By Fred Thys/VTDigger
The Vermont Marble Museum, which bills itself as the world’s largest marble exhibit, will be able to remain in its historic building in Proctor under a deal between the Preservation Trust of Vermont and ZION Growers, a hemp company.
“It’s a big deal,” said Ben Doyle, president of the Preservation Trust of Vermont. “It’s a great chance to preserve this incredible piece of Vermont’s history.”
The Vermont Marble Museum, which has been closed for the last two years, is housed in the former factory of one of the most notable companies in Vermont history, the Vermont Marble Company.
The preservation trust bought the building in 2012 to stave off the piecemeal sale of the structure and collections. It’s been trying to find a buyer ever since, in hopes of preserving the building and museum.
ZION Growers will use much of the building to process locally grown hemp into fiber for paper, textiles and building materials.
“The emerging industrial hemp market is an opportunity for Vermont,” said ZION CEO Brandon McFarlane in a news release. “The fact that this opportunity can be realized while honoring the industrial heritage of the site is why we are excited to work with the Preservation Trust of Vermont, the town of Proctor, and regional economic development partners.”
Under the sale agreement, Doyle said ZION Growers commits to preserving the historic integrity of the building. He said ZION is taking on 82,000 square feet of a larger complex of buildings at 52 Main Street. The Preservation Trust of Vermont will continue to own the collections of the museum and, under the agreement with ZION Growers, has a 99-year lease.
The Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region is working with ZION Growers to identify other businesses that might be interested in relocating to the site.
Doyle said 1,000 people once worked at the factory, which at the time belonged to the largest marble company in the world. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, and many of the gravestones there, were made of marble fashioned at the factory. So were parts of the Supreme Court and the Jefferson Memorial, in Washington, D.C.
“Without people actually working at the building, there’s a real fear the building could just (deteriorate),” Doyle said.
The deal required the Preservation Trust of Vermont to remediate a brownfield, and the integrity of the building had to be maintained with a historic preservation easement with the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
Proctor’s Town Manager, Michael Ramsey, welcomed the sale. “The Town is very happy to see more activity at 52 Main,” Ramsey said in a statement. “Combining the history of the site with new industry is a win-win for Proctor.”