Have you ever heard of a church becoming a library? Well you have now! Built in 1897 for the Univeralist Unitarian Congregation in Richmond, Vermont, this imposing building stands as a rare high-style Gothic church design for such a small town. The congregation occupied the building until the dwindling population in town made it no longer feasible to keep the doors open, closing in 1956. When the congregation disbanded, the building was sold to a Richmond resident who then offered the property to the Richmond School District, which had its large school next door. Voters accepted the gift at Town Meeting and passed a bond to convert the building into a cafeteria and gymnasium for the school next door. In the mid-1980s, with a new school in town, the school building was abandoned and converted to the Town Hall. The gymnasium and cafeteria in the former church was no longer needed, and some in town proposed to demolish it to build a new, modern library. Preservationists petitioned to save the building, acquiring funds to restore the exterior and convert it to a library. They won. The library operates here to this day as a unique place for residents young and old to read and learn in an architectural treasure.
This two-story brick schoolhouse was built in 1907 for town growing along the river in Richmond, Vermont. The town’s history goes back thousands of years ago when indigenous people lived here during the Archaic period from 9,500 to 3,000 years ago. The Winooski River, which runs through the town today, was also a common highway for the Abenaki Tribe after 1,000 A.D. between Lake Champlain and the Connecticut River. European settlement of Vermont did not begin until the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War in 1763. Richmond was eventually granted township status in 1794 when the Vermont Legislature combined parts of nearby towns to form the new town. The town grew mostly as an agricultural village until the 19th century, when the Winooski River was harnessed for power. The town grew over the years, surviving large town center fires and floods over the years. As was the case with many small Vermont towns, Richmond’s population began a steady decline during the Great Depression. The trend was reversed in the 1960s as a result of new regional employers coming into the area. The school here was outgrown and built a new school in town in that period of growth and converted to the Town Hall, showing a great example of adaptive reuse in small town New England.