the heat for tenants, including pre-warming the Hall. These improvements have led to significant savings in our fuel bills.
The Grange also suffered the loss of our sign in 2014, knocked down by an unknown truck or car. We received a wonderful donation of new locust-wood posts, and a cherry slab cross-piece, donated by timber-framer Siannon McIntyre. We also got volunteers to dig a trench from the Grange Hall to the new sign location, and put in underground plastic conduit for new wiring. A sign-making volunteer designed and applied the letters for the main sign plus details on crossbars below it. With significant donations from a couple of committed Grange supporters, which funded excavation for footings for the new sign, plus an electrician to run the wires and install the lights, we now have a very beautiful sign by Rt. 12, which has raised our public profile considerably!
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.
The fire exit at the Northwest corner of the building was completely rebuilt in 2014, and a new fire-rated door and enclosing walls were built by the stairs at the Southeast corner. As a result, the Fire Marshal upgraded our legal capacity downstairs to 99!
The old bathrooms were demolished, and new bathrooms were installed in 2015, and were an immediate hit! The old ones inspired no nostalgia, and the unisex stalls and shared hand-washing has worked very well for all. Water fountains were also installed in the upstairs foyer, including a water-bottle filler and an ADA-height fountain, and they have been much appreciated as well.
We replaced the 24 year old electric storage-tank water heater with a propane-fired, on-demand, tankless water heater, which (as of 2020) is saving us significant amounts on our electric bills, while not noticeably increasing our propane bills. And it is giving us “endless” hot water.
We also dug up the access for the septic system and had it pumped for the first time since 1991! We were pleased to find that it still seems in good shape.
The FCCGH financed, and volunteers constructed about 40 acoustic panels to reduce the reverberation level in the Grange Hall. These have improved acoustics for meetings, dances, singing performances, theater and more.
The Friends worked for 2 years to get a grant approved by the VT Arts Council “Facilities Improvement” program to upgrade the basement level of the Grange Hall. In August, we got approval for the grant! We will also provide for a “Second Stage” small performance area, for smaller-scale meetings and presentations that don’t need the large upstairs Hall.
Work began a week or so before Christmas 2019, as we moved all the tables, chairs and storage shelves away from the walls, and cut back the suspended ceiling framework to allow work on the walls. We also hung plastic to keep the dust away from the furniture and storage we moved into the center of the cafeteria. The bottom stair flight and landing leading to the first floor were removed as well.
During Christmas week, contractors from Northern Basements came in, jackhammered the floor and installed drainage where the stairs used to be, and along the entire East wall of the basement. Then, they installed foam insulation panels on all the exterior walls (except the kitchen–we’ll remodel that separately). They also foamed all the joist-end spaces all around the basement, including in the kitchen. The stairs and landing were replaced, too.
Following this work, ARJ Electric roughed-in all the wiring for the new receptacles on the exterior walls, plus the new circuits for the sump-pump and dehumidifier, all of which got installed in the special channels in the foam panels. This meant that work could start up early in….
….as carpentry contractor Stan Carlson began screwing sheetrock to the metal channel-studs in the foam panels. After taping, he installed the “Fiberglass Reinforced Panels’ (FRPs) which cover the bottom 5′ of the sheetrock. After volunteers painted the edges of the primed trim-boards, and painted the exposed sheetrock, Stan made new jamb-extensions and trim for all the window openings. He also re-installed all the suspended ceiling support framework to the new wall surfaces. He fitted and installed wooden hand-rails on the stairway, a significant improvement on the bent pipe railings that had been in place for decades.
Volunteers cut, fitted and installed new ceiling panels in the main basement and also in the kitchen. Then carpet-tiles were installed by Country Floors. As planned by our volunteer design team, they included a contrasting-color, 3′ wide “path” from the stairway, around the bathrooms and kitchen walls, to the alcove which will be the “Second Stage”. The border color also covers the stairs to the first floor.
Through all of this, other volunteers moved all the tables, chairs and storage shelves into and out of the alcove, to allow the carpet tiles to be installed first in the cafeteria, and then in the alcove. Volunteers have also painted the trim and the walls, and put clear finish on the handrails! The closet in the kitchen was rebuilt by a volunteer, to store the necessary supplies that had been in a very large wooden “cupboard” in what became the “Second Stage” area.
We plan to decorate and improve the “Second Stage” to make it an attractive and comfortable place for performances, readings, meetings and other events that are not large enough to warrant use of the main Hall upstairs, or would feel “lost” in the larger room. The goal is to provide a “coffee-house” type multipurpose space.
Partway through construction, the Friends realized that our budget would cover the cost to buy 2 grates for the 2 entrance porches. These will remove a significant portion of the dirt/mud/snow from Hall users’ shoes and boots, protecting the newly carpeted stairs and lower level, as well as the dance floor in the main Hall. Volunteers installed the 2 grills in March (before the Coronavirus shut down the Grange along with everything else) and June.
Future goals–projects to continue the improvement of our Hall:
We would like to install a lift to make it possible for disabled Hall users to get to the stage and the basement levels. We have planned the basement improvements to allow space for the bottom of the lift there.
Now that the basement project has added significantly to our insulation, we will be able to evaluate our heating needs,and consider major re-design of the heating system, including the heat-distribution duct-work and the furnace, and possibilities for separate heat for the “Second Stage” area.
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, as well as affordable to heat and maintain.