Reminder Assistant Editor
AGAWAM When the fall breezes of change blow through the trees on Main Street, turning their leaves to bright shades of yellow, orange and red, a steady breeze of change and revitalization will also have blown through the Captain Charles Leonard House.
According to the Captain Charles Leonard House Board of Trustees, by the early fall, over five months worth of restorations costing $200,000 will move this historic landmark into the 21st century.
"A lot of the focus has been on the [restoration of] the interior," David Cecchi, vice president of the Board of Trustees, said, adding that the grounds and home's exterior have "just been maintained and not really kept up in an equal manner."
The board has taken out a $200,000 mortgage in order to fund the extensive upgrades and repairs, including asbestos removal, exterior repairs, a tankless hot water system, a new natural gas heating system, installation of a central air conditioning system, landscaping and an upgraded kitchen.
"We realized that a multitude of issues were coming to the forefront and we have to bite the bullet and bring it back to its glory as the jewel of Main Street," Marilyn Curry, a trustee of the Captain Charles Leonard House, said.
The house was built in 1805 and restored by Minerva Davis in 1938. The house, which features the architectural ideals of Asher Benjamin, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. Benjamin had a tramendous impact on the look of cities and towns throughout New England through the use of Federal style architecture and Greek Revival.
Philip Kimball, trustee of the Captain Charles Leonard House and also the person overseeing the restorations, explained that renovations were needed not only to protect the structural integrity but also to allow the use of the facility for 21st century means.
He noted that upgrades to the kitchen will allow professional caterers to use the space for large events such as weddings, showers or banquets. Kimball said that other improvements such as installing air conditioning will ensure that those attending events at the house will remain comfortable.
Cecchi noted that installing a new natural gas heating system to replace the oil furnace will save them thousands of dollars. He added that the projected cost of oil the upcoming year would be upwards of $20,000.
Kimball explained that the fee for hosting events at the Captain Charles Leonard House goes to operating costs, upgrades and repairs. He said he hopes that the upgrades will encourage more people to use the house for their functions, which will help to repay the mortgage.
"We're taking a big risk but we're [the board] all very determined that we will make it work," Kimball said.
He explained that $200,000 will not be enough to cover the entire list of renovations, however. Kimball said exterior repairs have been completed and painting has begun; the asbestos has been removed; and now contractors are working on installing the HVAC system and kitchen remodeling. He added that the landscaping will be the final component of the restorations if there is enough money.
Curry noted that the board is looking to add an outdoor garden reception area as well as adding shrubbery that is historically accurate.
Kimball said the board is hoping for donations and additional funding in order to fund the landscaping.
Cecchi noted that the board will begin their capital campaign to pay back the $200,000 mortgage later this year.