The damaged Briggs Carriage House in downtown Brandon. The building, which housed a carriage maker, bookstore, residences and offices during its lifespan was built in the 1800s.
The aftermath of tropical storm Irene has devastated downtown Brandon, Vt. Just a few months after the community celebrated its 250th birthday, this Vermont town of nearly 4,000 residents is now mourning its flood-ravaged downtown.
On Aug. 28, at around 4:30 p.m., the raging Neshobe River jumped its banks and poured across the Conant Square district (U.S. Route 7) and into the basements and first floors of many downtown buildings. One eyewitness said muddy river water erupted out of manhole covers in geyser-like fountains reaching over six feet in height.
At least one downtown building was pushed off its foundation by the high velocity of the Neshobe River’s flood-swollen torrent.
Brandon’s historic downtown area contains a core of 243 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. However, it is uncertain how many of these buildings have been undermined by the flash flood of Aug. 28.
Neshobe River floodwater created several large “craters” on Main Street possibly knocking death blows to a few visible downtown buildings including the beloved, iconic Briggs Carriage House.
Built in the 1800s, the Briggs building—located at 8 Conant Square—was originally the home to a local carriage maker. later, it served as a residence, book shop, and gallery. Currently, it is home to offices and a shop.
The Briggs building’s foundation is seriously undermined and its western wall, just below the roofline, appears fatally fractured.
A large crater in the road in front of this historic building reveals its structural integrity is doubtful.
“I think you can see that the Briggs Carriage House was seriously damaged by Sunday’s flood,” said Matt Guillette of Brandon.
Guillette joined other downtown residents to watch town crews investigate the undermined street around Conant Square. They were pointing to the building's crumbling ground floor and large wall cracks
While not officially inspected by an engineer at this time, damage to the historic structure appears beyond repair.
“I’ve lived in Brandon only three years now, but the flash flood was terrible. Downtown is seriously wounded. You can see there are houses behind and below the carriage house, on Briggs Road,” said Guillette. “No one is permitted back in there. I think the Briggs Carriage House and those houses will have to be knocked down. These buildings are unsafe to enter. It’s sad.”
Local lore says Brandon’s most famous resident, U.S. Sen. Stephen Douglas (D), a celebrated orator and candidate for the U.S presidency against Abraham Lincoln (R) in 1860, worked for a short time in the Briggs building.
Having withstood more than 150 years of history, the Briggs Carriage House may have met its final destiny Aug. 28.