Colegrove Park Elementary renovation earns state Historical Society honors


NORTH ADAMS — Before it was Colegrove, it was Conte. Before it was Conte, it was Drury.

Last week, the transformation from Silvio O. Conte Middle School to Colegrove Park Elementary School, which opened in January, was recognized with an award from the Massachusetts Historical Society.

The roughly $30 million project was nominated for the Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award by its architect, Margo Jones of Jones Whitsett Architects.

Built as Drury Academy in the early 20th century, the building stood as a middle school until a restructuring of the school district prompted its closure.

After years of planning and a voter-approved borrowing plan, the project construction began in the fall of 2014 and was completed in late 2015, just in time for students to return in January. The renovation costs were reimbursed by the Massachusetts School Building Authority at a level of 80 percent.

"The Massachusetts Historical Commission sincerely appreciates all efforts to preserve the Commonwealth's valuable historic properties," wrote William Galvin, secretary of the commonwealth, in a letter to North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright. "The careful restoration of the Drury Academy demonstrates a strong commitment to historic preservation that goes well beyond what is normally expected."

Mayor Richard Alcombright, who said the construction of the building is expected to have remained on budget when the final numbers are tallied, said its restoration proved the building had good bones.

"It's important to me because urban renewal took away half of our community here, half of our downtown," Alcombright said, referring to the demolition of the south side of Main Street. "When I stand on top of our new Hadley bridge and I look east ... to me it's incredibly important that we maintain the character of our city as much as we can and for as long as we can."

Alcombright credited Jones, the project's architect, and the North Adams Historical Society for integrating historical aspects of the building into its renovation plans, ranging from stained glass windows to restored columns.

"The kudos really go to [members of the historical society] for making sure that the right things were done and putting enough pressure on us ... however, allowing that flexibility and realizing there are costs associated with those things," Alcombright said.

Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.


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