The restored Dot’s Restaurant in Wilmington. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)
The restored Dot's Restaurant in Wilmington. (Kayla Rice/Reformer)

WILMINGTON -- The Preservation Trust of Vermont recently handed out two awards to those involved in the restoration of Dot's Restaurant.

"It's definitely an honor," said John Reagan, owner of Dot's of Wilmington. "We rebuilt for the future, not for us. It's certainly helping downtown recover from the flood. It's nice to be part of the recovery and revitalization of downtown. It's quite an honor."

The restoration project received a Merit Award for Engineering Excellence from the Vermont Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies and a historic preservation award from the Preservation Trust of Vermont. The awards were received at the Preservation and Downtown Conference of the Preservation Trust of Vermont on May 2.

Reagan and his wife, Patty, traveled to Island Pond in Essex County for the conference.

The Preservation Trust assisted Dot's with some funding for the project. Without its help, Reagan said the restaurant would not have returned.

Other entities that were recognized at the conference included the Bellows Falls Middle School, Green Mountain College and the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington.

"It felt good to be up there with the big boys," said Reagan. "It was quite pleasant to be put into that company."

Bob Stevens, of Stevens and Associates, the architectural firm that assisted with designing the rebuild, told the Reformer that it all began as an exercise. The Preservation Trust called his firm, knowing that it had experience with historical building structures and flood proofing.

At first, there was the question of whether Dot's could even be rebuilt.

"It sits right in the streams," said Stevens. "There were challenges. Just for location, it overhangs the (Deerfield) River."

His firm began developing a strategy for the building to be able to withstand floods while complying with FEMA flood standards.

"We started with a strategy of really trying to build what you might consider a water tank with a concrete base to it, to take the impact of the floods and keep water out," said Stevens. "We went through additional evaluations and even though we could build a concrete structure, flood forces would be so strong, we couldn't keep it in place."

The next idea involved putting holes in the floor of the basement. Stevens compared it to having a boat with a hole in the bottom. Without having a pump installed there, water could easily rise to the first floor.

According to Stevens, the building was raised two feet and the old building was taken off the foundation so that the amount of the building's structure possibly submerged by water would be minimal. The concrete in the basement was reinforced. The front of the building was waterproofed. There was an addition put on the rear of the building, where the kitchen is now located.

Stevens' firm also had to produce a design that maintained the building's historic identity. The Reagans received funding through historic tax credits to assist with the expensive cost of rebuilding. Nearly $1 million was spent before the project was complete.

Stevens said his firm hopes the building is nicer and more robust.

"We hope it will there a long time," he added.

Reagan told the Reformer that currently, business is pretty good despite it being mud season.

"We slowed down after winter," he said. "Now we're starting to get people traveling east and west on Route 9, which is always nice."

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.