ROCKINGHAM -- A new official roadside historic marker has replaced an outdated one at the Rockingham Meeting House thanks to a joint effort between the Rockingham Historical Commission and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.
The new marker, celebrating the National Historic Landmark along Route 103, has been erected and was cast with revised text. John Dumville, the historic sites operations chief for the state's division for historic preservation, told the Reformer he was first contacted by Rockingham Certified Government Coordinator Christy Hotaling about getting a replacement marker.
Dumville, who has worked in historic sites operations for about 30 years, said anyone can fill out a formal application for an historic marker or a replacement one. He said the old marker was crooked and weathered and the text was slightly altered before the replacement was installed once all Dig Safe permits were obtained. Dumville said it is much easier to have new markers cast than an old one properly refurbished.
"The Rockingham Meeting House stands out as remarkable but the text will make people aware of what makes it remarkable, both locals and tourists," he said.
Built in 1787, the Rockingham Meeting House remains an example of New England colonial architecture and is the oldest intact public building remaining in Vermont. It was used for nearly a 100 years as both a place of religious worship and for Town Meetings. It was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 2000 and is now owned and maintained by Rockingham.
Rockingham Development Director Francis "Dutch" Walsh said he and Hotaling looked at the original marker, which had stood there for at least 40 years, and decided it was outdated and needed to be changed. He said the intention is to draw more attention to what he called the most intact 18th century building in Vermont.
The Meeting House is open for community events and welcomes visitors seven days a week from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
The Vermont Legislature created the Vermont Historic Sites Commission in 1947 and tasked it with several duties, including acquiring, preserving, and developing historic sites for the use of the public (such as the birthplace of Calvin Coolidge and the Revolutionary War Battlefield at Hubbardton) and designating and marking historic buildings and sites with appropriate markers.
The Commission -- now the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation -- has since erected at least 170 official roadside historic site markers across the state.
Dumville said the Vermont Legislature allots $15,000 for historic markers every year and each marker costs about $1,500. He said the program is quite popular because Vermonters are very proud of their history.
"We like it because often we drive by a building and know its historic but don't know much about it," he said.
Dumville said a site must have state or federal significance to get a marker. He said the Rockingham Meeting House has federal significance because of its age, setting, scenic condition and state of repair.
One Rockingham Selectboard meeting is held at the Meeting House each August and the opening performance of the 14th Annual Roots on the River Festival is scheduled to take place there in June. It is slated to be painted this summer, Walsh said.
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