HOPKINTON — Raised through a lottery as a community project in 1790 along Clarks Falls Road and moved to its current location in 1828, the former Baptist church building at the corner of Route 3 and Townhouse Road needs some serious cosmetic work.
The ceiling and walls betray signs of the building’s age, with plaster peeling off in large strips, exposing the base underneath. Wood stoves, long disconnected from warming the meeting hall space, sit along the left side of the main hall awaiting restoration or removal.
There are no structural issues, however. The Hopkinton Historical Association completed repairs to the roof and put the finishing touches on a renovated electrical system, and members are now eyeing an $86,000 fundraising campaign to put the finishing touches on a lengthy, multi-step process to restore the property and prepare the association to serve the town for generations to come.
“For us, this really is an opportunity for a new beginning,” said Hopkinton Historical Association President Lauri Arruda, a former town employee and a published historical author. “This is our chance to make the best of a bad situation, having had to close for the pandemic, and using it to build a better future.”
It’s been anything but a simple road to get to this point, Arruda said, but financial commitments and volunteer efforts from the association’s 135 members have already helped the organization address the most important structural concerns and has given it a jump-start in the effort to raise money for the last phase of the project.
The association has already raised $10,500 toward the $86,000 goal, largely thanks to commitments made during a member drive. If the money can be raised in a timely manner, Arruda said the association has already identified carpenter John Picard, a North Road resident and owner of Summit Woodworking, as the one who will conduct the work.
With that end goal in mind, it is full speed ahead to make the project’s completion a reality in 2022.
Arruda and Tina Lavigne, publicity chairwoman for the association, each said that the nonprofit has applied for a grant through the Champlin Foundation’s annual process and is hopeful it will cover a considerable portion of the remaining cost. Both said that the association will also look to find other ways to secure funding.
The organization would be notified in April if it is selected, and would receive the grant funds in early summer.
“This is an important project for the historical association as they look to build a future for the organization,” Lavigne said. “We want to give the town something that will preserve the history of our community for future generations.”
Established in 1957, the association first acquired the historical congregation hall in 1980 after dwindling patronage led the church to close the building. In an effort to preserve the property, the church offered the building to the historical association for just $1, turning over the ownership deed to the association.
With the chance to provide something for the community that would “preserve the past for the future,” the motto of the organization, Arruda said the association is excited to be able to renovate the hall.
The roof work and electricity was an important first step, Arruda said, as it will protect assets housed by the building. The hall is home to several historically-relevant items, including a 1917 Victrola record player, a glass case crafted in 1875 at Browning Stone in Hope Valley, and even a 1790 cradle that once rocked Prudence Crandall.
The association’s furniture has all been historically appraised, which is done not to determine financial value but to verify and identify the ages and origins of the items, thanks to a partnership with furniture maker and historical expert Thomas Helmer.
Arruda said she hopes the end result of the current campaign will be a project that the whole community can be proud of.
“There is a lot of history here, and we are looking forward to being able to preserve it for future generations,” Arruda said.