Waitsfield’s historic General Wait House has been standing as a sentinel at the north end of the village since the 1830s. The homestead of the town’s founder, Revolutionary War General Benjamin Wait, it represents an important part of the town and The Valley’s history and heritage.
In 1995 and in the years leading up to that date, significant volunteer and paid efforts went into securing grants and raising funds to purchase the property and restore it.
Unfortunately, precious little work and funds have gone into upkeep of the historic gem since that time. It has solid tenants who pay their rent, but with the loss of its first-floor anchor tenant, the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce, the property is operating at a loss.
The Waitsfield Historical Society and the town of Waitsfield are in charge of the property. The volunteer-based historical society has no paid staff, operates strictly on donations and has done its best with the resources it has to maintain and improve the building, including working to restore the adjacent dairy building.
There are serious issues facing the property and the town’s investment in it, including safety issues as well as general upkeep. The logical partner to handle this work is the town of Waitsfield.
It’s encouraging that the Waitsfield Select Board is making plans to take up this issue and will include funding in the coming budget to handle some of the ongoing maintenance issues. There’s a clear need for capital funding for major projects and that will require skilled grant-writing and outreach. Luckily Waitsfield has good grant writers on staff and luckily the historical society has good partners within the community to help as well.
We’re fortunate to have a building with such historical significance at the entrance to Waitsfield Village. We’re lucky it was able to become public and we’re lucky it was preserved and restored to the degree that it was.
But there’s work be done. We have a responsibility to ourselves and posterity to make sure we preserve this piece of history. We can’t cite lack of funds as a reason for delaying this work. We can’t afford to let it go further.