PITTSFIELD -- The long-envisioned rehabilitation of the historic Springside House has taken a first step forward.
In accepting a $30,000 grant from the Massachusetts Historical Society -- which must be matched by the city -- the City Council this week approved seeking requests for proposals from vendors with expertise in historic preservation.
The work will include "an evaluation of the house from top to bottom," said James McGrath, Pittsfield's park and open space manager. He said the study will include a structural analysis of the foundation, roof, walls, operating systems and other aspects of the 19th century mansion.
Springside House, located on the more than 230 acres of Springside Park, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The rambling wood-frame building, which was built in the 1850s and ‘60s, was a private mansion before being donated to the city. From 1940 until 2007, it served as the Parks Department headquarters.
McGrath told councilors it will take six to eight weeks to develop study proposals and to select a firm for the structural evaluation. A report should be in hand by June 2014, he said.
Officials have not yet determined the best uses for the building. Public hearings will be held to gather input once the evaluation is complete, McGrath said.
"We are going to find out where we're at with this building and what the challenges are," he said, adding that while still at a preliminary stage, the city is "going to stick with this. We are in it for the long haul."
McGrath and Ward 1 Councilor Christine Yon was praised at the council meeting for working to push the effort forward.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop lauded the initial step as a tangible sign of progress in dealing with the property, which is estimated to require millions of dollars to rehabilitate. "You have to have a road map to get bigger grants," Lothrop said.
McGrath said having an evaluation and eventually a reuse plan in place, along with solid community and city support, will give Pittsfield an edge in applying for additional grant funding for rehabilitation work.
The first step provides momentum for the effort, said Yon, who noted that she is consistently asked about the structure from people who are adamant it be saved.
Friends of Springside Park interim President Joseph Durwin said after the meeting, "I'm thrilled that they accepted the grant."
He said his group and others in the community have pushed for several years to save the vacant property for reuse.
Springside House is an "Italianate-style summer ‘cottage' " and Springside Park "a well-preserved example of a 19th century country estate, which evolved during the first half of the 20th century into a planned municipal park," according to a description of the property when it was nominated for placement on a historic registry.
Springside House was built between 1856 and 1869 by Abraham Burbank.
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