Historic center closed indefinitely

Historic center closed indefinitely

In two photos from the East Smithfield Library archive, children work on arts and crafts projects, above, and have fun during an Easter parade, below, at two events held at the East Smithfield Neighborhood Center.

SMITHFIELD – The historic East Smithfield Neighborhood Center was found to have a sagging roof, expired smoke detectors, exposed pipes, and over a dozen other problems, according to a review completed by the asset management commission on February 24.

The review was completed after a walk-through of the building, which was attended by: David Russas, Richard Eichner, and Albert Gizzarelli of the Asset Management Commission; Finance director Randy Rossi; Robert Leach and Katie Law of the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission; Building and Zoning official Peter Scorpio; and a representative from the Fire Marshal.

Due to the extensive safety issues discovered, the neighborhood center, which was used for Boy Scouts, yoga, dance classes, and other activities, will be closed indefinitely.

Inspections of the building, located at 7 Esmond St., began because of the neighborhood center’s request for a new roof. The first walk-through of the center was completed on February 21. The center was closed after that initial walk-through and a second, more thorough inspection was scheduled.

Following are other issues with the center in need of improvement, according to the Asset Management’s review: the outside of the building needs a new coat of paint, one carbon monoxide detector is out of order, emergency lighting for the building does not work, there are several exposed outlets, unapproved paint labels, hanging wires, the building is not handicapped accessible, one of the roofs is leaking, there are no updates capacity regulations posted, the outside of the building has no gutters, flashing is missing from roof peaks, the chimney needs a closer inspection, parts of the outside of the structure are rotting, there are several exposed lightbulbs, and pests were found in the building.

Some of the problems found within the structure are due to the age of the building. The East Smithfield Neighborhood Center was built over 100 years ago and is considered a historic structure. The building, while rustic, is often discussed endearingly by locals who cherish its place in the town’s history.

Richard Hebert, the director of the center, made a plea to the council that the property not be destroyed.

“It’s such a gem to the town,” Hebert said. “You’ve got to protect it.”

According to a statement from Katie Law, vice chair of the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission, the building was built in the early 1900s, surrounded by mill houses and adjacent to the stone Allenville Mill company store house from the village’s mill history in the early 1800s.

After the closing of the mill, the land and building were gifted to the town in 1951. The deed recorded at the town hall states, “The premise shall hereafter be used exclusively for recreational purposes for the use and enjoyment of the residents of the Town of Smithfield, Rhode Island.” At that time, George M. Smith was the Director of the Smithfield Recreational Association, later changing the associations name to “The East Smithfield Neighborhood Center.”

One can still see the lanes from the bowling alley that existed within the building decades ago. There is also an intact bank vault door, possibly used by the Esmond Mills for payroll purposes.

To ensure that the historic nature of the building is preserved, bids will be compiled for companies that specialize in historic preservation. There is also a possibility, according to the Smithfield Historic Preservation Commission, that funding could be obtained from Rhode Island grants for historic structures.

Recognizing the cultural importance of the center for many of the town’s residents, Town Council President Paul Santucci said, “We have a committment to keeping this open.”