Developer Addresses Concerns Over History of Liberty House
The poignant Liberty House building has been a landmark of the Burlington shore of Lake Champlain for nearly a century. Now a renovated apartment building and cornerstone of the new Cambrian Rise community, residents enjoy premium amenities and easy access to both the lake and downtown Burlington. But the building's past holds much more.
As part of Cambrian Rise, Liberty House was purchased in 2013, from the now defunct Burlington College. Before that, it had housed clergy members of the Archdiocese of Burlington, but originally it was St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum.
The history of the building has been fraught, which developer Eric Farrell approached from the beginning. As investigations into the former orphanage that was housed in the structure continue, stories of pain and distress of the adolescents it sheltered are being shared.
Vermont B/A, a publication for architects and builders, spoke to the developer about this particular aspect of the building's renovation. With such a known history, it presented a unique challenge.
"I called [Dee Bright Star,] a woman I'd met," says Farrell, "and I asked her 'Do you want to come in and 'cleanse' the building?' So she did. She went into every corner of every room and cleansed it. It was important to some people to do it. So we did it."
Seven Days interviewed Dee Bright Star, a local Vermont resident of Abenaki heritage. She accepted the invitation of Eric Farrell, and spent an entire day "purging" the former orphanage. "He didn't have to do that," says Bright Star.
The children who once lived at St. Joseph's Orphanage are not forgotten. To remember the orphanage as it was, Farrell commissioned a local artist for a statue to live outside the building. Bronze figures of two young children now pose as they fish, a memorial for the childhoods passed during the property's previous life.
Property managers report that for those residing in the apartments at Liberty House currently, life seems very normal. "It's a peaceful building, with a strong sense of community among the residents," says Whitney Olado. She adds, "At Liberty House, residents are truly neighbors, and organize monthly potlucks and 'wine down' events to help make it their home. It seems everyone feels respect for the space and for each other."
Posted on August 28, 2018 updated on August 29, 2018