Assisting the worthy mission of The St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center
To The Editor:
St. Johnsbury author and historian Peggy Pearl (St. Johnsbury Academy Class of 1965), the director of The St. Johnsbury History & Heritage Center ("St.J. HHC") (http://stjhistory.org/ - a non-profit organization with 501(c)(3) tax status), in recent years has undertaken the Herculean task of attempting to obtain suitable quarters for the many historical St. Johnsbury artifacts, newspaper articles, and photographs housed for decades at The Fairbanks Museum. Given a change in institutional focus at the museum and the need for available space therein, those precious St. J. historical collections need to be saved for the cultural, educational, and historical benefit of the future generations of town and area Northeast Kingdom residents (not to mention for the edification of the many tourist visitors to beautiful home town over the course of each year).
Last year, the Board of Directors of St. J. HHC failed in the attempt to locate the center at the former St. Johnsbury Armory due to the prohibitive costs of various environmental issues in order for the Armory to be a useable facility. In fall 2013, the opportunity to purchase the existing house (and former Primmer & Piper law office) at 421 Summer Street in St. Johnsbury - only three doors south down from the temporary center St. J. HHC in the basement of the former Summer Street School - surfaced as a potential property purchase for the establishment of the permanent St.J. HHC. Soon thereafter, Peggy Pearl announced the establishment of a 250 Club, wherein two hundred and fifty individuals, families, business concerns, or other consortiums are being sought out for donations of $1,000 (fully tax exempted) to go towards the purchase of the 421 Summer Street home. This location will provide the space needed for archival research, storage, and easy access to the nearby Fairbanks Museum and St. Johnsbury Athenaeum.
The purchase window, however, will close in late March 2014. My letter is addressed to both St. Johnsbury residents (my hometown and where I lived from 1960 to 1978) and those of us who have relocated to other parts of the country or abroad. Our hometown will be greatly enhanced by the securing of a permanent home for St. J. HHC. Donors should recognize this enterprise is under the capable direction of Peggy Pearl and the board of directors, all of whom, like Peggy, have long and deep ties to our town. While the need for the large donations of $1,000 to the home purchase fund remains the most immediate need for the center, donations of any amount are always welcome. A review of the St.J. HHC website will give potential donors a wonderful taste of the diverse and rich history of St. Johnsbury. The St. J. HHC mission statement reads in part, the center serves to be: "The gateway to preserve, educate, and celebrate our town's historic legacy as a nonprofit organization [that] acquires and preserves historic collections and conducts purposeful education programs that interpret the rich heritage of St. Johnsbury, Vermont."
Kudos are in order for Peggy Pearl for undertaking this most worthy mission of town historical preservation. I hope that many former residents of St. Johnsbury from outside of Vermont will be able to financially assist in some way for this great endeavor to come to fruition (information on electronic and mail contributions are located on the website). The historical legacy of St. Johnsbury deserves no less than our best efforts of time, talent, and treasure for today and for posterity.
Christopher E. Ryan