BARTLETT — The Bartlett Historical Society has found its forever home.
The society officially became owners of the former St. Joseph Church in Bartlett Village on Tuesday, purchasing the property from the Bartlett School District for $1.
“We promise to be good neighbors,” Franklin said at the school board meeting Tuesday night at the Josiah Bartlett Elementary School.
Board Chairman Nancy Kelemen shared the news of the deal under “Old Business.”
“Phil and I met at Alpine Title (in Conway) today, and the church is the historical society’s,” she said, noting they had paid their $1. “They have insurance covered, and, yes, it belongs to the historical society.”
She told Franklin, “We wish you the best of luck.”
Board members Rob Clark, Dr. Ivette Emery, Scott Grant, Andrew Light and Kelemen along with Superintendent Kevin Richard and Assistant Superintendent Kadie Wilson and JBES Principal Joe Yahna gave Franklin a round of applause.
In June 2016, the society inked a 25-year lease agreement with the Bartlett School Board to make the church property the first home of the society, now in its second decade of existence.
The society agreed to pay $100-a0year lease but soon realized it was hard to obtain grants and pledges when you do not own the property.
The board and society have been working to make this sale happen since last December and got the green light from voters in March.
But there was a little roadblock in June when Franklin learned a museum wasn’t a permitted use for the building.
For the property to be zoned commercial, it must have frontage. In this case, the building would have to have access to Route 302.
The society cleared that hurdle when the Bartlett Zoning Board of Adjustment voted Aug. 6 to approve its request for a variance.
“This was a much longer process than we thought it would be,” Franklin said Tuesday. “I appreciate everyone sticking with this.”
Grant asked for a progress report on work being done on the building.
“Within the next week, Acadia Contractors (of Turner, Maine), who has been in there since Sept. 23 or something like that, will be wrapping up,” Franklin said, all of the asbestos is out of the building and the state has certified the building is clean.
He continued: “They’re working on right now finishing off the ceiling and the lead paint that remains, which is basically up around the choir loft, so really nobody is going to touch it because we’re going to control the access They have some spraying of mold to do in the building, which they’ve already started doing and is well underway.”
Franklin said there was more good new. “There’s very little rotten wood in the building, which was a surprise to us.”
He added: “We’ve tarped the roof for the winter. Very soon we’ll be putting some cable in the building to connect the south and north sides so that we can try to hold this building together through winter.
“The Acadia process took a little bit longer than we thought. We couldn’t put a roof on right now, not with snow coming on Thursday. It wouldn’t be a wise idea to tear the roof off now.
“In the spring, we will take the roof off, and hopefully, if we can raise enough money this winter, we will continue to get that building done.”
The society is engaged in a $475,000 capital campaign, with more than $200,000 raised as of early June.
Franklin said they will “create a public museum displaying the history of Bartlett — ‘The Bartlett Collection’; establish the headquarters for the historical society; provide a stage for presentations on historic topics; create a learning and research center for Bartlett’s past, and install an archive for our collection of Bartlett artifacts.
“To accomplish this mission, we need the support of many donors who are willing to share our vision,” he said. “We are working to raise $450,000 to cover renovation costs and another $250,000 to establish an endowment for the society to defray future operating costs.”
Land for the church was bought in 1889 from Emily Meserve, and the church was built in 1890, making it the oldest Catholic church in the Mount Washington Valley.
The total cost of the building, furnishings, loan interest and three years’ insurance at the time was $2,732. To learn more about the project and all things Bartlett Historical Society, go to bartletthistory.org.