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Williamstown Historical Commission Backs Museum's CPA Request
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
03:34PM / Wednesday, January 20, 2021
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The Williamstown Historical Commission plans to move this 19th-century barn to its property on Route 7.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Historical Commission on Tuesday voted to endorse a request from the Williamstown Historical Museum for $50,000 in Community Preservation Act funds.
 
The museum is seeking town funds to pay about 17 percent of the $301,600 cost of dismantling, preserving and reassembling an historic Williamstown barn on the institution's grounds.
 
"We're hopeful we'll get at least a portion of the funding for this project," said Sarah Currie, a member of the commission who also serves as executive director for the museum. "It's important, we think to save this barn because this is one of an ever dwindling collection of barns like this.
 
"They often fall into disrepair and are demolished, and their stories can't be told. It's significant to the town because agriculture was so significant to the town."
 
The goal is to preserve the 19th-century Dolan-Jenks barn and erect it on a to-be-installed concrete slab toward the rear of the museum property, the site of the former South Center School on New Ashford Road (Route 7).
 
"Opportunities for interpretation about the life of the barn and its owners abound and will be of value to current-day residents who are interested in gaining a deeper understanding of the town and its agricultural history," the museum's CPA application reads.
 
Currie told the commission that the barn, which likely will be torn down by the owners if not restored by the museum, houses wagons that also will be added to the museum's collection and displayed in the historic structure.
 
"I can't speak for [the owners], but I suspect it might pose a liability risk potentially," Currie said in answer to a question from a fellow commissioner. "It's an old barn. … They tried a number of times to donate or find new owners for the barn and didn't find success. They thought it was time for them to move forward with this project.
 
"After a lot of consideration on the [WHM] board and good fortune to find significant donors, we thought it was time to move forward, even given COVID."
 
If the town comes across with $50,000 to support the project, the museum would need to raise another $60,600, about 20 percent of the project's cost, in order to go forward. It already has $171,000 in dedicated donations and another $20,000 pledged from donors, according to its CPA application.
 
Historical Commission Chair Gerrit Blauvelt called it an exciting project, and the panel granted Currie's request that it send a letter to the CPC finding that the restoration would be a significant work of historic preservation in the town.
 
The Community Preservation Committee will hear from the Williamstown Historical Museum and three other applicants for CPA funds at its first meeting of the winter, moved from Wednesday to Jan. 27.
 
In other business on Tuesday, the Historical Commission elected Nate Buddington to serve as vice chair and discussed its strategy for compiling an inventory of historic properties in town.
 
It also held a preliminary conversation about how the body will weigh in on a Massachusetts Department of Transportation proposal to build a rotary at the Five Corners intersection on South Williamstown.
 
Since the area is a National Historic District, the local Historical Commission and the Massachusetts Historical Commission in Boston would be asked to comment on the change if and when it moves from the conceptual stage to the development phase, Community Development Director Andrew Groff told the commissioners.
 
He encouraged members of the commission to check out MassDOT's interactive presentation, where the state agency is accepting comments on the proposal through Feb. 3.
 
"I think [a roundabout] would be more compatible with a historic district than the bunch of blinking lights we have today," Groff said.
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