Bennington Battle Monument to Undergo Multiyear Renovation | True 802 | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Bennington Battle Monument to Undergo Multiyear Renovation

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Published January 16, 2023 at 12:52 p.m.
Updated January 18, 2023 at 1:21 p.m.


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One of the tallest structures in Vermont, the Bennington Battle Monument, is due for an extensive renovation over the next few years.

The 306-foot-tall obelisk was completed in 1891 to commemorate the 1777 Battle of Bennington, which took place across the state line in Walloomsac, N.Y., and resulted in a pivotal victory for colonial forces during the Revolutionary War. The British troops were seeking to capture provisions stored at the Bennington military supply depot, where the monument now stands.

The tower draws thousands of visitors each year, and many more are expected as the nation’s semiquincentennial — the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence — approaches in 2026, generating heightened interest in Revolutionary War history.

Last year, engineers and conservators rappelled down the sides of the limestone tower so they could examine its stone and mortar. Though they determined the building is structurally sound, moisture has corroded an elevator, a metal staircase, lighting and electrical equipment, said Jamie Duggan, director of preservation for the historic sites owned by the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation.

From newspaper reports, Duggan added, it’s clear that the structure has needed close attention for years.

“It was built in the 1890s, and by 1910, people were already noticing it was damp,” he said.

The state plans to repair the elevator, lighting and interior stairs. The work could cost as much as $12 million, Duggan said, noting that consultants are still putting together the details and that the number could change. He expects the work to start next year, and hopes it will be completed by the semiquincentennial.

“This will see a lot of attention and activity, and we certainly want it to be in good shape,” he said.

The monument’s elevator and metal stairs take visitors to an observation deck about 208 feet up; other stairs and ladders continue to the very top, where aviation lights are replaced each year. Duggan said the division doesn’t expect to refurbish the stairs for public use; anyone who wants to view Vermont and New York from the deck will have to take the elevator.

State officials recently learned that the monument is likely the second-tallest unreinforced masonry structure in the U.S., after the Washington Monument. That 555-foot tower reopened in 2014 after a three-year, $11 million restoration that included 500 tons of scaffolding.

“[The Bennington Battle Monument is] rather unique and not like the typical building in its maintenance needs,” Duggan said. "It's going to take a monumental effort just to scaffold this."

As for its place in Vermont superlatives, the monument, which is set on a hill outside downtown Bennington, is considered the state's "tallest occupiable structure." Wind turbines and communication towers soar even higher.

Decker Towers in Burlington is often listed as the state's tallest building, at 11 stories. But its height, at 124 feet, makes the public housing project on St. Paul Street the shortest of all 50 states' tallest buildings.