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Historical Association strives to keep the Smith House standing

The Thomas Smith House one of the oldest homes in Agawam is currently being restored. Reminder Publications photo by Katelyn Gendron-List
By Katelyn Gendron-List

Reminder Assistant Editor

AGAWAM The Thomas Smith House, called by many as a "historical jewel of the region" and one of the oldest homes in Agawam is slowly being restored due to the tireless efforts of the Agawam Historical Association and funding that was appropriated last week by the Agawam City Council.

On Aug. 6, the City Council voted unanimously passing a resolution allowing the Agawam Community Preservation Committee to receive $112,600 from the Community Preservation Historical Reserve for the restoration of the Thomas Smith House.

"I thought that its historical preservation is an important part of our culture and it's going to make a fine museum and attraction one day," Robert Rossi, Agawam city councilor said in an interview with Reminder Publications. "The funds were set aside for CPA funding and I couldn't think of a better way to put that money to good use."

According to information released by the Town of Agawam, the Community Preservation Act (CPA) acquires funds through a "one percent surcharge of real estate tax that is used for the purchase and rehabilitation of community assets."

Once sitting on a 200-acre parcel of land 250 years ago the Thomas Smith House was surrounded by farmland. Remarkably, the red two-story house with adjacent barn and 20th century garage still exists today.

The house remains virtually unchanged to accommodate modern conveniences like running water and electricity, according to Louis Russo, vice chair of the Agawam Community Preservation Committee.

The house is located at 251 North West St., in the middle of a street of fully modern raised ranch and center hall colonial homes.

"The house was built in 1757 and it is one of the most pristine houses of its kind in town," Russo said. "There is the original stone cellar, siding, plaster walls and wood flooring. There is a huge center fireplace and cooking oven. The house is about as original as you'll find."

According to Judy Anderson, project manager of the Thomas Smith House, and a member of the Agawam Historical Association the appropriated $112,600 will first be used for foundation repairs, which are "greatly needed."

Anderson added that the money will also go towards new windows and siding that will be cut and applied as would have been done 200 years ago.

Russo told Reminder Publications that the appropriation of the new funding was very important to restore the exterior of the house and the new funding would help to stop any further deterioration to the inside of the structure.

Anderson stated that previously much of the funding over the past five years has gone towards the stabilization of the Thomas Smith House, as the structure was not fit for people to be inside for fear of collapse.

But now, according to Anderson the problem for the Agawam Historical Association, which purchased the Thomas Smith House five years ago, is finding ways to pay the mortgage.

Anderson added when the house was purchased a list of donors consisting of local businesses, organizations, residents and members of the Agawam Historical Association was put together for each to pay one months mortgage every year for the next five years. Now however the five years is almost up.

"We desperately need help paying the mortgage," Anderson said. "Some people have re-signed up and others have not and until we can get an endowment that might support this. We are still floundering for people to help with the mortgage payments."

Anderson added that the Agawam Historical Association is thinking of establishing a Mortgage Fund and also set up a "Tour of Homes" next spring that will include the Thomas Smith House, other colonial homes as well as a modern home.

The ultimate goal according to David Cecchi, member of the Board of Directors of the Agawam Historical Association, and chairman of the Agawam Historical Commission, the ultimate goal is to have the house open to the public. He also stated that even with the recent appropriated funds there is still a "tremendous amount of work that needs to be done." Cecchi added that the garage, landscaping and interior of the house is still in need of restoration.

"We hope that this will be an educational and historical gift back to the community," Anderson said.