After pursuing this property wholeheartedly for the first few months of the project we have decided to downgrade it from our front runner to a backup plan. The primary reason is an existing heavily discounted purchase option for the conserved forest land by the land trust controlling the conservation easement, which we have confirmed will not be decided on until after the sale. The prospect of paying for 370 acres and only getting 140 is not feasible, financially or in terms of our plans.
Also once known as "The Orchard House" (and the then-larger property, "The Orchards"), this building has a storied history. It was designed by George Oakley Totten Jr. in a distinctive combination of Beaux Arts and Norman Revival styles and built in 1911-14 for businessman Edward Hamlin Everett. In the century since, the building has seen a number of interesting uses. After serving as his home, it has been a novitiate for the Order of the Holy Cross, home to the Oldcastle Theatre Company, part of St. Joseph College, and most recently the liberal arts college we know it as the centerpiece of.
Large common spaces
Natural light, Vintage woodwork
Beautiful internal architecture
In addition to the indoor basketball court and exercise equipment, this building also contains offices, locker rooms, a classroom, and the filtration system for one of the property's wells.
We would likely add a rock climbing wall, aerial rigging, and some other amenities to facilitate physical activities.
Gymnasium and Basketball court
The dorms are three detached structures with eight internally separate sections between them which will serve as the residences and private or semi-private shared spaces for our intentional communities.
Also pictured here are the dining hall which we will use as-is, and the computer lab which will likely be converted into some common functional space.
Dorm living room
The 370 acre campus includes 220 acres of conserved forest land, 50 acres of clear open space, outdoor soccer and baseball fields, and hiking trails. The conserved land climbs up toward the peak of Mount Anthony, while the open space and remainder of the property are flat to gently sloped.
In the past there were significant fruit orchards on the property, which we would likely revive while also engaging in large scale gardening.
Hiking trails and Topography
It is important to us to interact in a friendly fashion with our neighbors, the town of Bennington, and the broader southern Vermont community. To that end, here is an overview of some of the ways we expect those interactions to happen, or that they are already happening.
The Bennington Area Trail System hiking and biking trails on the property will remain open to the public during daylight hours. We are coordinating with BATS and VLT regarding expectations and use patterns of the trails, and will continue to do so.
We will steward the conserved forest land in keeping with the conservation easement and guidance of the Vermont Land Trust, who we are already in contact with.
Some of our internal communities will involve hosting classes around skills and projects that are open for neighbors and visitors to attend and participate in. Although we cannot commit to a specific list at this time, some likely offerings would be carpentry, machining, cooking, yoga, juggling, partner acro, computer programming, gardening, solar power, maple sugaring, rock climbing, and probably others we haven't considered yet.
We would likely be involved at Select Board meetings and in other similar fashion.
The mansion and campus will remain available to be booked for weddings and other events.
The mansion will be maintained in keeping with its designation as a historic building, hopefully with guidance from the Preservation Trust of Vermont who have done so in the past.
Our residents would use local public transit and patronize local businesses.