This Place in History: Howe Center

Local News

RUTLAND, Vt.

At ‘This Place in History’ we’re in Rutland with Executive Director of the Vermont Historical Society, Steve Perkins.

“We’re going to look at how one family took an historic property and had some really cool ideas for it. Joe Giancola is going to meet us inside and tell us all about the Howe Center,” said Perkins.

“It was the Howe Scale Manufacturing Company. Then, it was Howe Richardson Manufacturing Company owned by Aerojet. I just used the first part, Howe, H-O-W-E, and got the Howe Center,” explained Giancola.

Howe Scales in 1870 was in Brandon and when they came here, they made a lot of scales. Then when the technology changed, in 1982 was when they shut down. The place stayed vacant for six or seven years. The city tried to redevelop it with Aerojet and the mayor and a redevelopment group and the state, but nobody could make it work. In 1987, I knew the president of Aerojet. I called him up and said I want to put a deposit down on your project. That’s how we started,” said Giancola.

“For $400,000, I bought 18 acres and 23 buildings. 450,000 square feet, but it didn’t look like it. It looked like a bombed out city. In July of ’89, we closed. The next day we started construction and we’ve been building ever since. We spent the next two years cleaning up hazardous chemicals and waste and bringing it online to meet all the EPA requirements, that was part of my deal.”

“Every building has been top-to-bottom renovated. There’s a state-of-the-art underground gas system, all new electrical, all new wiring and sewer systems; new roofs and siding. Like this building here, we tore right to the wooden shell. And I try to keep the historic character because there’s nothing like it. I’m a history buff and I sort of like the older look. I don’t know how to do modern construction. I only know the old stuff because I’m an older guy,” explained Giancola.

“The biggest thing you find when you start digging around here is you find railroad tracks under the ground. Then, you’d find parts of scales and junk, cast iron. What they did in those days was they buried everything. Today we don’t bury anything. Everything goes to recycling and landfill.”

“Back then in the 1800s and the turn of the 19th Century, they buried everything and you never know what you’re going to find. The other day, we’re putting in a solar farm. The guy was digging and saying all his steel pilings were breaking on, and bending, on the blacktop. I said that’s not blacktop, that’s cast iron that they buried,” exclaimed Giancola.

“This is a village in the middle of the city of Rutland. You’ve got the radio station, the T.V. station, manufacturing, dance studios. You’ve got high school here. We had adult education and Rutland’s only Franklin Conference Center. We have health clinics here. All kinds of office space and bakeries. You can’t tell people what we’ve got. They’ve got to come see it,” said Giancola.

“So you can come down, take a dance class, have a donut, check out some great scales in this hallway,” joked Perkins.

“And maybe stop in and try to get a free lunch at the Franklin Center. Tell ’em you know Joe. I’ll have a free lunch on Joe,” answered Giancola.

At ‘This Place in History’!

For more from our ‘This Place in History’ series, click here.

To view a map of Vermont’s roadside historical markers, click here.

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