Honorable Board of Selectmen,
The Annual Report for the Historical Commission for the period of January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015 is hereby respectfully submitted.
The Historical Commission is governed under Town-By-Law, Article VII, Section III and Chapter 40, Section 8d of the Massachusetts General Laws for the “identification, preservation and protection of the Historical and Archaeological assets of the Town”.
Our members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen. One new member appointed to the Historical Commission this year was Ken Avarista. We also regretfully accepted the resignation of Dean Yeaton, Alternate, Member.
Holmes Schoolhouse/615 Hoppin Hill Avenue
Work continued on the restoration of this one room schoolhouse. This year gutters and downspouts were installed to carry rain water away from the building and to prevent it from draining into the crawlspace beneath the flooring. We hope to get the land around site graded to also carry away the water from the building in the coming year. The interior of this schoolhouse depicts the way it looked when such schoolhouses closed in North Attleborough in the 1951-52 school year. This is the only schoolhouse that is owned by the Town and is under our stewardship. Listed in the State Building Code as a “totally preserved building, the Holmes School is listed on the National Register of Historic places within a district of two buildings which includes the Holmes Memorial Hall.
We held several of our meetings at this schoolhouse during the warmer months. We hope to open this school to the third grade tours in the near future. Anyone wanting to view the interior of this school or who may want to hold a meeting there can contact our commission. We also welcome school children from out of town or who are home schooled to contact us if they are interested in visiting the interior of this site.
Holmes Memorial Hall/623 Hoppin Hill Avenue
We had the opportunity to work with architect Bernard Goba and Ryan Hayward, historic preservation consultant both of Milford. They were hired to prepare plans and specifications for the renovation of this historic building which is listed on the National Register. The plans include an accessible bathroom and entrances. Mr. Goba worked with the Architectural Access Board to finalize these plans.
Boy Scout Adam Mirza began planning for his Eagle Scout project where he is proposing to build and install a ramp at the back of the building according to the drawings prepared by architect Bernard Goba.
We processed three applications for demolition of houses older than 80 years: 593 Broadway, 162 Grant St and 29 Richards Ave. Site visits were made and deed research was provided by the property owners. We determined that these houses were not historically or architecturally significant. They were all in deteriorating condition with not much historical architecture to save. The barn at 66 Town St., although determined by us to be architecturally significant, was demolished as the building official declared it a safety hazard to tenants on the property.
This was the third year of our very successful Community Gardens project at the town owned historic Codding Farm at 217 High Street. Twenty-eight garden beds were rented by town residents. Some of these gardens beds were planted and harvested for the food pantry at town hall. Volunteer gardener Frank Merrill assisted the gardeners with his expertise and did much hard work to maintain the cared for appearance of the site along with Ron Desrosiers. Anyone wanting to have a plot at the Community Gardens needs to notify our commission before March 1st.
Mann Burial Ground
We continue to discuss the restoration of this historic burial ground located off Draper Avenue this year and hope to continue this project in 2016 pending town meeting funding for this project. Although this site is hard to see from the road, there is a twenty-foot-wide right of way for all to access the property from the street. The Mann memorial stone has been stored at the Wastewater Treatment Plant in North Attleborough after it was professionally repaired. Plans to move this tablestone back to the burial ground will be developed in 2016.
Section 106 Review
This Federal Review process is triggered by Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA). We are part of this process if there is a proposed project that would involve the use of Federal or State funding or permitting that may involve any adverse impact on historic and/or archaeological sites in North Attleborough. This year we commented on a proposed 40B project which would replace most of the historic Theron Ide Smith Factory commonly known now as the Jeweled Cross building on South Washington Street. The Massachusetts Historical Commission recommended that we continue working with the developers as this project progresses. They are proposing to keep and renovate the front of the building, the historic “headhouse”. The rest of this historic jewelry factory building will be demolished and replaced with new construction.
Late in the year we commented on a proposed cell tower in the industrial park, which would be visible from and create an adverse effect on the view from historic homes on Kelly Blvd. We suggested that this proposed cell tower be relocated to another spot or to design it to look like a tree as was done behind the Allen Ave. School a few years ago. No action was taken this year by another proposed cell tower for the property on Hickory Road which we commented on in 2015.
Historic District Signs
We ordered one more set of signs to designate the boundaries of our Town Center National Register Historic District. These signs will be installed by the DPW.
We met with Boy Scout Cameron Killian who is proposing to create an interesting historic sign concept for his Eagle Scout Project. We will be working with him in the coming year to see the project through.
We voted to have a house marker made for the Codding Farmhouse and will have one made and installed in 2016. Anyone wanting a historic house marker for their home needs to complete deed research on their home to determine approximately when the house was built and who the original owner was and then present this information to our commission. A $50 donation is suggested for this marker. This is an honorary marker and does not impose any restrictions on the homeowner.
This outdoor museum site is part of the third grade tour of historical sites in town. Located in the woods between 8 and 20 Mt. Hope Street, it is always in need of maintenance as a result of the weather. Jack Byrnes, our “Powder House Keeper”, organizes the cleanup and any work at this site. He meets with anyone wanting to see the inside of the Powder House which is now outfitted with a few powder kegs. He is in the process of getting our Powder House included on a tour map of the remaining Powder Houses in Massachusetts. This “Attleborough Powder House” is included in a book by Matthew E, Thomas published in 2013 entitled Historic Powder Houses of New England—Arsenals of American Independence.
Volunteers We are always looking for Volunteers to assist with the maintenance of the Holmes School/Hall, the Mann Burial Ground. We are also seeking volunteers to help with the third grade tours of the Powder House and the Holmes School.
Our Chairperson attended the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Conference in April which was held in Chepachet, RI. and the Massachusetts Historic Preservation Conference in August held in Worcester, MA. This was an opportunity to learn from members of other historical commissions in both states and to hear speakers and attend seminars of relevance to the work of our historical commission. These conferences are the best educational resource to historical commission members that we can attend to learn about best practices and preservation activities at the local government level.
Our meetings are held on the second and fourth Tuesday’s of each month at 7 pm at Town Hall unless otherwise posted with the Town Clerk. We welcome anyone interested in learning about the process of historic preservation at the government level or who may be interested in helping with our work to attend a meeting.
Ann J. Chapdelaine, Chairperson
Ken Avarista, Vice-Chair
Gary Demers, Alternate