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School Street barn could earn spot on the National Historic Register

Date: 2/23/2011

Feb. 23, 2011

By Katelyn Gendron

Assistant Managing Editor

AGAWAM — The town's rich agricultural heritage has slowly succumbed to the progress of modern-era development. However, town officials and community volunteers are working to preserve prime examples of Agawam's past in conjunction with the state and federal historical commissions.

Mayor Richard Cohen received correspondence from Michael Steinitz, director of preservation planning with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, stating that School Street Barn is eligible for admittance into the National Register of Historic Places due to its "historic and architectural significance."

"That barn is one of the last visible symbols of agriculture in that section of town, as most of today's agriculture can be seen in the Feeding Hills section," David Cecchi, chair of the Agawam Historical Commission, said. "Being on the National Register is a recognition that the barn is important historically to the town and to the region."

If included, School Street barn would join the Capt. Charles Leonard House, the Purchase-Ferre House and the Thomas and Esther House as the town's fourth property on the National Register of Historical Places. There are more than 800,000 structures included in the register to date.

"This style of barn is unique to Agawam and relatively rare in Western Massachusetts," according to Bonnie Parsons of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. "It is also a rare barn remaining in the eastern portion of the city. Work done by the city in recent years does not substantially diminish the barn's integrity, and even though the property's farmhouse and other farm structures have been demolished, its survival does allow it to remain eligible for National Register listing."

The School Street Barn Advisory Committee has labored for several years to help raise funds to maintain the structure, which Cecchi said had been used as a prison farm for Hampden County up until the 1990s.

Before an application can be submitted to the National Register, according to Deborah Dachos, director of planning and community development, a historic expert must complete a "detailed nomination form." Dachos said she's preparing Requests for Proposals and will approach the Community Preservation Act Committee to finance the $2,000 to $3,000 application fee.

She hopes to submit all documentation to the National Register by 2012.

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