Community Forum: Fond memories of building to linger

My involvement in Middlebury town government began at age 5, as I sat on my father’s lap in the town manager’s office. My dad, Harold Caul, was fire chief, and every Saturday morning he met with then Town Manager Richard Emerick to discuss fire department business. The town offices at that time were in the basement of the building that is now the Town Hall Theater. In fact, my father was the fire chief at the time the old high school burned in 1954, so I kind of feel it was his fault for doing such a good job at saving enough of the building that it would later became the town offices.
When I joined the town staff in November of 1972 as assistant town clerk, the building was not just town offices, but also home to the visiting nurses (now Home Health) in what is now the Selectboard Conference Room, and some of the Counseling Service of Addison County offices. The superintendent of schools was in what is now Planning and Zoning and the small conference room, and at one time attorney Phyllis Armstrong had her offices in the corner that was the old Recreation Office. Addison County Community Action Group (now HOPE) began its early years under the direction of Tom Plumb in the basement under the gymnasium and Addison County Community Trust was in the lower level of the main building.
The Middlebury Police Department, a part of town services, was located in a couple of different locations in the old building before moving around 15 years ago to their current headquarters, but their last location was the basement.
The Russ Sholes Senior Center in the lower gym level was very active in its day, but became less so over the last few years. It has been hosting weekly lunches however, as well as health clinics for seniors. The weekly senior lunches have now moved to the new Middlebury Recreation Center on Creek Road. The newest tenants to move in were Addison Central Teens (ACT) and the Teen Center. They will be moving to a building at the Recreation Park off Mary Hogan Drive. My apologies to any tenants I might have missed.
This old building, built in 1911 as Middlebury High School, is one of those places that you wonder, “If these walls could talk … what would they say?” Think of the many students who roamed the halls and sat in class during its glory years as a high school. Both my dad and mom graduated from there — my dad in 1928 and my mom in 1932. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard stories from former students that come to the town offices now and say, “This room was my French class” or “That was my homeroom.” Remnants of those old rooms still remain — the built-in cupboards from the nurse’s office are still in Planning and Zoning, and the window in the hallway to the Town Clerk’s Office was the old bookstore.
The last day the Middlebury Municipal Building will be open is next Tuesday, March 22. Starting the 23rd we get busy sorting, tossing and packing. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around how this will all happen, but one way or the other it has to. Ready or not, we open in the new building April 4.
In June this tired old building will come down, but it’s time. It hit me a week or so ago that I’ve been in that building probably longer than anyone, having started in 1972 — nearly 44 years ago — so maybe it means more to me than some.
While I’m really looking forward to my bright, sunny new office overlooking Cross Street Bridge, it’s also a little melancholy to leave my “home” for so many years. We’re all thankful and grateful to have this wonderful new office building to move into, but it wouldn’t be right to move on to the new without taking time to honor the old. It has served its purpose well, and holds many wonderful memories for many. Maybe you went to high school there, worked there over the years in the many offices that have come and gone, enjoyed the lunches at the Russ Sholes Center or were a participant in some of the many activities over the years in the gymnasium. Whatever you remember, the building may disappear, but the memories are still there and they’ll never be gone.

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