This Place in History: Union Cooperative Store Bakery

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BARRE, Vt.

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

“We’re behind the Old Labor Hall on Granite Street in Barre and we’re going to be talking history and bread and an incredible new project that the Barre Historical Society is putting on. We’re going to go inside and see Carolyn Shapiro, Project Director on this unique construction,” introduced Perkins.

“This was the bakery that was built by the Italian granite workers in 1913 because they realized they had a small bakery in the Old Labor Hall, but they weren’t able to do enough bread. So they got the building permit of October of 1913 and in about six months they had this built. It’s taken us about six years to get all the grants and the money and the construction happening,” began Shapiro.

“What did the Labor Hall and the bakery mean to especially that Italian community here?” asked Perkins.

“It was a wonderful gathering place. In fact, the Old Labor Hall was financed by contributions from the community and the workers of the community doing it together. It was a center for meetings, weddings, debates, discussion between socialists and anarchists and various political factions. The bakery then became a part of continuing the cultural supply of food that was very important to the Italians. There would be art classes and music, all kinds of things that would happen there.”

“There were floods. There was the Depression. Around 1940 I think it was, Mr. Piccollini closed. And then this just became really a storage shed,” said Shapiro.

“So this was a real passion project for the  Barre Historical Society, the Old Labor Hall, for you. What went into bringing this bakery from a storage facility to what we’re looking at now?” asked Perkins.

“It started out with Kickstarter. And the Kickstarter was this wonderful way of bringing it back the same way it had originally been built, with the community coming together. The vision is that I want to continue to include as many young people as possible. It was Youth Build that helped to repair the roof. It was Youth Build that helped to build the back wall and to do some brick work. U-32 students built the tables. Spaulding students are doing the electrical and building cubbies. So as much as possible I want to continue having students be a part of it.”

“So when we find a baker that hopefully will use this facility for three or four days a week as a start-up bakery, one of the conditions will be to have a teen apprentice that can be learning how to do the baking. And then we’ll have Capstone and its culinary program and Central Vermont Career Center with its culinary program. They’ll come in with their students, maybe NECI will come with their students and then we’ll have workshops for the community that will have bakers coming through like King Arthur Flour and we’ll put it out there to people who want to learn to do the bread,” explained Shapiro. 

“So how can the public come celebrate this bakery, this oven, this bread and this story?” asked Perkins.

“We’re having our Grand Opening on December 15th and that’s 105 years after it originally opened. And we will have lots of bread and we’ll be honoring lots of people and we’ll have a slideshow that showing everyone that’s been involved. And hopefully dancing and all kinds of things,” concluded Shapiro.

At ‘This Place in History’! 

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

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

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