Monday, September 12, 2011

Springfield celebrating 250 years - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Springfield celebrating 250 years - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-
Springfield, Vermont - June 23, 2011
This summer Springfield is turning 250. And anniversary committee member Marita Johnson is dressing the part to mark the milestone. "Our community just loves local history," Johnson said.
The southern Vermont town first planted roots in August of 1761.
"The river came down to our Black River in the center of town, and there were no houses and no development and in fact the town started up on the hill in the Eurika district," Johnson said.
That soon changed as military families retired here after working along Lake Champlain.
"The military men came back after things had settled down and they built their farms and settled here and raised their families," Johnson said.
For the next 100 hundred years the community along the Black River harnessed the water's power in mills to build a number of things including boxes, dolls and fabric.
"They would rework that fiber and make it available to send it out again to other factories-- hit list for bombing because we were so important because of this machine tool industry," Johnson explained.
In the late 1800s the town switched gears to a heavy focus on building machine parts.
"We were making the machinery that went to other factories to make the equipment for war," Johnson said.
By World War II Hitler had his eye on the town of about 12,000.
"We were number nine on the target on Hitler's hit list for bombing because we were so important with this machine tool industry," Johnson said.
In the 1980s much of the manufacturing along the river moved elsewhere or shut down for good. Now the focus is on the future. The old Fellows gear shaper plant is becoming a mixed-use space as part of a $13 million renovation.
"Hopefully it will be a multitude of things, all of which will sort of help perpetuate the heritage of ingenuity that this community represents," Johnson said.
In all, three old mills are slated to become mixed-use office and commercial space with a new community health center at their core. Bob Flint of Springfield's Regional Development Association says it's an exciting time of change.
"Present day Springfield is trying to transition from what we used to be in terms of being the machine tool capital of the world to whatever we are going to be next in these building that house these former machine tool companies," Flint said.
For this year's birthday the town's roughly 9,000 people are all invited to the party and many are already sharing their hopes for the community's next chapter.
"What's my greatest wish? Is that folks that have financial resources come to our community and make a commitment and invest and believe in Springfield," Flint said.
Believe, just like Marita Johnson who couldn't imagine being anywhere else and believes Springfield has a bright future ahead of her.
"To enjoy our past and our history and build upon that," she said.
Keith McGilvery - WCAX News

Teens help with Springfield celebrations

Springfield, Vermont - June 23, 2011
There are a lot of people in Springfield who are pretty excited about the town's 250th anniversary this summer, and it might surprise you that many of them are teenagers.
Students from Springfield High School are playing a big part in this summer's celebrations. They spent the last year putting together an anniversary display at the Miller Art Center.
The group started with thousands of items that came from all over Springfield. They ended up researching and showcasing a few hundred of their favorites. The collection ranges from period clothing and manufacturing memorabilia to posters marking their school's recent accomplishments on the softball field.
"I hope they gain new insight into how Springfield really is, a lot of people don't know a lot about Springfield so the exhibit will hopefully learn something," said Larry Bolduc, an intern at the Miller Art Center.
"It's exciting to see it all come together, we have been working for a really long time and these are all artifacts that have been here, I have been here for 5 years and to see it all on the walls is great," said Maria Stern, an intern at the Miller Art Center.
This display is just one of dozens of projects, activities and events taking place this summer to mark the milestone.
Keith McGilvery - WCAX News

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