Panel will tell story of Manchester’s historic depot
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | March 15,2013
MANCHESTER — The Manchester Historical Society is planning to add another interpretive panel in town, which members hope will attract more tourists to an area of Manchester that has a group of buildings that are all more than 120 years old.
Dick Smith, president of the historical society, brought a draft version of the panel to the Select Board meeting Tuesday to give board members an idea of what it might look like.
As one of the commercial centers of Manchester, the depot developed around a railroad depot that served the Western Vermont Railroad after it came to town in 1852. Many businesses were built around the access to the rail line but private homes were also built in the area later in the 1800s which “established the depot’s characteristic mix of small commercial and comfortable residential buildings,” according to the text planned for the panel.
Smith said members of the historical society began to plan the 2-foot by 3-foot panel, which they hope to see installed this summer, after learning in December that the Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership, which supports tourism in the Lake Champlain basin area, had grants available.
The partnership already supported a panel that is now located at the Factory Point Green, one of the town’s municipal parks, which is located in an area that was once home to a number of factories.
The panel, which is expected to be installed in the area near Al Ducci’s Italian Pantry, will not need any taxpayer funding because its cost will be borne by the partnership and the historical society, Smith said. However, he said he was coming to the Select Board for permission to place the panel on town property and to request comment on the text which he called “purely first draft.”
Smith said after it was revised, the Select Board would see the proposed version of the panel before it was finalized.
“What we’re trying to do is tell the story of the depot and install it on an interpretative panel,” he said.
The depot still exists on land leased by r.k. Miles, a building and lumber supply store on Depot Street.
Smith pointed out that the depot allowed Manchester to be part of Vermont’s marble industry. From that depot, W.H. Fullerton sent out more than 70,000 marble tombstones to be used for the graves of Union soldiers during the Civil War.
That connection allowed the historical society to get some funding because the Champlain Valley program was looking for historical sites that had a Civil War connection.
Smith said he thought the panel would attract tourists. They’re likely to be in the area anyway because Manchester sits at the junction of two of Vermont’s byways, the Stone Valley byway and the Shires of Vermont byway.
“What we’re trying to do is make that area an attraction. All of this is on the Lake Champlain website, which is the Lake Champlain basin over in New York state and Canada, so hopefully it brings tourists here. Hopefully when you come and read this, look around, there’s now a historic marker on the corner here,” he said.
In that area, there are seven buildings in a row, which the panel will face, that are more than 120 years old, Smith said.
While the Select Board did not take a vote, they agreed by consensus that they supported the panel. Members, including Chairman Ivan Beattie, who said he thought it was “awesome,” spent several minutes reminiscing about the depot’s past during the meeting.
“The depot has always been such an interesting part of Manchester,” Beattie said.