Bidding opens for historic Redstone property

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff File Photo The historic Redstone building in Montpelier is being auctioned off by the state.

MONTPELIER — Bidding has opened for Redstone, arguably the most palatial and elegant residence in the Capital City, and state officials hope its sale price will reach or exceed its $1 million appraised value.  Redstone is the grand old dame of the city, designed by Vermont’s most famous architect and once home to the rich and famous, followed by the Vermont State Police and state government.  Today, Redstone stands empty and silent, awaiting a buyer. Proceeds from the sale will be plowed back into the Department of Buildings and General Services for use on state building maintenance projects over $5,000, and must be expended within two years, said BGS Commissioner Chris Cole.  The request for bids for Redstone opened April 6 and will close May 4. Commissioner Cole is expected to announce whether he accepts the top bid May 11.  The property will only be open for inspection Friday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. and other requests to view the property will not be allowed, said Marc O'Grady, director of planning and property management for BGS.  "We want it to be a level playing field," he said.  The residence — named for the red sandstone and brick materials used in its construction in 1891 — sits on 10.5 acres on Terrace Street, west of the State House.   It was designed by George Guernsey, a native of Calais who designed dozens of other Vermont buildings, including Capital City landmarks such as St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church on Barre Street, the Blanchard and French blocks on Main Street, and the State Street home of Edward Dewey, whose family founded National Life Insurance Company.  Guernsey built an unusual home in a city otherwise graced with more familiar classical Italianate, Georgian and Victorian homes. Redstone is distinguished by a Gothic mix of Bavarian hunting lodge, Queen Anne, Romanesque and shingle styles. External features include a wraparound porch, a large conical tower and a high asymmetrical roof. The interior features oak paneling, birch and maple floors, ornate fireplaces and oriel windows. The grounds feature a planned forest, terraced hillside, carriage roads, walking paths and an impressive gate.  Redstone was commissioned by John Burgess, a Tennessee man who fought for the Union in the Civil War and founded the first school of political science at Columbia University.  Burgess’ first wife died in 1884, and shortly after he traveled to Montpelier to meet with his friend, Thomas Waterman Wood. Wood, the famous American painter, lived in another noted Montpelier building located on Northfield Street, Athenwood, Wood’s summer home known as the “Gingerbread House.”  While in Montpelier, Burgess met and married Ruth Jewett, who studied art with Wood. Inspiration from the architecture of Europe during their travels led to the design of Redstone on land provided by the Jewett family.  Redstone is also reputedly haunted by the ghost of Ruth Burgess, with reports that lights in the building would turn on at night and electronic equipment would not work in certain rooms long after the Burgess family sold the home in 1911.  The building served as the home of the Vermont State Police from 1947-84, and the secretary of state’s office, which subsequently moved to the former Dewey home on State Street. Most recently, Redstone was the temporary home of the state workers from the Department of Mental Health in Waterbury who were displaced by Tropical Storm Irene, and the basement vault was used by the state curator for storage.  David Schutz, curator of state buildings, said anyone buying the building would have to honor specific criteria identified in a historic preservation review and archaeological survey by a team of UVM consulting archaeologists and the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.  Last year, a local ad-hoc group, Jump 'n' Splash, petitioned the city to buy the property to build a proposed $10 million fitness center with an indoor pool that might also double as a satellite senior center. The city declined the request because of the costs of renovating the building and the additional construction costs for the fitness and senior centers.  Bids for the property must include a check up front for 1 percent of the proposed purchase price, and the winning bidder will have 45 days or any approved extensions to execute a purchase and sales agreement, while also providing a 10 percent deposit of the purchase price.  The state reserves the right to reject any and all offers. If the winning bidder fails to execute a purchase and sales agreement or fails to close on the property, the state reserves the right to award the property to next highest bidder or void the entire bid process and put the property out to bid again.  O'Grady said the state could void the process if bids do not satisfy the state's belief in the sale value of the building. It might also be listed with a real estate broker, he added.  "We don't want to give the building away. We want good exposure and we want a fair price for it," O'Grady added.  To learn more about the bid notice, visit www.bgs.vermont.gov/property-management/sale/26terrace.  stephen.mills@timesargus.com 

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