Sandwich building could become new cultural center

By George Brennan,

July 28, 2013

SANDWICH – An old building where the children of glass-factory workers once went to school could get new life as a cultural center.

Selectmen have agreed to allow the town’s Historical Commission to spend up to $15,000 to determine what it would take to restore the former Sand Hill School, known more recently as the Clark-Haddad Memorial Building.

The money would pay for an architect to do a needs assessment on the exterior of the building at 16 Dewey Ave. The funds would come from the town’s community preservation administrative funds already allocated by town meeting, but would require approval from the Community Preservation Committee, Assistant Town Manager Douglas Lapp said.

The commission would eventually like the 1885 building to become a cultural center – similar to historic buildings in Cataumet, Barnstable and Yarmouth – that have been restored using a combination of grants, private fundraising and community preservation funds.

After the town stopped using it as a school, the building became an American Legion post and was named after two men from Sandwich who died during World War I.

The Dewey Avenue building was last used by the school department for administrative offices, but school officials turned it back over to the town in 2007 when the superintendent’s office was moved into Sandwich High School. In 2010, selectmen wanted to sell the former school building, but that was blocked by voters at town meeting and another proposal by the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce to move it never gained traction.

Since then, the Historical Commission has stepped in to investigate ways to preserve the building, which has continued to deteriorate. Its windows are boarded up and the paint is peeling. It has about 2,000 square feet on the ground floor, according to town records.

“Doing nothing is not an acceptable alternative,” James Pierce, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, said Friday. “If we just let it sit there, it will deteriorate to sawdust eventually and that would be a shame.”

Lisa Hassler, a member of the Historical Commission, said the hope is that the building will serve as a key component of the new Glass Town Cultural District in Sandwich’s historic village.

“It’s a wonderful first step to figure out what this building needs to move forward,” Hassler said of support from selectmen to do a feasibility study. “It’s the only building left, except for dwelling houses, that was actually owned by the glass company.”