Monday, March 26, 2012

The Future of Sand Hill School, Sandwich, MA

Sand Hill School ca. 1900 showing the decorative gable molding and porch corbels
distinctive of the carpenter gothic style
 On Sunday, March 25th, the Sandwich Historical Commission hosted an open house at the Sand Hill School (also called the Clark Haddad building), on Dewey Avenue, followed by an open exchange of ideas on the future of that building at the newly renovated Sandwich Town Hall.

This Sand Hill school was built to provide for the educational needs of the children in the Jarvesville neighborhood that surrounded the Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory.  It was built in 1885 to replace an earlier school building. The School has been the topic of much discussion ever since the Superintendent's office moved out in 2007, leaving the building vacant.  What is to become of this tangible piece of Sandwich's history?

Touring the school during the open house, I was surprised to see how much of the original fabric remains in the building.  It has original bead board wainscoting, doors and built in cabinetry.  Though the floors are covered in carpet, I suspect that the floorboards may be hiding underneath.

There was a healthy turnout at the open house.  Afterwards, an informal meeting took place at the town hall.  I was pleased that the cookies and lemonade found their way over to the town hall meeting :)

Terry Blake, Chair of the Historical Commission helped to outline some of the options:
Move it, Preserve it, or tear it down.  Jon Shaw, also of the commission gave an entertaining talk about the history and style of the building.  Throughout its years, it has seen many uses, including as a ballet studio, ball room, kindergarten, American Legion Hall, and Women's auxiliary.

Students at the Sand Hill School circa 1900 (note two entrances)
Participants at the meeting recalled some of their own stories.  Apparently, when the building was used by the Women's auxiliary, the town mandated that there could be no alcohol on the first floor of the building.  Due to this decree, the basement was dug out.... by hand.  Where there's a will there's a way.

Today, the school is a shadow of its former self.  The carpenter gothic details which adorned its gables and roofline have been removed or covered up.  The original porch was changed and the corbels removed.  Since it has been vacant it has become a target to vandals.  Chipped paint, broken windows and plywood boards now mar its facade.

The Sand Hill School (also known as the Clark-Haddad building as
it looks today.
The discussion turned to potential future uses.  The Sandwich Historical Commission advocates for preservation.  The consensus of the attendees seemed to indicate a preference to preserve the school in its current location as much of its importance lies in its history and link to the B & S Glass Factory. Ideas on how to accomplish this were many and included:

 Selling the property with a preservation easement,
 Keeping the property but leasing it to an organization which would be charged with the preservation,
 A curatorship program like that sponsored by the state of Massachusetts
 Keeping the property and maintaining it as a publicly accessible building.

A few suggested using the building as a place for research of our town's history, housing the archives and including a museum celebrating the history of the glass factory workers.  Others would like to see the building perform a multi use function, like a community center.  It was suggested that it could perhaps hold the offices of the superintendent once again.

To address the immediate preservation needs, many signed their names to a "work-day" list to help paint, rake and fix windows.  Which I'm sure would be a relief to neighbors who have had to look at this once stately building become an eyesore in the neighborhood.

So what is to become of the Sand Hill School?  If the energy and passion in that room is any indication..... something great!

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