The Brooks House lights up the downtown area.(Submitted Photo)
The Brooks House lights up the downtown area. (Submitted Photo)

BRATTLEBORO -- As a member of the Brooks House Development team Ben Taggard is acutely aware of all of the work that has been going on behind the scenes in the shuttered Main Street building.

Since the five-member team announced in July that the $23 million project was going to move ahead walls have been coming down, brick, brass and wood work has been completed, and every day the project moved just a little bit forward toward an eventual reopening sometime next year.

Now, with the holidays upon us Taggard said the developers wanted to give the community a small gift, and also remind everybody that behind all the scaffolding and tarps the historic building was coming back to life.

"The Brooks House has been dark for the past two holiday seasons and we are excited to give the community the first visible sign that the Brooks House is coming back, better than it was before," Taggard said. "We look forward to the holidays next year when the building will be active with retail shops, restaurants and the colleges."

The Brooks House was severely damaged in a five-alarm fire on April 17, 2011.

About a year later the former owner, Jonathan Chase announced that he would not have the money to rehabilitate the historic 1871 structure and Taggard and his four partners said they would try to raise the money to bring the building back into service.

It took more than a year to finalize the financing and since July, after Gov. Peter Shumlin ceremoniously knocked down a wall, crews have been rebuilding the Brooks House.

The lights are a permanent display, Taggard said, and they will not be taken down after the holidays.

He says they will be illuminated for special events.

Back in November the developers, and property manager Jayne Wood, decided to install some lighting on the Brooks House for the holidays.

They commissioned Nan Parati, an artist and set designer from Ashfield, Mass. to come up with a theme and create the design for the front of the Brooks House.

She was actually brought in to do the swirl design on the Brooks House which was commissioned by Building a Better Brattleboro, and with all of the scaffolding up at the time, Parati thought it was a great opportunity to also light up the building.

She wanted a modern display that also highlighted the historic elements of the Brooks House.

"Brattleboro is a gorgeous town. I love the historic architecture there," said Parati, who moved to New England from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. "I loved the idea of lighting up the Brooks House and accented the architecture there."

Parati used LED rope lighting, which presented a challenge because the rope can only be cut at certain points.

It was like a puzzle, she said, to sketch out the design and try to figure out how to string the lights.

The work was also done during a cold snap in early December and took about a week-and-a-half.

"It was like trying to retrace a design, without lifting the pencil, on a massive scale, in the cold," she said. "You have to be very precise to honor the straight lines in the architecture. It was a lot of work but I think it looks gorgeous."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer.com; or 802-254-2311, ext. 279. You can follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.