Possible Riverside Historic district in Gill to be decided by state 

  • The Riverside section of Gill including the old bridge abutment for the old 'Red Bridge' that connected Gill to Montague. February 22, 2017. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Riverside section of Gill including the old bridge abutment for the old 'Red Bridge' that connected Gill to Montague. February 22, 2017.

  • Map Contributed by Franklin Regional Council of Governments

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 23, 2017

GILL — After about two years of work by local residents and the Gill Historical Commission, the fate of a possible National Historic District in the Riverside area of town is in the hands of the state.

The commission, with support from town government and area residents, recently submitted its nomination to the state Historical Commission. If the state panel approves, the nomination advances to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C., for final approval.

Town officials held a public hearing about a historic district in conjunction with the state Historical Society on Tuesday night at the Riverside Municipal Building.

The district encompass much of the Riverside neighborhood, with Riverview Drive, Oak Street, Walnut Street, Myrtle Street, Pine Street and Grove Street included within the boundaries as well as some properties on the other side of French King Highway.

Homeowners in the proposed district wouldn’t be required to do any additional work and there are no benefits for residential owners, but having the designation would create additional grant opportunities from the state for town-owned and nonprofit buildings within the district.

According to Phil Bergen from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the main benefit to towns is community pride and the ability to teach local history through existing residences and structures in the district.

“There are 351 towns in Massachusetts and there are 351 different stories about why Gill is Gill and Turners Falls is Turners Falls,” he said. “It’s a fascinating way of learning how towns develop over the years.”

Bonnie Parsons, who has been working with the Historical Commission on the nomination and had previously worked on the Pioneer Valley Planning Board, explained why the district is historically significant. She said it was a community where workers from the Turners Falls Lumber Company worked with local paper mill workers. The historic buildings in the district range from the 18th century to the 20th century and include agricultural and industrial structures. Parsons said that the houses have been handed down and many families have been residing in the district for generations.

“People stayed because of the community spirit that developed in Riverside,” she said during the presentation.

The district has houses that are good representations of the style of houses that were built during certain time periods. The Riverside district includes 118 contributing buildings and 28 noncontributing buildings, meaning they do not have historical significance.

A district on the National Register can have local, state or national significance, with most of them having local significance, according to Bergen.

There has been renewed interest in the district in recent years because of the ongoing Battlefield Study Grant happening in several towns that will work to retrace and understand the battle between Native Americans and English settlers on the banks of the Connecticut River in present day Gill. About 20 property owners in the Riverside district have consented to the Battlefield Study Grant group exploring their properties for possible signs of the 17th century battle.

In 2016, the Gill Historical Commission also published “Riverside: Life along the Connecticut in Gill, Massachusetts,” a book about the area.

Reach Miranda Davis at:
413-772-0261, ext. 280
or mdavis@recorder.com.