Recent visitors to the Windsor Station restaurant in Windsor have taken notice, and folks in the community are curious. That gleaming blue building beyond the tracks seems like it appeared out of nowhere.
The parcel of land it sits on, abutting the restaurant to the north and east, was for decades an unsightly tangle of overgrown weeds and boarded-up railyard structures, all owned by the railroad company—until local architect and Windsor resident Bob Haight purchased it and set to work salvaging as much of its historic character as possible.
“I bought this because somebody had to,” he says, and because it was another puzzle piece in a much larger plan for Windsor’s downtown revitalization, in which Haight has played an active role since he moved here in the 1990s.
A few years later, seeing how cleaned up the property is now, where grass and flowers grow and a walking path moves past sculptures by local artist Herb Ferris, people are amazed.
And the gleaming blue building, of course, didn’t always gleam, though it had seen better days.
This is what Bob had to work with.
Haight’s research suggests it went up in the early 1930s, and it was called the Windsor Farmers’ Exchange, where farmers would have come to pick up livestock feed and other supplies arriving by rail. “Tracks ran tight along both sides of the building, and freight cars would be offloaded here,” he says.
During the 1950s, Haight learned, it was converted into office space for one of the construction firms that built Interstate 91. After other short-lived iterations, the building appears to have slowly reached the sad state in which Haight found it.
But even before the fresh coat of paint went on, before the hundreds of hours he spent power-washing every surface, inside and out, Haight saw the special potential in this space.
He removed the 8-foot drop-down ceiling that hung there, exposing roof rafters in gorgeous condition. He tore down any remnant interior walls and considered the open dimensions. He decided what it needed now was a stage. And chairs for folks to sit in. And a bar, perhaps.
The newly constructed stage, ready to be broken in.
Haight’s vision has blossomed into the rebirth of the Windsor Farmers’ Exchange as a live performance venue—in one of the unlikeliest little corners of the Upper Valley.
The Farmers' Exchange has already soft-launched with a handful of concert events and theatre productions over the past several months. But in that time, Haight has continued restoring the space, and on Saturday, September 29, he hopes to make a bigger splash with a live performance and dance party led by Burlington-based jazz and blues artist Jenni Johnson and the Junketeers.
The concert begins at 7 PM, featuring food and beverages provided by SILO Distillery and Artisan Eats. Tickets are $12 and can be reserved by clicking here.
Because the Exchange isn’t heated and will close for the winter, Haight plans to spend the off-season lining up theatre and music events for spring and summer. “I’m excited to see how it all grows and takes shape.”