Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Plans for old kindergarten building move forward

By Jason Rowe
Journal Inquirer
September 5, 2006

VERNON - The town has hired an architect to look at new uses for the old kindergarten building in Vernon Center.

Using a $16,000 state grant, the town has asked the architectural firm, Schoenhardt Architects of Simsbury, to investigate possible uses and renovation costs for the historic building at the intersection of Center Road and Hartford Turnpike.

The building sits on a town-owned parcel that contains the police station, the new public safety building, and Center Road School.

A number of town historic preservation officials already have met with the architect about the building, Town Administrator Christopher Clark wrote in a memo to Mayor Ellen L. Marmer and Town Council members.

They will meet with the architects again on Sept. 28 to discuss the progress of the feasibility study.

Officials hope to have a report completed within the next few months, said Robert Hurd, a member of the committee looking at the kindergarten building.

"Among the things we've talked about were workshop space for artistic activities, storage space, and display space for artistic and historic exhibits," said Hurd, who heads the town's Historic Properties Commission. "They have begun their study."

One area the architects will have to deal with is accessibility by the handicapped to the building's entrance as well as the upper and lower floors, Hurd said.

Once the architect issues a final report on the building, which was constructed during the 1920s, the town likely would apply for grants to cover engineering costs.

Grants also would be issued for any construction work on the building, Clark wrote.

A special committee Marmer formed in February 2004 has floated several potential uses for a renovated building, including a cultural center, community meeting space, arts center, or a music and theater facility.

The building originally served as a school for poor and homeless youth in Tolland County until the town acquired it in the 1950s.

From then until the mid-1970s the building housed kindergarten students from Center Road School.

And from the mid-1970s until the early 1990s the building was used by the Board of Education for adult education classes.

Today the building is used as storage space for the town.

Despite the building's small size, Hurd said, the facility was relatively advanced for the mid-1920s, big enough for both age-restricted classrooms and assembly spaces.

In addition to securing grant funding, town officials are working toward having the building registered as a local historic property.

Although the building is roughly 80 years old, officials have speculated that it might not be historic enough by New England standards.

Hurd has said that both the building's age and its connection to the now-defunct county system of government would make it a strong candidate for historic status.

The Historic Properties Commission has scheduled a public hearing on a possible historic designation for the building at 7:45 p.m. Sept. 14 in the historical society offices on Hartford Turnpike.

©Journal Inquirer 2006