Bristol board eyes plans for old firehouse

BRISTOL — The old North Street fire station in Bristol could see new life as a mixed-use business space or a museum if either of two proposals by two local men comes to fruition.
At its Oct. 17 meeting, the Bristol selectboard took a first look at proposals for the building, which ended its 119-year run as the community firehouse this past summer when the fire department moved into its new station on West Street.
“I think it’s great that we have two local proposals for the selectboard to consider,” said Town Administrator Therese Kirby, in a follow-up call with the Independent.
John Monks of Vermont Tree Goods has proposed purchasing the station to provide space for his growing business. Monks wrote that he would renovate the historic structure “to the degree that it could become a viable and sustainable property,” with possible uses including “office space, a public use space, and possibly a residential unit in the upstairs.”
Robert Bernstein proposes to restore and maintain the 1897 fire station as a museum of 19th century New England woodworking machinery. Bernstein would draw heavily on his private collection and believes such a museum would bring more visitors to Bristol and “add to Bristol’s presence in the public mind.” As Bernstein describes in his proposal, he’s already initiated discussions with individuals and organizations from the local to the national level to investigate interest in and the feasibility of the idea.
Monks and Bernstein are scheduled to formally present their proposals at the selectboard’s next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Nov. 7.
At this past Monday’s meeting, the selectboard prepared a list of questions that will be forwarded to Monks and Bernstein, so they can better address selectboard concerns when they come before the board.
The town’s call for proposals, which went out in early summer, emphasized that potential purchasers would need to be committed to maintaining and preserving the building’s historical integrity. At a June meeting, Selectman John “Peeker” Heffernan had emphasized that the selectboard was looking to see “who’s going to give us the best end product — not necessarily the most money, but the best end product.”
The selectboard expects to choose a purchaser after the Nov. 7 presentations.
The cost of updating the 1897 fire station has been estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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