ATTLEBORO, Mass. — Built in 1842, East Attleborough Academy on Sanford Street in Attleboro is one of the oldest buildings in the city and probably the oldest the city owns.

For the last 16 years a group of dedicated volunteers, members of the Attleboro Historic Preservation Society, have been slowly and painstakingly restoring it.

Just last week the exterior of the former school building, which at one time also housed some city offices, was painted.

And like most of the work that takes place on the aging structure, which has been moved three times in its 175-year-life, the job was done through the good will and financial help of a local business.

AH Painting out of North Attleboro donated “a sizable” portion of the job, society member Betty Fuller said.

“We were so pleased to get that,” she said.

Member Dick Potter said the colors, shades of blue and beige, are close to what the originals are thought to have been.

The building, he said, looks better than it has in decades.

“We’ve gotten an awful lot of compliments,” Potter said.

Potter, a retired engineer, acts as the “clerk of the works” for the improvements that have been underway since the city leased the historic structure to the society 16 years ago for $1 a year.

The new paint is just frosting on the cake.

It took a lot of work and a lot of generous people to get the building to the point at which it could be painted.

Projects that preceded the paint job were a new roof, new wood siding, new porch decking, new granite steps and steel railings, and wheelchair ramp.

The interior got work, too. It has a new heating and fire alarm systems.

With the exterior complete, the focus will now be on the interior.

Members hope that one day in the not too distant future, it will serve as the society’s meeting room and display area and look every bit as appealing as the exterior, but some serious structural issues have to be addressed first.

The main one is a sagging first floor.

Gary Demers, a society member, local historian and the owner of Demers Bros. Trucking, is the main driver in installing steel beams and posts that will secure the floor for decades to come.

Like others before him, Demers is donating much of the material and labor.

With estimates for the work at around $60,000, way more than the society can afford, Demers decided his company, which specializes in moving heavy material, could do the job itself.

Concrete footings have already been poured. Installation of the posts and beams comes next.

The new support system was designed professionally by local architect Steve Nelson who donated his expertise.

“When we’re done we won’t be concerned that the floor will collapse,” Demers said. “It may be time consuming, but we’re not doing it twice and we’re not wasting a dime.”

Demers said once the floor is fixed, it will be time to finish the interior which is a matter of installing wiring, plumbing and walls, all of which will go fast if the society can raise the cash.

“Then it’s just a matter of money,” he said.

Potter said it’s a day to which he looks forward.

“I hope I live long enough to see it,” he said. “It’s a good old building.”


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GEORGE RHODES
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