Wistariahurst solidified as crown jewel of Commonwealth
Date: 7/7/2010July 7, 2010
By Katelyn Gendron
Reminder Assistant Editor
HOLYOKE -- The historic preservation of the Wistariahurst Carriage House was nothing short of extraordinary, solidifying its place as one of the crown jewels of the Commonwealth, according to the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC).
The million-dollar restoration, completed last winter, has garnered the MHC's Historic Preservation Award of 2010. Wistariahurst was one of 10 sites awarded this year within the categories of adaptive reuse, and rehabilitation and restoration.
"The projects the commission is recognizing this year are particularly diverse and represent the many creative ways significant historic resources are being preserved across the Commonwealth," Secretary of the Commonwealth William Francis Galvin, chair of the MHC, said. "The restoration and adaptive reuse of the Wistariahurst Carriage House represents the City of Holyoke's continued dedication to preserving and educating the public about its valuable historic sites."
The Carriage House was built in 1880 as an addition to prominent silk manufacturer William Skinner's 1874 home. Time and the elements had damaged the building, deteriorating the exterior, rotting the clapboard siding, sill plates and wood trim, and weakening the slate roof and brick foundation.
The project restored the Carriage House's exterior and foundation, while transforming the first floor into a community meeting space and permanent exhibition of the city's history. The second floor was renovated to house a state-of-the-art storage area for the Holyoke, Skinner Family and Textile Collections.
"We were surprised but confident that our project was deserving," Melissa Boisselle, Wistariahurst's museum director, said of winning one of MHC's 2010 Preservation Awards.
She noted the "struggle for cultural [entities] to restore and enhance their structures with limited funds." Restorations to the Carriage House were made possible by funding from the city, the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the United Bank Foundation.
"The restored Carriage House is a testament of our endeavors to ensure that Wistariahurst will continue to thrive well into the future," Boisselle said.
She said work is far from over at Wistariahurst, noting that exterior painting and landscaping are still needed, while remaining focused on programming for the museum's 14,000 visitors each year.