Public/private effort may chart Sand Hill School future in Sandwich

Posted Jun 10, 2013 @ 06:00 AM

When it comes to deciding the fate and future of historic properties around Sandwich, the town has had limited success in recent years; Town Hall restoration aside.

What to do with the Forestdale Schoolhouse, Deacon Eldred House on Shawme Pond and the old Sand Hill School / Clark-Haddad Building at Dewey Avenue are cases in point.

The Sand Hill School topic has been filled with debate and discussion for years. That discussion continues.

The Sandwich Historical Commission will approach selectmen next month with a suggestion for the closed structure after having reviewed the makeover of other old area schoolhouses and a Bass River bank that was closed for 17 years but was successfully made over into the Cultural Center of Cape Cod in Yarmouth.

Commission member Lisa Hassler did the investigating. At this point, she says, an arts/cultural center makes some sense for Sand Hill/Clark Haddad in a public-private partnership of sorts; with the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce possibly involved.

Hassler looked at the old Cataumet Schoolhouse in Bourne, but that was turned into a veritable museum with period furniture intact that would make events, displays and exhibits nearly impossible to hold at Sand Hill.

Hassler says partnering with a non-profit group could lead to the restoration and maintenance of Sand Hill and an adaptive re-use – or re-uses – of the building.

Community Preservation Act funds might be tapped to finance an architectural reassessment of the building; something that would help later with grant applications.

Grant funding might flow to a makeover project given that the building is in the Jarvesville National Register Historic District and would support the start-up Glass Town Cultural District as well.

Selectmen will listen to historical commission suggestions July 25. The commission will present a brief slide presentation. The bottom line likely will be that a non-profit group be created to take responsibility for the building, its maintenance and leasing.

Selectmen undoubtedly will be attentive. There may be strands in the presentation that could be applied elsewhere; notably the Deacon Eldred House and Forestdale School. And perhaps even to a lesser extent at the 1927 section of the Henry T. Wing School, once youngsters leave for STEM studies at Sandwich High School.

Hassler is optimistic. She said the cultural center project in Yarmouth cost $700,000. But that project came in $500,000 under budget for a building that had been closed for 17 years.

She said a cultural center for Sand Hill is a reasonable idea. Part of the makeover would involve an improved appearance, a public/private partnership and a pragmatic evaluation of long-term uses; as well as efforts to protect the historical front façade.

An underlying argument in favor of such sentiment is commission consensus that arts and culture affect an area’s economic vitality.