Conserving Vermont’s Historic Legacy
With it’s history of democratic process and accessibility to under-resourced communities, Marlboro College follows the ideals of Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont, champion of the Morrill Land-Grant Act of 1862. Now Marlboro and Morrill, who pioneered the democratization of higher education in the US, have one more thing in common: alumni Tracy Martin ’85 and Alex Tolstoi ’12 recently found themselves working together on the Senator Justin Morrill State Historic Site in Strafford, Vermont.
“I started as an intern doing conservation management and preservation work on the state historic sites within the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation,” says Alex, who recently completed his master’s degree in historic preservation at University of Vermont. Now he has started his own business, Vermont Property Preservation Consultants, focusing on historic conservation. “I hope I can continue to do work on the state historic sites, because they truly are amazing places.”
Meanwhile Tracy, historic sites section chief, is responsible for operating 13 state-owned historic sites around Vermont, from the Bennington Monument to the Calvin Coolidge homestead in Plymouth Notch. With a background in archaeology and museum curation, she strives to promote Vermont’s history through interpretation and interaction with historic buildings, like the Morrill house.
Working together at the 1848 Gothic Revival homestead of Vermont’s prolific statesman, Tracy and Alex got to share stories of Happy Valley parties, late nights working on papers, and swimming in South Pond. Although they graduated almost 30 years apart, they found that their memories and stories of Marlboro share a surprising degree of commonality.
“Because Marlboro is so small and so unique, I think there is something universal about going to school there,” says Alex. “Marlboro is so unlike any other college experience, and I have found that you can never really capture or describe what it is like to go there. Having someone that intrinsically knows and has that familiarity can be really reassuring and uplifting.”
Alex studied early Vermont history at Marlboro, and worked every day for maintenance, so he considers his growing career an extension of these interests. His love of history and carpentry are in harmony when working on historic buildings, and he hopes to continue to restore and share the imbedded stories in Vermont’s built heritage through his new company.
“I use my historical research skills that I harnessed in Kate Ratcliff’s classes on a daily basis,” says Alex. “Preservation and conservation work begins with knowing what you are working on and this requires creating a context, whether you are replacing the metal shingles on Morrill or creating a scope of work for rehabilitating an 18th-century barn.”