Commission: Plaque could acknowledge great preservation work

Commission: Plaque could acknowledge great preservation work

The mostly redone Lewis Tower House on Mendon Road. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)
Town seeks grant for old post office

CUMBERLAND – A discussion by the Historic District Commission on a historic plaque for the mostly redone Lewis Tower House on Mendon Road last week turned into a larger discussion about how the town might recognize homeowners who go the extra mile to restore history.

The commission ended up moving at its Jan. 12 meeting to explore the option of allowing owners of such homes to add a second “subordinate plaque” with room for a little more creativity and acknowledgment of the modern owners and the work that was done.

Member Arthur “Sandy” Schacht said he visited the 1825 Tower House at 2211 Mendon Road and it looks great. He said an addition to the home by Paula Keefe and Jeff Polucha has allowed for a more contemporary layout, with a nice kitchen and bedrooms, while maintaining the historic feel outside.

“Overall I think it’s going to mean a successful life for the Lewis Tower House,” he said.

Members discussed whether homeowners who are doing a full restoration should be allowed to include more information on plaques, such as the date of renovation or the names of those who do the work, but ultimately decided to keep those words on a separate plaque, perhaps a square one instead of the traditional oval containing the name of the home and date it was first built. Several members said they could foresee issues having all information on one plaque, particularly if a home is sold.

Member Dan Pedro said that second plaque could really incentivize more reinvestment in historic properties and instill pride, including such information as awards a home restoration received.

“We could use it for a lot of things,” said Pedro, referencing the Walcott House on Nate Whipple Highway where the owner is going “bananas” with a complete restoration.

Of broader interest to the town as a whole, commission members said, Polucha and Keefe are now looking at other homes along Mendon Road and elsewhere and appear intent on restoring local homes as one of their retirement activities. One of those homes was built in 1780 at 3871 Mendon Road. Though it looks good from the front, said HDC Chairwoman Joyce Hindle Koutsogiane, the home is in tough shape. She said Cumberland Housing might also be interested in the home.

Also last week, the HDC heard from Town Planner Glenn Modica about the town’s application for a $10,000 Certified Local Government grant to hire an architect to assess and determine options at the former Valley Falls Post Office/Valley Falls Free Library next to Town Hall.

The former Valley Falls Company store at 16 Mill St. was occupied by the Valley Falls Free Library and post office from the 1890s until about 1920. Portuguese immigrants Seraphim C. Cardanha and Ezequiel A. Pires purchased the property and installed a grocery store on the first floor and living quarters above. Joaquim and Maria Amaral owned and operated the store from the early 1940s until 1988. The town acquired it in 2007.

Modica said the latest talk about the two-story building is to potentially convert it into a community center welcoming lower-income people in the Valley Falls area, including social services and counseling.

Members asked for an update on Ann & Hope and Modica said the proposed mixed project has slowed down, with the owners not getting back to the town in time to get on an agenda for a special meeting in January.

Comments

I go out of my way when doing errands just to see the Lewis Tower house. It is gorgeous and the deepest thank you to Paula and Jeff for their dedication. Have been by the Walcott house as well. Wonderful that it is being restored. I do question the color as it does not really fit a home that old. As a community, we need to be very thankful for all of the work these owners have done to keep our history intact.

I LOVE driving down Mendon Rd. to see the latest updates on the Lewis Tower home. I think they have done such a wonderful job restoring that wonderful building.