By CYRUS LEVESQUE
STARKSBORO — A nonprofit dedicated to preserving and promoting Vermont-made music hopes to revitalize the site of a former creamery that was once the hub of a lot of activity in Starkboro.
The Big Heavy World Foundation last month received the Green Mountain Cold Springs Creamery property, about one acre of land, as a donation from Saputo, a Montreal-based dairy company.
Jim Lockridge, director of Big Heavy World, said the Burlington-based nonprofit hopes to use the property in conjunction with a climate-controlled archive for the organization’s library of more than 3,000 recordings that will be built in the former L.S. Gordon Store, which sits on a neighboring lot.
“What we have here is an opportunity, not just for ourselves, but for the whole community,” Lockridge said.
The land donated by Saputo in April is off Route 116 on the north side of the Starksboro village adjoining the former general store, which Big Heavy World acquired a few years back. The organization has been working in bit and piece to renovate and restore the building, which has been a private home since at least the 1960s. The Saputo donation will give the nonprofit not only more space to work with if it needs a septic system, but space to build a commuter parking lot that could be used as a park-and-ride.
Officials said the old creamery, which survives only as a stone foundation, is the inspiration to create a park with interpretive signage describing the historical stories of industry and agriculture in the Starksboro village center.
The Green Mountain Cold Springs Creamery was built on the site over a hundred years ago. Opened in 1898, it gave local farmers a way to sell fluid milk instead of making butter or cheese at home, according to Elsa Gilbertson, a project director for the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation and a Starksboro resident.
“From then on, all the local farmers had a place to sell their milk. The creamery was very important to the local economy,” Gilbertson said.
Gilbertson said that until 1963, farmers would delivery milk to the creamery themselves, making it a hub of activity for local life. That year new laws on food safety forced the creamery to start using tanker trucks to pick up milk from the farms, so the creamery was still a major business but no longer was a community center. It closed for business in the 1980s.
The Green Mountain Cold Springs Creamery property sits on a stone ledge overlooking the oldest homestead in the village and an agricultural valley that’s been farmed for more than 200 years. The L.S. Gordon Store, a general store, was constructed in 1907.
Lockridge said it would be several years before the organization could finish its work on the store and the creamery; Big Heavy World, a nonprofit group staffed by volunteers, must seek donations and grants to turn the old general store into a modern storage facility and build a parking lot. He thought the foundation would be able to start with some of the renovation work as early as 2009.
Big Heavy World approached Saputo about the donation, since it was next to the general store. “They made a decision to put it to some good use rather than none at all,” Lockridge said. The gift was facilitated by the Vermont Historical Society and Lisman, Webster and Leckerling P.C. Site planning is being aided by the Addison County Regional Planning Commission, Freeman French Freeman, and architectural students at Norwich University.
When a park-and-ride is created, it would offer a way to carpool up the road from Starksboro to Chittenden County, but would probably only have about 10 spaces. “Parking isn’t nearly going to be the dominant feature,” Lockridge said.
In addition to keeping a library of Vermont music of all types, Big Heavy World also helps publicize appearance by Vermont bands, and publishes compilation CDs by local artists.
While Vermont’s musical culture is Big Heavy World’s main priority, the group also hopes to restore the general store and creamery to their historic conditions. Area residents will have a chance to see what they have planned at a Starksboro Historical Society potluck on Sept. 7, which will include a tour of the old general store.
“We’re not so narrowly focused on music that we leave out the context of the music,” Lockridge said. “What we have in Starksboro is a really beautiful, historic setting.”