Photo Gallery | West Stockbridge Historical Society
WEST STOCKBRIDGE — The former second-floor municipal space occupied by town officials at 9 Main St. was, to be kind, inhospitable at times.
The fact is, the old Town Hall offices gave dingy a bad name.
Which makes the present restoration of the entire building by the West Stockbridge Historical Society all the more remarkable.
"Our hats are off to the Historical Society," said town Administrator Mark Webber. "When the town sold the building to them for $1, we told them not to come back for any more money. And they've done a great job all on their own."
A recent visit to the former town offices on Main Street reveal the truth in Webber's words. The partitions have been removed on the second floor, allowing the light in. The walls are repainted, the floors cleaned and there is handicapped access to the floor via a ramp from the upper driveway to the rear.
On the first floor, which housed the former town library, the walls have been repainted and cleaned, and a ramp allows wheelchair access. The space, according to Historical Society President Robert Salerno, now is being used for receptions and will be a historical room, as well.
The Historical Society has raised a whopping $450,000 to date to carry out the renovations. Some of it is state money, but much of it is community donations.
"Second-home owners, residents, and also people who used to live here but may have moved away," he said. "It's a mix, and it's not one group more than another."
An equally impressive statistic is that the society has more than 400 members, a large number for a small community like West Stockbridge.
"We're probably the largest historical society in Western Mass.," Salerno said.
The Historical Society, however, was "dormant" for many years until this renovation sparked local support about a decade ago, he said.
The second floor space already has hosted performances, including plays, concerts, lectures and informational talks. The first group to play there was a quartet of musicians from the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Salerno recalled that one of the BSO performers pulled him aside after the show.
"He said the acoustics here were perfect," said Salerno. "He made me promise not to mess it up."
The town moved to its new quarters in 2007. In 2009, voters approved the sale of the Main Street structure, built in 1854, to the Historical Society.
Salerno estimates the renovation work is a little more than half done. Perhaps another $400,000 will be needed to complete the job. This includes new restrooms, landscaping and building an elevator to the second floor for better access, even though the top floor is accessible from the rear parking lot.
"At one of our first performances, a woman came into the room with a walker," said Salerno. "She had tears in her eyes. She told me she had lived here all her life, but she had never seen the second floor of the building because she couldn't get up here. That was a nice thing to hear."
Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.
How to help ...
To donate for the renovation work and see the historical society's spring programming schedule, go to www.weststockbridgehistory.org.