SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 26, 2012

Local sites up for national recognition

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A little fire station and a cemetery that dates back before the Civil War have been nominated for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, the Massachusetts Historical Commission announced this week.

The North Street fire station in Salem, the city’s oldest working station, and the Swampscott Cemetery on Essex Street, where a group of residents have been working to restore and weatherize a small chapel, were chosen by the commission to be included in a list of six historic properties around the state that were nominated.

The designation opens the door for both communities to seek grants from the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund, to help offset the costs of protection, rehabilitation or restoration of the properties.

Louis Gallo, a member of the private Swampscott Historical Society and an associate member of Swampscott’s Historical Commission, said town residents have been working for the past several years to restore the 1924 chapel inside the cemetery, which was established in 1852, shortly after the town’s incorporation.

The group wanted to restore and weatherize the chapel building, which had increasingly fallen into disuse as funerals were celebrated at other houses of worship.

The Chapel Committee had obtained money to repair the roof and re-point the masonry. Gallo said the town would also like to restore the chapel’s stained-glass windows, and the designation will help by making the town eligible for a matching grant for the work.

At the start of the process, the Massachusetts Historical Commission recommended that the town hire an expert to help with the application process. She and volunteers like Gallo conducted research into the cemetery and chapel, which was built in 1924, and put together a package for the state.

The designation covers three of the cemetery’s four sections, developed between 1852 and 1960. The oldest section includes large family gravesites, sections for paupers and victims of epidemics.

The cemetery walls are also notable for their use of local stone. The most recent section of the wall was built by the Depression-era Works Progress Administration.

The North Street fire station was described in its application as a rare example of late 19th-century municipal architecture, with its decorative exterior brickwork, designed by the city’s leading architect of the day, William D. Dennis.

The station was originally built to accommodate horse-drawn fire equipment.

The fire station has over the years also played host to the community, including its use as Ward 6’s polling place.

Brian McNiff, a spokesman for the state Historical Commission, said that the process of adding the sites to the National Register will take about 40 days.

There are currently more than 70,000 properties in Massachusetts on the National Register of Historic Places.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.