PEPPERELL -- The fate of a house dating back to the 19th century that might be destroyed to make way for a medical center has members of the Historical Commission concerned.
The Greek Revival house at 68 Main St., which is now owned by Southern New Hampshire Medical Center of Nashua, could be demolished to allow for construction of the 11,300-square-foot center unless the Historical Commission can raise enough money for the house to be moved.
Although the home is not registered as a historic site, chairman of the Pepperell Historical Commission Diane Cronin said its historic character is vital to Pepperell's appeal.
"We need to make an effort to strike a balance between business development and retaining our rural appeal, and they can both coexist together. Right now it's really about trying to save this Greek Revival structure before it's lost," Cronin said.
The house has been listed as an asset on the Massachusetts Historical Commission database, Cronin said.
While the Historical Commission searches for a way to save the building, the Pepperell Fire Department is using it. On a recent Tuesday night, floodlights lit the home's exterior and fire trucks lined the street as smoke poured from the antique home's windows.
Scott Cote, a representative from Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, said firefighter training is a purpose for which soon-to-be demolished homes are frequently used.
"We historically work with fire departments and first responders in our communities where we have buildings available," Cote said. "We think its the right thing to do."
Although Cote said that the fire training has done no damage to the building, Cronin said the work had broken through the roof, which has since been covered.
Fire Chief Toby Tyler said that only minor damage has been done to the building, including two holes in the roof and some damage to the doors.
The building has been used to train new recruits in search and rescue methods, and provides the recruits with real world practice for escaping a building, he said.
"It's been a great training tool for us, and we're planning to use it for as long as we have access," Tyler said.
If the Historical Commission were to find a way to fund moving the building, Cote said they would be welcome to do so. However, he said he doubted the historic value of the building.
"I think they ought to go through the house and take a closer look. I personally think the building has been structurally compromised. It was built in the mid-1800s and has had additions put on over time and each time they added on to that house. I believe some parts have been structurally compromised," Cote said.
He also said the previous owner removed most of the finishes that gave the house historical significance.
In order to allow construction to continue on schedule, Cote said the commission would need to have a plan to move the building by Jan. 1.
Cronin said the Historical Commission is looking into options for either salvaging parts of the building or financing a way to move it. She had also asked Southern New Hampshire Medical Center to consider keeping the house intact and building around it.
"We're looking further into the structural integrity of the building, we need to determine more about that. But it can be in rough shape and still be moved successfully," Cronin said.
"We could also salvage parts of it, like the white pine antique flooring or the exterior arch components. At this point it really is a race against time to try to see what we can do."
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