Little Red Schoolhouse to become 'historic district'

Little Red Schoolhouse to become 'historic district'

NORTH SMITHFIELD - A town property well more than a century old is set to become a historic district, joining three other locations falling under the purview of the North Smithfield Historic District Commission.

The Little Red Schoolhouse in Forestdale, a one-room facility built in 1877 to educate children in the village, may soon become a historic district as a single property. The building now serves as headquarters of North Smithfield Heritage Association and is open to the public as an educational museum.

"This came up as a collaboration between the North Smithfield Heritage Commission and the North Smithfield Historic District Commission," explained Jeffrey Harris, chairman of NSHDC.

Since 1975, the School Committee has leased the building to the North Smithfield Heritage Association for one dollar a year. Currently, it technically falls under custody and care of School Department, but is in the process of being transferred to the town's hands.

The historic designation will expand the property's potential to secure needed funding, which Harris said will be used to upgrade the building and archive items in the inventory. It would be the fourth area in town to boast the designation, joining Union Village; the Blunders, a rocky zone near Primrose Fire Station between Douglas and Farnum Pikes; and Slatersville, a 19-property district including such well known buildings as the John Slater House and the Slatersville Mill.

"Having the Little Red Schoolhouse under our wing opens up a lot more possibilities for grant funding," said Harris.

According to the town ordinance governing historic districts, on district properties, actions that require a building permit also require a certificate of appropriateness from the NSHDC.

"The local historic districts are designed to stabilize and improve property values, to maintain and foster civic beauty, to strengthen the local economy, and to promote the use of the districts and specific buildings for the education, pleasure, and welfare of the residents of the town," explains HDC rules and regulations. "A local historic district enables the community to monitor and guide changes to existing buildings and construction of new buildings in an area which is worthy of preservation because of its significance to the community's history."

Frederick Bellos III, an abutter to the school, asked how it might affect his ability to make changes on his land.

"My understanding is that it has no impact on surrounding properties," said Council President John Flaherty, a statement that solicitor James Lombardi verified.

"It's just this one building," said Councilor Paul Zwolenski. "It adds value to the surrounding home as well. It's a positive."

The first reading and start of the public hearing on the issue was held Oct. 7. Council members are expected to finalize their vote on Oct. 21.

Members of the commission are Daniel Couture, Christian de Rezendes, Linda Frye, Elizabeth Martin, Gwen Cunningham, Jeffrey Fontaine and Harris.