Humanities at the Center

Humanities at the Center

A Home in Montpelier

When VHC Executive Director Peter Gilbert first saw the Victorian building, he knew he’d found the future home for the Vermont Humanities Council.

It had plenty of office space, a basement big enough to hold thousands of books, large rooms for public humanities gatherings — and it was in downtown Montpelier. Additionally, the character and history of the nineteenth-century Victorian provided an appropriate setting for the state’s humanities council. It was just the building and location to make the Vermont Humanities Council more accessible to the entire state of Vermont.

Over Columbus Day Weekend 2005, VHC moved from rented space in Morrisville to this handsome building at 11 Loomis Street. To pay for the building’s purchase and renovation, VHC launched Humanities at the Center — its first capital campaign. The Humanities at the Center Campaign raised $800,000.

VHC identified the need to move to a more central location several years ago. The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) had recommended that the Council move its office to Montpelier. The location in the state capital means this statewide organization is more convenient to board members, donors, legislators, volunteers, and program participants.

With Montpelier home to many VHC partners and other nonprofits and state agencies, the Council’s liaison with these organizations has been enhanced. Increased visibility in Montpelier has raised public awareness and the understanding of VHC programs and the humanities. And access to the interstate means that the rest of the state can more easily get to VHC and vice versa.

The center has space for a variety of VHC programs, volunteer trainings, and meetings. In addition to holding its own literacy trainings, board meetings, and other gatherings that previously would have taken place in rented space, the building offers meeting space for the community.

One additional requirement for a new building was a place to store books—more than 30,000 that VHC stores for its reading and discussion programs.

The Victorian Italianate building is close to Montpelier’s center, just two blocks behind the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. Built as a residence prior to 1873 for a prominent merchant, George W. Scott, the building has been used as an office since the early 1970s.

VHC restored the building. Floors were refinished, walls repapered, improved lighting installed, and the façade painted. And energy-efficient heating and air systems were installed. And the VHC made the first floor handicapped accessible.

The house is on the National Register of Historic Places and the State Office of Historic Preservation approved and endorsed the renovation. VHC won an award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont for outstanding work preserving Vermont’s architecture.

Each year, VHC provides more than 1,200 programs in 160 Vermont towns in every county in the state. VHC looks forward to building upon its successes and serving the communities and citizens of Vermont in new and compelling ways.

Former Lieutenant Governor Barbara Snelling has identified the relocation to Montpelier as elemental to this success. Says Snelling, “The new Humanities Center in Montpelier will enable the Council to become truly the voice of and the advocate for the humanities in our state.”

Image of pocket doors by CB Johnson.