By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer
Northborough – Preservation Massachusetts (PM), a nonprofit dedicated to maintaining the historic and cultural heritage of the commonwealth, will be granting its 2020 Robert K. Kuehn Jr. Award for a project that converted two historic Northborough properties — the Gale-Slaney House and the Cyrus Gale General Store, both located on Main Street — into four affordable housing units. The award acknowledges the project’s “… unique & creative partnerships… and green & sustainable elements.” Due to COVID-19, PM will celebrate this award and others by holding a two-week multi-media celebration this October, followed by a live virtual event on Oct. 22.
The project, led by the Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester (HFH MW/GW), was nominated by Norm Corbin, chairman of the Northborough Historic District Commission and a member of PM.
“When I read about this award, I knew that this project should receive it. I am thrilled by the well-deserved recognition,” he said.
According to Erin Kelly, Associate Director at PM, “This award is especially meaningful for this project, as the awards namesake, developer Robert H. Kuehn, was extremely active and involved in the passage of the Community Preservation Act in 2000, a program through which Northborough was able to contribute funds to make possible the restoration of these historic properties.”
“Projects like the Gale House that breathe new life and new use into historic properties are especially important and a great example of how preservation can help communities meet current and future needs,” she added.
Debbie Maruca Hoak, Executive Director of HFH MW/GW said, “(The award) recognizes the collaboration of an entire community to restore two important and historic buildings in the center of Northborough while bringing them to modern standards and giving them new life as affordable homes.”
The project launched in 2016 at 33-35 and 37-39 Main St. The two historic buildings were converted in four affordable owner-occupied condos, including a five-, three-, and two two-bedroom units.
The 33-35 Main Street property was the Gale-Slaney House, which dates back to 1810, when it was the home of Captain Cyrus Gale. According to records, this Greek Revival home was lost to a fire before 1855, when a barn was located at the site. The current structure was moved or built there in the 1930s.
Next door, at 37-39 Main Street, the Cyrus Gale General Store started as a home between 1820 and 1830. It served as Northborough’s stagecoach stop, post office, and general store.
The Northborough Community Preservation Committee (CPC) purchased both properties for $300,000 from Trinity Church and donated them to the HFH MW/GW. The Northborough CPA, Northborough Affordable Housing Corporation, AbbVie, FedEx, Charlesbank Homes, Genzyme, TJX Foundation, Santander Bank and Wood Pro Inc. all contributed grants for the restoration.
As for “unique & creative partnerships,” this project truly took a village. In addition to HFH MW/GW volunteers and the future condo owners, the team members included many, many individuals from the Northborough Affordable Housing, Northborough’s CPC, Trinity Church of Northborough, Assabet Valley Regional Technical and Algonquin Regional high schools, and area businesses.
In terms of green and sustainable elements, the new condo units feature LED lighting, mini-split systems to provide heat and cooling, and recycled newspapers for interior wall insulation.
Paul Rebello, construction manager for HFH MW/GW said, “The building had deteriorated and many of the structural elements of the floors and walls needed to be replaced. Now all of the interiors have modern configurations and finishes. The exterior finishes renew the look of the original façade.”
Photos/Habitat for Humanity MetroWest/Greater Worcester