By Kara Herlihy
The Warren Town Hall and Library renovation yielded a historical artifact recently, with the discovery of a rare 39-star American flag believed to have been manufactured between 1878 and 1890.
Warren Department of Public Works director Barry Simpson shared news of the flag's discovery with members of the Warren Select Board at their March 10 meeting. Simpson said the flag was originally a 38-star flag that had an additional star sewn on separately in anticipation of the Dakota Territory becoming a state.
The flag was never "officially a flag," according to Simpson, because the Dakota Territory became two states (North and South Dakota) instead of the anticipated one state addition. As a result, the official American flag went from 38 stars to 40 stars with the addition of North and South Dakota.
The flag is 20 feet wide by 30 feet long, according to Simpson, and has incurred some damage due to water and mice. The 125-year-old flag has "a huge dollar value," according to Warren Road Foreman Rae Weston, but "will never sell" even though "the town would never want to sell it," he continued.
Select board chair Burt Bauchner said the flag has elicited a large interest and response from townspeople. Bauchner said, "It would be interesting in your research to see how the flag ended up in the Town Hall."
Simpson said he has contacted textile conservators and continues to research the flag and how it ended up in the Warren Town Hall. Simpson also said he plans to share the flag with students at the Warren School on Friday, March 27, as well as a planned open house open to the public at the Warren School on Saturday, March 28. Bauchner urged members of the public not to stop by the Town Hall to view the flag as it is currently a construction zone. He urged the public to wait until March 28.
Simpson updated members of the select board on the ongoing Town Hall and library renovation project. The structural work is complete, according to Simpson; the elevator is installed and working, and the electrical, phone, plumbing, heating system, and computer hookups are also in progress.
Select board members, along with Simpson, discussed the next phase of the renovations, including the reconfiguration of the Warren Town offices. Simpson said the leakage above the listers' area upstairs could be remedied by the extension of the existing roof.
Town Administrator Cindi Hartshorn-Jones added, "The floor upstairs has to be taken care of" due to some possible asbestos and rotting.
Bauchner said that the town has a separate reserve fund of approximately $40,000 for record restoration. The money is controlled by the state, according to Bauchner, but could be used to expand the vault, which is planned for the second phase of the renovation project.
The town plans to solicit comment on the renovation project as well as a call for local bidders via www.warrenvt.org. Plans and drawings will also be made available on the website.