Ribbon cut for $3 million Holton Hall upgrade

Tuesday December 11, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Finally, Holton Hall is both a modern office building and a symbol of the Austine School for the Deaf's rich history.

Administrators, staff and students gathered Monday to celebrate the end of a $3 million renovation that was spread over a decade.

The century-old building "maintains our history but also gives us a fresh new foundation," said Bert Carter, president of the Vermont Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Inc.

The center encompasses the Austine School and other programs at its Brattleboro campus. But at one point, Holton Hall was the only structure on that site.

"Originally, everything for the school was housed in this one building," Carter said.

The fourth-floor room where Monday's event was held once served as a gymnasium; The hardwood floor remains, and Carter pointed out that there had been basketball hoops on either side.

But a decade ago, Holton Hall had fallen into disrepair and "needed a lot of work just to bring it up to code," Carter said.

"There were a lot of challenges," he said. "I have to say the architect did a phenomenal job with maintaining the integrity of the building."

The availability of funding played a role in the project's schedule. Eventually, the state contributed the full $3 million needed to finish the job.

Gov. Peter Shumlin attended Monday's ceremony.

"We know that we should be judged by how well we educate every one of our children," Shumlin said, adding that the successful renovation is "a reflection of our commitment to ensure that we keep Austine strong."

In addition to pointing out those in state leadership who had played a role in the project, Shumlin also gave credit to the lobbying of Austine's staff, alumni, students and their parents.

"Thank you for your great advocacy," he said.

Holton Hall now hosts a number of the center's offices including administration, business and admissions as well as programs such as an audiology clinic, the Vermont Interpreter Referral Service and the ACCESS program for deaf adults.

Prior to the Holton renovation, those offices and others were spread across the campus, were more difficult to administer and did not have enough space, Carter said.

In addition to offices, there is a heritage museum on Holton Hall's third floor that pays tribute to the Austine School's history.

Also, Holton Hall now has space to rent for community use, Carter said.

Tom Sonneborn, the center's board chairman, said administrators "have done a remarkable job in making this happen."

"There's a lot of history here," Sonneborn said. "And it's a real morale booster for everybody who uses it."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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