A Brief History of Our Grange
Capital City Grange was chartered in May, 1914, and originally met in a Hall in downtown Montpelier, on Elm St. After World War II, faced with increasing property taxes and maintenance costs, the Grange and the Odd Fellows Fraternity sold the Hall they shared, and purchased property on the Northfield Road, south of Montpelier, on which to build a new Hall.
Construction began in fall of 1952, and was completed in 1953. The Hall was built largely with volunteer labor! Workers included men and women, continuing an inclusive tradition which has been part of the Grange since its founding. The Grange owns an 8mm film, which has been put onto a DVD, showing Grange and Odd Fellows members working on the Hall in all phases. The film chronicles opening ceremonies with Grange and Vermont state dignitaries, and concludes by showing the burning of the mortgage for the property in 1966.
Grange Halls have hosted dances from the earliest days of the Order, as a vital part of the rural social life. Dances of all sorts have been held at the Capital City Grange Hall since its construction—the dance floor was an important part of its construction and design! Sometime in the 1970s or 1980s, a regular contra dance began being held in the Grange Hall, coexisting with a regular Western Square dance originally. In the late 1990s, the Grange began to find itself running out of members and energy to keep the building going. Master Les Skinner invited the regular renters of the Hall, including the contra dancers, the Church of Christ and others to help the Grange with maintenance work—and to consider joining the Grange as well. It took a few years, and a recurring sense of emergency need to recruit a new crop of members for the Grange, mostly from the contra dance community. The VT State Grange was initially reluctant, not wanting people to join “just to save the dance hall”, but was persuaded that there was a true interest in the traditional purposes and activities of the Grange, as well as the desire to save the dance hall!
Since 2005, most of the membership has been contra dancers and other “non-traditional” members—not people who grew up in the Grange. Those of us who have been active members have found the Grangers we’ve met both locally and in the wider Grange community to be welcoming and accepting, and pleased to involve “new” Grangers in the community service and community-building work done by the Order. We’ve found the Grange tradition of participation by all very familiar. The social dance tradition of welcoming all comers, and working together so the dance is enjoyed by all is motivated by the same commitment. We feel that maintaining this community Hall is a major part of our public service as a Grange, and worth the time and energy we volunteer to put into it.