State Government

State grant benefits Chandler Music Hall, gift of Abe Lincoln’s telegraph operator

Chandler Music Hall in Randolph and the Sheldon Museum in Middlebury are among the historic sites receiving 2021 Historic Preservation Grants, the Scott administration announced. The grants, totaling $204,896, were awarded to 13 municipalities and non-profit organizations statewide in eight counties, facilitating the repair and rehabilitation of important historic buildings.

A matching Historic Preservation Grant of $20,000 was awarded to the Town of Randolph to support traditional plaster restoration of the main auditorium at the Chandler Music Hall. This important local entertainment venue was constructed through the philanthropy of Colonel Albert B. Chandler. In 1947, it was deeded to the Town, which considered demolishing the building before a local group spearheaded an ambitious rehabilitation project beginning in 1972. Today the Chandler attracts about 20,000 visitors annually, with musical events, children and youth programming, and art exhibitions.

Chandler Music Hall owes its existence to private philanthropy on a scale that might be difficult to imagine, according to chandler-arts.org. Chandler was a gift of Colonel Albert B. Chandler, a Randolph native, who kept up visits to his hometown of Randolph across his life. As a young man he served as a telegraph operator to Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. 

Albert B. Chandler

After the war, Chandler had a long and prosperous career running telegraph companies.  Upon his retirement Chandler and his wife moved back to Randolph and in 1906 he decided that Randolph needed a public performance space to match its increasing prosperity. Chandler offered to build the hall if the two churches on North Main would combine into one congregation, which they did.  On the site of the leveled church Chandler Music Hall was built and then given by Chandler to Bethany Church.  The church owned and operated it successfully for 25 years, but with the economic downturn of the Great Depression its use declined and for many years it was primarily shuttered, except for the annual Town Meeting Days.

Renovations began in 1972, spearheaded by an ambitious and dedicated group of local actors and singers.  They proceeded slowly, as just bringing the building up to modern code requirements took years of work and fundraising.  Finally though the walls were washed of their grey paint and were restored to the original grand color scheme.  The original stencil pattern was copied and repainted above the wainscotting. The floor was refinished, the orchestra pit was re-discovered and the old railing re-installed. The dressing rooms were modernized with indoor plumbing.

Gradually the austere beauty of Chandler was restored  to the original glory.  What stood after the renovations were complete, was one of the most acoustically-impressive Music Halls in the entire North East, and perhaps the World.

The Henry Sheldon Museum in Middlebury, the Town of Moretown, and the Enosburg Masons received grants supporting restoration, repair, and weatherization of historic windows – important both for the preservation of these historic features as well as the overall energy efficiency of these public buildings. Grants were also awarded to fund structural repairs at the McIndoes Falls Academy in Barnet, historic restoration of the prominent two-story porch at the East Calais General Store, and steeple repairs at the Granville Town Hall.

For a complete list of the projects awarded visit the Division of Historic Preservation website.

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