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"Nervy" Preservation

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Thursday, March 03, 2011
Photo Courtesy of Springfield Preservation Trust
A 1939 photo of 77 Maple Street, taken as part of a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project in Springfield.

The Springfield Preservation Trust has spent almost 40 years working to preserve the city's rich architectural history. But it calls its campaign to renovate the 19th-century former schoolhouse at 77 Maple St. perhaps its "nerviest" effort yet.

Built in 1832, the building began its life as the Springfield Female Seminary; over the years, it served as a private residence for several families (for many years, it was the home of Frederick Harris, president of Third National Bank, after whom a city elementary school is named), then was converted into offices. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and sits in the city's Lower Maple Historic District.

But like all too many of Springfield's fine old buildings, 77 Maple eventually fell into disrepair. After a renovation effort by a previous owner stalled and the schoolhouse was on track to be demolished to make way for a parking lot, the nonprofit SPT bought the building and took on the ambitious rehab project, designed by architect Bill Devlin, a long-time preservationist in the city. The group's vision: to turn the historic building into a multi-family home with four condos, designed with an emphasis on "sustainable, green products and processes."

Saving 77 Maple—which began with work to stabilize the building structurally and protect it from the elements—won't come cheap. The SPT has set a fundraising goal of $500,000, and has already raised more than $100,000 of that.

On Sunday, March 6, the SPT will hold a fundraiser to support the project. The event will be a two-fer for fans of historic preservation: a cocktail party and tour of the restored Loomis-Weston Mansion at 220 Maple St., just down the road from the former schoolhouse. The 1874 mansion is owned by Don Courtemanche, executive director of the Springfield Business Improvement District, who bought it last year. Among its previous owners are the Wesson family, of Smith and Wesson fame.

The March 6 SPT fundraiser will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. at 220 Maple St. Tickets are $40 each, or $35 for SPT members. To reserve tickets or for more information, go to www.springfieldpreservationtrust.org. Payment can also be sent to the Springfield Preservation Trust at 74 Walnut St., Springfield, 01105, and must be received by March 4.

 

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