Undeterred by Vandalism, Couple Strives to Beautify Burlington | Arts News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Undeterred by Vandalism, Couple Strives to Beautify Burlington

State of the Arts


Published August 20, 2008 at 5:04 a.m.

A neighbor tests the wall - MATTHEW THORSEN
  • Matthew Thorsen
  • A neighbor tests the wall

Burlington stonemason Cubby Smith was none too pleased to find his hand-built wall at 110 Main Street destroyed earlier this month. “That was disgusting,” he says, shaking his head. “It looked like a bomb hit it.” Smith estimates he lost “about a week and a half” of work.

The site he’s talking about is a courtyard at the so-called “BrickBox” building, owned by architect Bren Alvarez and her builder-contractor husband David Farrington. Smith, 65, has been friends with Farrington’s father, also named Dave, since they “played ball together” at Burlington High School. Lately he’s been helping out “Junior” by erecting handsome, seat-height walls around the perimeter of the shaded courtyard set back from the street. The materials: Pennsylvania black ledge stone for the stacks and a lilac stone for the capstones, Smith says.

The vandals, he surmises, must have been pretty strong: Heavy stones were not just pushed over but hurled around the site — though not through the windows of adjacent businesses. All but one section of the wall was damaged (mortar isn’t added until the end). The vandals may also have been inebriated and/or stoned — evidence of both practices was found, says Alvarez, who adds that she frequently finds people sleeping at the site in the morning.

The completion of the project — which is imminent — could discourage both habits. It’s too bad, laments Smith, that “no one took a ‘before’ picture.” A sculpture placed at the site now seems to be keeping watch. Smith has rebuilt the walls, Farrington Construction has lined the courtyard and walkways with pavers, and subtle security lighting will soon follow, as will plantings compatible with Vermont’s climate, says Alvarez.

She and Farrington are establishing a reputation for outstanding urban restoration in Burlington. The couple, who renovated the complex at 208 Flynn Avenue — and founded the Flynndog gallery — almost a decade ago, also recently refurbished the Leavenworth Block at the corner of College and South Winooski Avenue, and they are currently working on the Nectar’s building on Main Street. “These are good people,” says Smith approvingly. “They do good work.”