The wonders of St. Albans

ST. ALBANS TOWN — Only in St. Albans would a giant snowman, two funeral homes and a state senator find themselves on the same list. This year, all four qualified as wonders of St. Albans, according to the sixth grade class of the St. Albans Town Educational Center (SATEC).

For the past four months, students have been scouring both the city and town for history on some of the biggest moments, events, and landmarks in St. Albans history. It was all part of a semester-long project masterminded by The Champ Community Learning teacher Laurie Ely.

Students started off the semester reading  The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney.  The book tells the story of a boy who set out to find the seven wonders of his own small community. After reading the story, Ely then challenged her own students to do the same.

According to Ely, this project combines both literature and history to teach students not only the value of the past, but also the importance of community.

“For the last eight weeks they have been investigating and going around the town and the city trying to find out what they think is wonderful about St. Albans,” Ely explained. “Each child then wrote their own back story explaining why they believe it’s a wonder.”

The wonders could be historical or current events, figures, landmarks or people, though most of the students chose historical wonders. Of the 44 students, the creation of the world’s largest snowman by Bellows Free Academy students back in 1982 was the most popular of the wonders. The snowman, named Abraham, was 42 feet high.

Hard’ack Recreation area, and Aldis Hill, was another popular wonder. Many students were impressed by Lawrence Brainerd, who shot a large grey wolf on this hill back in 1839, and the Brainerd Monument that was built in remembrance of the event.

“I pass that spot everyday and thought the story was very cool and inspiring,” sixth grader Ella said when presenting the Brainerd Monument.

Another student, Julia, had an impressive display of seven wonders. Each student was required to build at least one 3D model of a wonder, but Julia created several. Among her list was a construction of the old school building on Fairfield Street.

“Every day I drive by it on my way to this school, and I always wondered about it,” Julia explained. “We have a teacher here that actually went to that school, and I was able to learn first hand about what the school looked like and what the learning process was like.”

Julia even had a display of some of that teacher’s favorite books back in the sixth grade.

One student, Ella, has a father who works at Kevin Smith Sports Connection, a St. Albans business that has become a bit of a downtown landmark. She was inspired to create a model of the building as the business makes some changes. Ella also told the story of Hotel Kelley, a three story, 34-room property that once featured a restaurant and a lounge complete with a banquet hall. In 1986, the Smith’s bought the property and turned it into the familiar site it is now. Ella’s rendition showcased both the current and historic version of the building.

Other interesting wonders included an 11-foot tall sundae created in 1983, the historic Welden Theatre and the two funeral homes, Heald’s and Brady & Levesque, both of which are celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.

The student’s four-month long project culminated into a presentation this Wednesday night in the SATEC’s library. Parents, teachers and community members were invited to come interview the students, observe their work and admire what makes St. Albans truly wonderful.

“These students have been working so hard and so long on this,” Ely told the Messenger. “They have a lot to be proud of.”

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