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Chase: Brooks House will be back, and ‘better than ever’

BRATTLEBORO—Firefighters extinguished the flames. Now the Brattleboro community faces a long, and details-uncertain, rebuilding process.

The Brooks House, an iconic downtown building constructed in 1871 after fire devastated the block between High and Elliot streets, fell victim to an electrical fire the night of April 17. The fire, caused by a building staple through an electrical wire, smoldered for an estimated 48 hours above a vacant apartment before bursting into flames damaging the building’s top two floors.

Jonathan Chase, owner of the Brooks House, said his desire is to “bring the Brooks House back better than ever.”

He also thanked the Fire Department, and every town department that turned out to assist during the fire.

“In a nutshell, the support from town is unbelievable and makes all the difference,” Chase said last week. “This is a community that pulls together.”

Chase, noting that he’s finally getting some sleep, said he has just begun digging into the insurance claims and post-fire paperwork. He expects to know more details in the coming days.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” he said.

Chase said he is focused on helping tenants.

“I really feel their angst now, and am working with my staff to help with [their] transition,” he said.

In a handout to residents, Chase wrote he and his staff are attempting to return tenants’ security deposits and last month’s rent. He’s also exploring rent refunds for the last half of April.

The Brooks House office was also “severely damaged” by the fire.

“As a result, the computer system and files are still being dried out, not allowing us to access all tenant-related information,” wrote Chase.

Tenants in the process of securing new housing and who require their Brooks House security deposit to do so should contact Brooks House Realty, LLC. A staff member will contact new landlords to confirm that the “security deposit refund [will be] processed and will be forthcoming very soon.”

Chase expects the deposit-refunds checks within the next two weeks but does not have a firm date.

If tenants have issues not related to Brooks House, they should “contact the Red Cross or other assistance agency,” said Chase.

Chase added he and staff want to make tenants’ housing transition “speedy” and easy.” They will also provide housing references for tenants as needed.

“We know that this has been an unexpected, life-altering, traumatic, and emotional experience. The building has been there for so long, it’s hard to imagine that something like this could have happened,” wrote Chase in the handout to tenants.

The new contact information for Chase and Brooks House Reality is P.O. Box 2130, West Brattleboro, VT 05303.  The phone number remains the same — 802-257-7100.

Chase is also seeking updated contact information from displaced tenants, which may be sent to brookshouseassistance@gmail.com.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #98 (Wednesday, April 27, 2011).

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