Two Years After Fire, Vermont Town Rebuilding

July 13, 2010

Two years after a fire destroyed a historic block in Springfield, Vermont, the block is making a comeback.

The fire on July 9, 2008, destroyed the 1870-era Ellis Block, including the town’s only movie theater, several businesses and apartments. More than 40 people were left homeless.

The Rutland Herald reports demolition crews started gutting what was left behind this week.

“We’re going right back to brick,” said Vinnie Porcella of North Ridge Contractors of Deerfield, N.H., the demolition subcontractor on the project.

Porcella, who was working in Springfield on the reconstruction of the town’s two elementary schools at the time of the fire, said it will take his eight-man crew about a month to get all the debris removed.

He said pans call for about nine new one-bedroom apartments and three movie screens in the Springfield Theater, which hosted the 2007 premier of the movie, “The Simpsons.” The project is expected to be completed early next year.

The theater auditorium largely escaped the five-alarm, nighttime fire, which brought about 100 firefighters. The auditorium itself still has the musty-moldy smell leftover from the fire, and the sloping floor has been stripped of any sign of the seats. A total of 200 seats are included in the building plan.

Last year, 18-year-old Jon Gassert, a tenant in one of the apartments on the block, was sentenced to at least two years in prison. He had pleaded no contest to charges that he set the fire.

Gassert told police he was mad that his landlord had forbidden him from having an air conditioner.

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