Pittsfield commission backs Springside grant effort, OKs razing of old barn


PITTSFIELD — The city Historical Commission has approved the demolition of a dilapidated barn that was once part of a home associated with the historic Pontoosuc Woolen Mill.

Commissioners also agreed on Monday to send a letter of support for a city application for $100,000 in Massachusetts Historical Commission grant funding to begin rehabilitation work on the Springside House.

Robert Fournier, of SK Design Group Inc., representing the property owner, St. Nicholas Church, said the barn is one of two on the church property at 1304 North St., across the present day highway from the original mill site around the Pontoosuc Lake dam. The barns and a house on the parcel were once owned by operators of the historic 19th century mill complex.

However, Fournier said that while the church continues to use the house and the other barn, the one to be demolished presents a safety hazard as it is in danger of collapsing into the basement. He said work apparently was done at some point to jack up the stone foundation to restore it, but the work was never completed, and the building is now fenced off to keep people from entering.

During the discussion, the barn was described as not having hand-hewn beams or other historically important features, as the wood was found to be machine milled.

Fournier said the structure was likely used to store carriages at one point, while the other barn probably was a horse barn. He said the home was owned by the Francis family, one of the owners of the historic mill, until 1945. The St. Nicholas parish purchased the property in 2010 and has since constructed a new church on the site.

All of the older buildings date from the last quarter of the 19th century.

Also Monday, city Open Space and Natural Resources Manager James McGrath sought a letter of support for the city's application for a $100,000 state grant to begin a multi-year restoration of the historic Springside House in Springside Park. The city would provide an equal match for the grant, he said, using some of the capital funds approved to leverage grant funding for the planned restoration.

McGrath said he has "high confidence" the city's application will be funded, adding, "This is a very competitive project."

The city previously received a Massachusetts Historical Commission grant to help fund an architectural analysis of the Springside House and to lay out specific options for its restoration. McGrath said that, because specifications already are in hand, the project, if funded, could go out to bid in June with work beginning in September.

The first phase of the restoration would focus on rehabilitating the brick foundation and roof and roof drainage system work, he said. Overall, the project is estimated to take five to seven years, he said, depending on the availability of funding.

McGrath said he also will seek support for the grant application from other Springside Park stakeholders, adding that it would "show there is broad interest in seeing this grand old structure restored."

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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