By early 2014, Sandy Pond Schoolhouse was approaching its 150th birthday and clearly showing its age. To be sure, its external appearance was little changed. And despite a badly sagging ceiling, entering the classroom was like stepping into a time warp. The teacher’s desk, slate blackboards, rows of wooden student desks, tongue and groove birch flooring, kerosene lamps, plaster walls and ceiling, and wood stove evoke memories of an earlier era. Most visitors were struck to find it in such remarkably well-preserved condition. Closer inspection, however, would reveal signs of urgently needed repairs.
Determined to preserve Sandy Pond Schoolhouse for future generations, SPSA embarked on development of a long-term plan for restoring the building and reopening it to the public on a regular basis.
The first step was to place Sandy Pond Schoolhouse on the National Register of Historic Places. The second was to develop a project plan for restoring and preserving the schoolhouse. And the third was to identify the resources needed to achieve both goals, and find a way of funding them.
We first tackled the National Register nomination and were extremely fortunate to be able to recruit and hire Stacy E. Spies a Historic Preservation Consultant to research and prepare the necessary documentation. Funding for Stacy's work was generously provided by a 2015 grant from the Town of Ayer imitated by the Select Board.
This proved to be a multi-year but in the end highly successful effort. Stacy went to work with a will, guiding us through the process, conducting the necessary research, and preparing and submitting a series of drafts of the nomination in response to requests from reviewers. The final nomination was unanimously approved by the Massachusetts Historical Commission in December 2016 and listing on the National Register followed in May 2017. To commemorate the building's historic status, a plaque certifying the building's listing on the National Register was presented to SPSA by the Ayer Historical Commission in September 2019.and is now mounted on the front of the schoolhouse.
National Register Plaque
The second step in the restoration of the schoolhouse was developing a restoration plan. By this time, it was clear that without restoration and preservation work our little schoolhouse's days would be numbered. But what to do, and when?
This was a problem that required professional advice, and the funding to pay for it. A successful application to the Ayer Community Preservation Committee provided the necessary funding in the form of a generous $20,000 grant.
With funding in hand, it was time to find qualified expert advice. And so it was that after a competitive search, we were delighted to accept a September 2016 proposal from Spencer, Sullivan & Vogt of Charlestown, MA, one of the leading New England architectural & engineering firms specializing in historic properties. Their proposal called for preparation of a professional Conditions Assessment of the schoolhouse, to be delivered in April 2017. The final report, delivered on time and under budget, has provided SPSA with the basis for a long-term that continues to guide our restoration and preservation efforts.
The Conditions Assessment identified the work needed to completely restore Sandy Pond Schoolhouse, and divided it into two basic categories: emergency and longer-term. The estimated total cost for all of the required work was approximately $264,000, of which $110,000 was for emergency repairs.
In keeping with SSV's recommendations, it was decided to tackle this work in two phases. The first phase would include the emergency work, basic work needed to stabilize and preserve the building. Phase I encompassed the following essential repairs:
Phase II, which included a longer list of all remaining items identified in the Conditions Assessment, would be taken up following completion of Phase I.
And with a plan in place, it was time to move on to the actual work...
April 2017 Conditions Assessment & Treatment Plan