Oct 08, 2021
5 mins read
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"The building was constructed between 1879 and 1883 under the oversight of Father John S. Michaud. The interior of the building in its original construction consisted of a large kitchen in the back right, large recreation rooms on last two or three bays of either end, and a laundry room in a rear extension, as well as many rooms for sleeping for the children. The building had kerosene lighting, and there were originally four wooden utility buildings in the back with uses listed as a carriage house, two sheds, and an icehouse.
Between 1906 and 1912 electric lighting was installed into the main building.
Between 1942 and 1960 a major change occurred in the form of a large southerly addition. This new building was used as a school with a stage and a hall.
By the late 1960s, the Sisters of Charity Providence Organization was running operations at this property.
The Catholic church retained control over this property until 2010 when Burlington College, a small private liberal arts college, purchased it for $6,075,100.00 as reported by the city assessor's office. According to the Burlington Free Press, the building was sold to help pay for settlements of a number of sexual abuse lawsuits against the Roman Catholic diocese in Vermont." -http://www.uvm.edu/~hp206/2012/leckie/webfinal/stjorphan.html
There have been multiple allegations of all types of abuse from those who were children here. Mental, emotional, physical and sexual abuse, as well as people stating a nun murdered a child. Local authorities investigated the murder allegations and took statements regarding the abuse. There wasn't enough evidence regarding the murder and the statute of limitations had run out for the abuse. The Chief of Police in Burlington believed the abuse happened, given the number of complainants and the similar stories. If these walls could talk, they would sob a river of tears.
I have two personal stories to share.
When the Roman Catholic Diocese moved into the building in the 1980’s, two people with whom I became friends a couple of decades later worked here. I taught linedancing back then and they suggested I use the gym to teach. Plus, I got to store my DJ equipment there. Win-win!
Story 2: A bit of background first. I was the back-up DJ and linedance instructor at the Cobbweb on the Friday linedance nights. The Cobbweb was a dancehall in Georgia, VT. It’s been torn down and condos have replaced it. Anyway, after I worked at the Cobbweb, I planned to drive to Cape Cod for a linedance weekend event. So, I decided to stop at St. Joseph’s to drop off my equipment. The entrance was around back with one light over the door and a pole light over the parking lot, which was some distance away.
I had a Medeco key. Have you ever used one of those things? Sometimes, they can be finicky! The friend who gave me the key had warned me that that particular lock was ornery sometimes. And sure enough, on that cold December night around 11 pm, the lock’s green light would not yield. I had left my driver’s side door open and the engine running for the heat.
As I was trying the key for the umpteenth time, I thought I saw movement at the edge of the building to my right out of the corner of my eye. It looked like a man dressed in black. I shrugged it off as my mind playing tricks on me. I’d worked that day and evening and was about to drive 5.5 hours on top of that. I was sure I was wrong! As I continued to futz with the key, I thought I saw movement again from the same place. And sure enough, IT WAS A MAN DRESSED ALL IN BLACK! AND HE WAS WALKING TOWARDS ME! I was scared! I was 5’2”, dead-center behind this incredibly HUGE building, which was empty that time of night. No one would hear me scream. YES, those thoughts were running through my mind! He was about halfway to me at this point, when the lock worked! That’s when he suddenly stated “Burlington Police!”. I then recognized his uniform. I felt relief and for the first time in my life, I yelled at a cop. I told him: “you scared me!”. I actually thought I was going to cry tears of relief! He apologized for scaring me, especially after he saw the key and heard my explanation as to why I was there. He stayed briefly as I unloaded my equipment into the building. Once my equipment was in the storage closet, and I checked there was no one unexpected outside, I got in my car and drove away.
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