CUMBERLAND – As the renovation of the Ann & Hope Mill in Cumberland gets closer, some area residents and former residents are getting sentimental about what might be lost, saying they hope certain features past and present might be preserved or restored.
Jim Fredrikson, of Lincoln, says he feels the Ann & Hope pylon sign at the corner of Mendon Road and Ann & Hope Way should be declared of historical significance and be preserved, as should the old store sign on the other end, at the Broad Street side of the building.
“I hope the town of Cumberland will strongly consider this, as so many of us have such fond memories of Ann & Hope, and due to the historical significance with the national Walmart chain,” he said, referencing Ann & Hope at one time providing inspiration for the formation of Walmart.
Bill Gardner, a former resident of the Berkeley-Ashton section of Cumberland for 75 years before moving to New Jersey, says he would like to see some marker or plaque placed at the original resting place of colonist William Blackstone as shown on a 1908 postcard, before the monument was moved twice and to its current location across the street next to the Blackstone River Theatre (Blackstone’s original grave remains somewhat of a mystery, as previously detailed in The Breeze).
Blackstone, noted Gardner, was buried not far from his homestead, which he called Study Hill and which would have been located on the site of the current mill.
Nicholas Goodier is the attorney for Premier Development, the company planning to redevelop Ann & Hope Mill into a mix of mostly residential and some commercial space, with preliminary plans due this year. He said a lot of thought has gone into historic preservation as required with historic tax credits, and the developer’s representatives went to the Historic District Commission with a binder full of information discussing how everything that takes place will mimic what was here previously.
As for the pylon sign at Broad Street and Ann & Hope Way, the Chase family that owned the mill maintains an easement for the area containing it, and can alter, replace or repair the sign as they want.
As for the sign further down near Dunkin’ at Mendon Road and Ann & Hope Way, that sign is beyond the limits of the property that ends at the train tracks, said Goodier.
Planning and Community Development Director Jonathan Stevens said the Chase family pays rent to the property owner for the sign at Mendon Road, but there has been no concrete plan detailed for it as of yet.
Stevens said that a second location has been discussed as part of the Valley Falls and Lonsdale Economic Revitalization and Social Equity Plan for a possible future “gateway sign for the district” related to revitalization and redevelopment opportunities in the area.
Stevens got choked up this week, saying he did so as he was thinking about how relevant that sign was to the area at one point. There is also a Narragansett Bay pumping station on that property near Dunkin’ and the bike path.
Nothing has been determined at this point, Stevens said, but there will eventually be questions surrounding what function a sign advertising an Ann & Hope store that’s no longer there would play in the future.
The Chases of Ann & Hope still have options in the area and a potential use for the two sign spots, said Stevens, as they still own the parking lot parcels across from Ann & Hope and could choose to develop a complex across from the mill and direct people to that development.
For those with an interest in history, the name of the mill is not changing, said Goodier, and there are other plans to preserve the rich history here.
Though he’s not sure of any plans to create a second memorial to Blackstone, Goodier said there are plans to fix an old clock from one of the towers, and the full landscape plan, preserving some of what’s there, must go through the Conservation Commission.
The overall Ann & Hope renovation plan will feature a “major introduction of green space,” said Goodier, with parking aisles breaking up the current “sea of asphalt.”
Welcome to the discussion.
Comments that will be deleted include:
What we at The Breeze would truly like to see are comments that add history and context to a story or that use criticism constructively.