Milton girls lead charge to save historic house

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(Host) There’s history in an old run-down house along a busy highway in Milton.

As VPR’s Steve Zind reports, that history was neglected until a group of Milton schoolgirls decided to take matters into their own hands.

(Zind) The unpainted and boarded up house along Route 7 in Milton looks like an aging eyesore that’s slowly submitting to the ravages of time.

But Matt Cyr knew the house had a history. It had once been the home of Civil War General George Stannard.

Stannard distinguished himself at Gettysburg and other battles and became the most important Vermont figure of the Civil War.

Cyr says one day he was driving by the house with his daughter, August.

(Cyr) “I said, ‘that’s kind of sad that house is falling down.’ Next thing I know, August came home the next day and says,’ you know that house we’re talking about? We’re trying to save it’.”

(Zind) Eleven-year-old August Cyr recruited friends Alison Joseph, Mae Kemsley and Sarah Picard. They began a campaign to save the house, which at one point was slated to be burned by the fire department.

Alison Joseph says along the way the girls learned a lot about General Stannard and about the Civil War.

(Joseph) “I knew a bit about the Civil War, but I hadn’t really loved it but now we’re Civil War fanatics.”

(Zind) The group has raised money and recruited a number of allies in their effort including parents, teachers, the Milton Historical Society and author and Civil War historian Howard Coffin.

(Coffin) “I don’t know of an instance where people this age have led the charge to preserve a Civil War site.”

(Zind) Coffin says Stannard owned a number of houses, but none has been preserved. Stannard lived in the Milton house for a short time after the Civil War.

(Coffin) “It would be a wonderful thing to preserve this house.”

(Zind) The four girls agree. They’ve been collecting money as part of what they call the “Raise the Roof Campaign”

The Greater Burlington Industrial Corporation has also gotten involved. They own the land the house sits on. GBIC is planning to apply for a grant to help fund the project.

The girls say there’s also been a great deal of community support for the project.

“People say bad things about Milton and it kind of gives us a little more about the history of Milton.”

“It’s definitely worth doing this because we need to memorialize people that fought for our freedom and our rights in wars, and he really deserves it because he was one of our Vermont heroes.”

(Zind) The four girls have never been inside the Stannard house.

That’s because there’s lead paint on the walls.

Once that’s been removed they’re looking forward to finally stepping inside the house occupied by one of Milton’s most famous residents.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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