CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST and our development partner Evernorth will redevelop three vacant buildings in Colchester recently purchased from St. Michael’s College who used them as dorms and offices. These beautiful buildings, part of the Fort Ethan Allen Historic District, were initially constructed as military barracks and CHT plans to convert them into 65 affordable one-bedroom and studio apartments, sizes identified as critically needed in this area. The apartments will be occupied with people of a variety of income levels. Creating more housing options is one step CHT is taking to address the challenges of homelessness and 11 of these apartments will be for people formerly unhoused.
In the early 20th century, long before they were college dorms, these three buildings, Hamel, Purtill and Dupont Halls, served as barracks to the 10th Cavalry, one of the first peacetime U.S. Army regiments made up of all Black soldiers after the Civil War. Nicknamed “Buffalo Soldiers,” the Cavalry also had a troubled charge: they were deployed to western regions to clear land from Indigenous peoples and claim it for new settlers. This history is documented on a plaque at the property. In recognition of this past, the buildings have been named 10th Cavalry Apartments.
Taking on a project that includes historic preservation adds complexity, but we continue to make progress. Reusing existing buildings adds some efficiencies and aligns with other preserved housing styles at the fort, a neighborhood so many people enjoy living in. The location includes a large grassy playing field, is on the bus line, and is close to walking trails, a grocery store and many other restaurants and businesses. Champlain Housing Trust is excited that the conversion of these existing buildings from dormitory use to affordable rental homes not only offers much needed new housing, but also prevents deterioration of historical resources, brings vacant buildings back to life, and generates vibrancy to this well-liked neighborhood.