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Deerfield board requests CPA money to document village history

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fountain in South Deerfield Center

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    Fountain in South Deerfield Center

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>South Deerfield Center

    Recorder/Paul Franz
    South Deerfield Center

  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>Fountain in South Deerfield Center
  • Recorder/Paul Franz<br/>South Deerfield Center

DEERFIELD — The town Historical Commission will ask the townspeople to authorize $47,750 in community preservation funds for two projects that would help restore and document the history of South Deerfield.

For $16,500, the commission would replace the disintegrating fence and posts of the Sugarloaf Street Cemetery with new and maintenance-free materials that would mirror the original historic fence design. It would also install a new sign. This would be the first of such signs for all the town cemeteries to identify and share information of historic or educational value.

For $31,250, the Historical Commission would continue research that began last year to document historic structures in the South Deerfield village.

The Community Preservation Committee recommended both projects.

The inventory project started last year when the seven-member Historical Commission began collecting old photos, newspapers and stories to create historical narratives for downtown properties. The commission received $20,000 in CPA money last year, $15,000 of which went toward a professional researcher. Last year, the commission researched the train station, the Hotel Warren, and the former Elm Farm Bakery.

It discovered the bakery was originally built as a post for Civil War veterans from Whately, Sunderland, Conway and Deerfield.

This year’s project would continue the work protecting the historic resources of South Deerfield.

Research would focus on the architects, contractors, builders and carpenters who built the homes and properties of South Deerfield.

It is now known that much of the village’s properties are the 20th century work of William Gass and his sons, who influenced architectural design throughout the Connecticut Valley.

The goal would be to compile the research into a small publication. The information would be broadcast on local access television and placed on the Web with the help of Frontier Community Access Television. This portion would not be paid for by CPA money.

The projects are part of an effort by the Historical Commission to preserve the history of South Deerfield, which it believes has been overshadowed by well-documented Old Deerfield, settled in early colonial times.

The proposals fit the criteria of CPA money, which the town can allocate for projects dedicated to the preservation, rehabilitation and restoration of historic resources.

The project is just one of several long-term projects by the commission.

In 2010, the group secured $32,000 in CPA funds to preserve the gravestones in the Sugarloaf Street Cemetery. Currently, a sign hangs on the cemetery fence thanking the town for its contribution.

The following year, the commission requested $72,000 to repair the gravestones at the North Wisdom and Baptist cemeteries in West Deerfield and the Bloody Brook monument and the Captain Lathrop slab on North Main Street.

In 2012, the group had three projects on its to-do list — one of which included the start of the inventory project.

It received $24,000 in CPA funds to begin repair work in the nine remaining cemeteries by preserving one to five gravestones in each location. The Historical Commission also sought a professional needs assessment for the preservation of the grave stones in the old burial ground on Albany Road. The Historical Commission has put out the project to bid this week for a company to do an assessment.

In addition, the town’s historians received $10,000 in CPA money in 2012 to do an assessment of the old 1888 grammar school, now the South County Senior Center. The school was designed by the famous Northampton architect William Fenno Pratt. The building is currently in disrepair with the second floor inaccessible and the attic stairs sealed off. The results would help the town decide the future of one of the last standing grammar schools.

You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
kmckiernan@recorder.com
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.

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