EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 6, 2013

Kingston to decide fate of historic building

By Alex Lippa
alippa@eagletribune.com

---- — KINGSTON — The Grace Daley House has been standing at 165 Main St. for nearly 200 years. But the fate of the historic building is now up to the town voters.

Two warrant articles will appear on the ballot at Town Meeting March 12 after no amendments were made at the deliberative session Saturday.

One article asks residents to spend $150,000 on repairs to the building. Another article asks residents if they should raze the building if the previous article does not pass.

The house, which is owned by the town, is used now by a part-time thrift shop and for storage space. Last year, the town determined the house was in need of extensive repairs, including a new foundation and roof.

“I would be against putting this money into the building,” Selectman Mark Heitz said. “If you looked at the cost associated with the building and what we are using it for now, it doesn’t make any sense to me.”

But Virginia Morse, chairman of the Kingston Historical District Commission, said the building is an important part of the town’s history.

“There’s a rhythm and pattern to the buildings in homes and schools, offices and town buildings,” Morse said. “This is just part of the pattern. We’ve already lost two patterns on the old Sanborn Regional High School campus. I would really like to try to save this.”

The house was built in 1834. It was used as a Congregational Church parsonage and a barbershop. The town bought the building in 1972. It’s now used by Kingston Community House, a nonprofit organization.

Morse said she realizes the town is asking for a lot of money for a little-used building, but said revitalizing it would be a priority for the commission.

“There are lots of uses that towns have for historic buildings,” Morse said. “People are always looking for a place to hold meetings. Towns who preserve historic buildings are healthier, more vibrant and economically more appealing.”

Morse said an option taxpayers should be considering is to vote no on both articles, allowing the town to pursue other avenues for renovating the house.

Neither the selectmen nor the Budget Committee recommended repairing the building. Selectmen recommended the house be removed.

“I don’t think it has to be a complete taxpayers’ burden,” she said. “There are many grants which can help the town with restoration.”

The building is not registered in any historical databases. The house is assessed at $101,900, according to town’s records.

Voters added $7,250 to the budget at the deliberative session.

There was a separate warrant article for the purchase of materials for preserving museum, town and library documents. The documents would be part of a new historical museum where the old Nichols Memorial Library is.

At the session, the article was amended to $1, and the $7,250 requested was added to operating budget.

After the article was changed, the Budget Committee voted not to recommend the proposed $4.7 million budget. The default budget is $56,000 less than the proposed budget.

“By not recommending the proposed budget, they are recommending the default budget,” Heitz said. “It was kind of like they cut off their nose to spite their face.”

Three Budget Committee members declined comment on the decision.