Historical Society Looks to Raise $3M for Rehab

September 6, 2018

By Mina Corpuz

mcorpuz@sentinell andenterprise.com

WESTMINSTER -- The Historical Society is looking to raise $3 million to renovate the former Upton Center school building as its new headquarters and a community space for people to come learn more about the town’s history and look at donated historical items.

“It’s right here,” said Historical Society President Barry Roy, noting the building’s short distance from the society’s current building and the center of town. “It’s in a great location.”

The Upton Center is located on Academy Hill Road near Westminster Elementary School.

Once renovated, it will have a research library, community workshop rooms, collection displays and exhibit storage.

A new building would give the Historic Society more space, which the current building lacks, Roy said.

The current building, a Colonial on Main Street, has six of the rooms that are used for meeting, office, or storage space.

Upstairs, the two rooms are filled with boxes labeled by topic, furniture, and other items. An attached barn stairs is full of donated items that will be up for purchase at the Historical Society’s attic treasure sale on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“People come by all the time to leave stuff they have had in their families,” Roy said.

The society, which has owned the building since the 1980s, plans to keep the Colonial to hold events and to keep a presence on Main Street, he said.

It looked at other options for a larger space, including expanding at the Main Street building, Roy said, but it would have cost too much.

The Upton Center is a brick building with columns out front built in 1912. It was used as a school on and off unto the 1990s when it closed, Roy said.

In the early 2000s, the Historical Society bought the Upton Center from the town for $1, he said. The purchase took some time, Roy said, because the building’s designation needed to be changed from a school to historical through the state.

As a nonprofit, the society does not receive money from the town.

To raise money for renovations, the group launched a capital campaign that is broken down into seven phases.

About five years ago, the Historical Society raised more than $150,000 for architectural plans and roof work, Roy said. The bowed roof that had holes in it has been completed using the money, he said.

To finish up phase two of renovations, the society is looking to raise money to repair the building’s cupola -- the column structure with a dome that sits on the roof -- and install copper gutters, he said.

“We’re doing renovations one stage at a time when the money comes in,” Roy said.

Exterior renovations will likely take about five years before the group can begin work inside, he said. The Historical Society isn’t working within a particular timeline to finish the entire building.

Roy said the goal is to keep the look of the renovations in line with the historical character of the building.

On the first and second floors, the Upton Center has two large classrooms on opposite sides of the building.

Chalkboards stretch across the walls and old radios that once carried announcements are still up. Roy said the Historical Society would like to preserve them.

One of the upstairs classrooms is where his son attended fourth grade in the 1990s.

There are signs the Historical Society taped to the doors of the various rooms to show what space it will become: a meeting room, display room, library, or an office.

The Historical Society has raised money through donations and fundraising events, like an auction and raffle that it will host on Nov. 10 at McNally’s Grille and Pub.

Roy said the society sent out brochures to residents about the Upton Center renovation and capital campaign to ask them for financial support. Next, they will reach out to people who donated items, have moved out of town, or attended the Upton school.

Donors that give more than $50,000 will be able to name a room or area in the building, according to the brochure

They can also give to the society’s permanent endowment fund through the North Central Massachusetts Community Foundation, the brochure says. The goal for the endowment is $500,000.

The group also plans to apply for state grants for structural work and to replace the building’s windows, he said.

Follow Mina on Twitter @mlcorpuz

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