Friends of Wendell Meetinghouse to purchase, renovate building for use as events space

  • With ownership of the Wendell Meetinghouse on Morse Village Road expected to be transferred from the town to the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse, planners expect to have the building open for events possibly as soon as spring. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 11/27/2020 3:11:14 PM

WENDELL — With ownership of the Wendell Meetinghouse expected to be transferred from the town to the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse next month, planners expect to have the building open for events possibly as soon as spring.

The nonprofit and the town came together on a purchase and sale agreement and a land development agreement, according to Court Dorsey, president of the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse. The town is slated to transfer the building — on Morse Village Road across from the town common — and the land to the Friends on Dec. 14 or 15 for $100, following a unanimous vote of the Selectboard.

“We’re very excited ... and we started construction work on an accessibility ramp and another exit door,” Dorsey said. “It seems like we’re going to be able to get the building functional for events in the fairly near future, maybe the spring.”

Dorsey said the building, which has occasionally been used for church events and services, will be brought into code compliance so that it can be rented out for weddings and celebrations as well as various spiritual gatherings, yoga and meditation, and occasional music and theater performances.

“It will be kind of a living room for the town of Wendell,” he said.

Dorsey also said some beautification work will be done on the building.

“It’s pretty rough right now,” he said, “but we are renovating it.”

Dorsey explained buttresses under the floor and the attic will be fixed or replaced, and a couple of pillars will be removed from the attic. He also said there is a plan to build an addition for bathrooms and full heating and cooling systems if enough money can be raised.

Volunteer project manager Jerry Barilla said emergency exit signs will be installed.

“We’re underway with what is required to bring the building back into use … and completing (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements,” he said.

Barilla said the two-story building spans roughly 2,200 square feet and comes with less than 1 acre of land. The property is surrounded by two town roads, a cemetery and a private residence.

Dorsey said it was “a headache” going through land deeds filled with inaccuracies and anomalies. The transaction, years in the making, required exhaustive research.

Dorsey said the Friends have received an historical structure report from a Greenfield architectural firm. He also said the Friends will insure the meetinghouse and, starting in July 2022, will make $1,700 payments in lieu of taxes to the town in roughly half the amount of what the normal property tax would be. The Friends will also pay for connection to the town water and wastewater systems.

Selectboard Chair Dan Keller said the property transfer is a great achievement for the town and the Friends.

“It seemed like a win-win situation,” Keller said, because “(the Friends) have a concept for the future of the building that is very much in line with” the building’s original purpose.

According to the Friends’ website, the current meetinghouse was built in 1846. It is a double-entrance church built in the Greek revival style.

“Its design and construction are attributed to Luke Leach, a master carpenter in Wendell who is thought to have built many of the Greek revival houses around the common,” the website reads.

Donations to help fund the renovations can be made online at bit.ly/3kTWTXH. Donors can also send checks, made out to “Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse,” to FWM, P.O. Box 171, Wendell, MA 01379. All gifts to the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse are tax deductible.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.


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