Chamber facelift brings praise

Mural highlights project

By Tom Benton

Staff Writer

Just
The Facts

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SWANTON — When Chamber President Suzanne Washburn said the Chamber of Commerce building needed a fix-up, Vice President Mark Rocheleau and village trustee Adam Paxman were on board — on one condition: they had to be working for an audience. There had to be people to see the work they’d done.

Last night, that condition was met. More than a dozen people turned out on a cool, sunny Wednesday evening to celebrate the opening of the refurbished Chamber of Commerce building on Merchants Row.

Outside, a pot of flowers donated by the Swanton Enhancement Project welcomes visitors. Inside, the building sports new flooring, covered in new carpet; freshly painted walls; new brochures and a historical display, showcasing old photographs and local trinkets.

The building had not been refurbished in more than 20 years prior to these efforts, which Washburn describes as “an internal facelift.”

“We had slats all across the back of the wall,” Washburn said. “We had hundreds of outdated brochures, from people across the state. Those slats had to be removed. The walls had to be patched. The lights were fluorescent — they were a really dull, off-white color. The carpet was really disgusting.”

When refurbishing efforts began at the end of March, Washburn gave Rocheleau and Paxman free range to refurbish whatever they wished.

She only had two requests.  “I want to pick out the color of the walls,” she said, “and I want to rip up the carpet.”

The same day Washburn had the initial conversation with Rocheleau and Paxman, they notified the Swanton Arts Council of the refurbishing effort. Swanton artists Nicole Gadouas and Scott Rheaume painted a panoramic town mural that now adorns the Chamber’s far wall.

The Chamber building’s “facelift” is one of an ongoing parade of revitalization efforts in Swanton, which began after the Vermont Council on Rural Development’s community visit in January 2015.

While these efforts continue to look toward Swanton’s future, Washburn said the Chamber’s refurbishment also offers a nostalgic glimpse of Swanton’s past.

“A simple little thing like getting the community together, celebrating the mural on the wall… it speaks of what this block here was like before,” she said.