Construction at the Courthouse

court constructionST. JOHNSBURY - With winter's bone-chilling cold just around the corner, Vermont's construction season will soon be coming to an end. In addition to seemingly endless roadwork in the town, the Caledonia County Courthouse is receiving major structural upgrades.


According to Kevin Keith, the project superintendent, the town noticed that the courthouse was sloping towards the north side of the building. This prompted the renovation efforts, which included completely re-constructing the foundation, and adding high-tension cables to keep the structure in place.

"What we're doing is removing the stone foundation in little pieces, and replacing it with concrete", said Keith.

Built in 1856, the Courthouse has served the county for over 150 years. The lot where the courthouse was placed on top of an old cemetary, so the bodies had to be removed. Some, however, were left behind.

"When people didn't have a relative or anything, their body wasn't exhumed", said Keith.

When the project was started, the expectation of finding several gravesites was on the minds of the construction workers. Instead of going through legal proceedings with the police each time they found a coffin or burial shaft, a team of qualified UVM archaologists was brought in to assist in their removal.

According to the Vermont Secretary of State, when finsing an unmarked grave, it must "Be reported immediately to a law enforcement agency. If, after completion of an investigation, the law enforcement agency determines that the burial site does not constitute evidence of a crime, the law enforcement agency must immediately notify the state archeologist who may authorize appropriate action regarding the unmarked burial site.

Keith says that since they knowthe site was an old graveyard with the potential for a few bodies, they can forego the investigation and go straight to the UVM archaeology department.

"We dig down to a certain point, and if we find a shaft, they kind of take over from there", said Keith. "We've found two so far."

The new foundation will be holding stong for decades to come. "A lot longer than I'm going to be around", adds Keith.

Work is ongoing on the north face of the building, which was the worst at the onset of the build. Tentitavely, the construction will wrap up in November. The offices and other rooms will be moved back from their temporary locatons in the addition currently behind the courthouse.


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