Fort Ethan Allen 
Pump House Renovation 

After the base was closed and sold in the 1960's the water system was given to the Town of Essex.  Shortly thereafter the source of water was switched from local wells on site to Lake Champlain via the Champlain Valley Water District. At this point the stone water tower and the pump house ceased their original functions. The water tower became, and still is, just a beautiful historic landmark and the pump house was used minimally as cold storage and basically just left to the elements. Some forty years later the current owners took it over and began the restoration process. Step one was evicting the families of raccoons, birds and squirrels that inhabited the ceilings. The building had been completely boarded up with every window and door covered with plywood. When the plywood was removed, we found that of the 30 window sashes, one
had its glass intact.


The original trim was removed from the doors and windows and the original windows were replaced with custom made modern thermo pane glass with the original grill pattern reproduced but between the glass panes. Then the original trim restored, thus giving the building an energy efficient replacement that looked just like the original. The current interior colors are a match to an earlier color scheme but at various periods the inside had also been painted army green and brick red.


We know from early photos that the tall brick chimney was even higher originally. When restoration was taking place we were concerned about the condition of the top of the chimney. Bricks were obviously loose and you could tell by the colors of the top 3 or 4 courses they were a repair, not original, and not holding up well. There was the strong threat some could fall down in bad weather. It was decided, since the chimney was no longer used but an attractive and historic element to the building, we would remove those loose repaired courses that did not match the original and place a concrete cap on the chimney to prevent further deterioration.

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The original pump house had gone thru several renovations over the years with additions almost doubling its size. It was generally very well constructed and had held up remarkably well for an abandoned building with two exceptions. One was the chimney just mentioned, another was the east wall where an addition had been added with a large steel beam to hold the new roof, but it terminated too close to an original opening whose header had not been planned to carry the extra load. Our mason told us one more winter with a heavy snow load and we’d have lost that part of the building, As we reconstructed the exterior wall that had cracked and bowed under the weight of the addition’s roof and steel beam, we found we could pull out all but one small foundation stone by hand- there was no masonry left and no pressure on the foundation stones- the entire section of the building was resting on one brick size stone.

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Restoration was, as it often is, a labor of love. It would have been cheaper and easier to build a new building, but the historical value and beautiful lines of the Pump House could not have been reproduced.

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