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Preservation Trust gets grant to help save one of city's oldest structures

Date: 2/8/2010

Feb. 8, 2010

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Inside the building at 77 Maple St. workmen are busy replacing two walls that have collapsed. A cable -- one of six -- runs across the second floor tying two sides of the building together.

All of the efforts are to stabilize one of the oldest structures in Springfield and prepare it for further renovation. This first step is being underwritten by a $125,000 Community Development Block Grant awarded to the Springfield Preservation Trust (SPT) by Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Sarno joined SPT members Wednesday morning to make the announcement of the grant and to see the work in progress.

Sarno said the renovation of the building is important for the economic development of the city as well as stabilization of the neighborhood. The building is near the intersection of Maple Street and Union Street, which Sarno called "a gateway intersection" with thousands of motorists passing by each day.

City Councilor Melvin Edwards said the renovation of the building is "the kind of project that can propel the city into the future."

SPT President Ben Murphy explained the non-profit organization had purchased the building from its former owner who had attempted to do some renovation, but had decided to try to demolish the building to make room for a parking lot.

Murphy said the SPT's intent is to renovate the building so it could accommodate four market rate condominiums.

Rosemary Morin, of Hampden Bank and an SPT member, said the bank is committed to assisting the SPT in this project.

Robert McCarroll, a SPT member and a member of the city's Historical Commission, said the previous owners had placed jacks in the basement to help support the building that had inadvertently pushed the walls outward. He estimated the cost of renovation to be close to $500,000.

James Boone, SPT member and local historian, explained the building had been constructed in 1832 as a school for the daughters of the workers who lived in the Armory compound. The building originally had three floors and two front porches that were later removed.

The school left the building in 1843, which by then had acquired its back wing and became a private residence. In 1917, the rear entrance was added.

By the 1960s, Boone said, the building was being used for professional offices.

On what is left of the third floor Boone pointed out the twisted brick chimney, something he said was highly unusual.

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