VERNON — A mansion, which Vermont’s first Lt. Gov. Jonathan Hunt had constructed for his bride Lavinia Swan in 1779, is being turned into a community center by a group called the Friends of Vernon Center.
However, the Governor Hunt House name is slightly misleading.
“He was never governor,” Martin Langeveld, president of the Friends of Vernon Center Board, said of Hunt on a tour of the building during a public celebration Sunday.
The Friends of Vernon Center’s stated mission is to preserve and care for the historic building, and promote it as a place for gatherings and activities that foster community spirit; the group is nonprofit.
The Governor Hunt House and Community Center will be available for large and small group gatherings inside and outdoors, group meetings, workshops, seminars, lectures, retreats, celebrations, performances, exhibits, art and craft shows, farmers’ markets and more. Spaces also could be rented as private offices or meeting rooms by nonprofit or for-profit entities or individuals.
The building previously belonged to Entergy Corp. The company owned Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station before it was sold to NorthStar, which is decommissioning the plant.
The property was the only remaining one in Vernon owned by Entergy Corp. before it was donated to the Friends of Vernon Center last year.
Langeveld showed a wing added for Vermont Yankee in 1972 around the time the power plant began operating. The space was used for training and sharing information.
Public tours of the plant scheduled at the building came to “a screeching halt” after the terrorist attacks in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, because of security concerns, Langeveld said.
His group cleaned up and repainted the wing. Tables and chairs are available for meetings or events.
Langeveld said his group eventually hopes to add a kitchen that is larger than the one is there now.
What is referred to as the “L connector” of the building contains an office, restrooms and a small library holding books on energy. Woodwork restored under the last owner received praise from tour attendees.
Not many changes came to the historic property over the last approximately 200 years, Langeveld said.
“Here,” he said, “lots and lots of original features are still here.”
He pointed out the pantry and showed the dining room. Bedrooms upstairs were not shown during tours.
A cubbyhole by a fireplace where a baking oven had been would have been used for bread.
“Put it in and let it rise,” Langeveld said.
His group provides history on the house via placards inside.
After Hunt died, his son lived and farmed on the property. He died 10 years later, and the house was sold to William Heard, whose family lived there until 1906.
Heard’s family members were “said to have been ardent abolitionists, giving rise to a legend that the house was a stop of the Underground Railroad, but we have no clear evidence to support that,” states a placard.
The next owners were George K. Stebbins, Clement and Bernice Jennison, Richard W. Steenbruggen, Charles B. Westin and Robert J. Kuhn. Florence Louchheim Stol, the last residential owner who purchased the house in 1947, made it a summer gathering place where prominent people in their fields came to stay.
Stol, “heiress to a Wall Street fortune, came to Brattleboro in the 1930s when she married Paul Osborn, an American playwright and protege of poet Robert Frost,” states the placard. “Together, the couple founded a summer stock theatre in Brattleboro, but the theatre, as well as the marriage, dissolved when Osborn began an affair with one of its leading ladies.”
Around the time Stol died of cancer in 1967, construction began on Vermont Yankee. The builders acquired the house that year to use as construction headquarters.
A website about the project can be found at governorhunt.org.