PUTNEY -- When the Putney Historical Society decided to take over the former United Church on Kimball Hill the members knew they would have to tackle the long list of renovation projects one step at a time.
The ambitious plan to turn the historic 1841 building into the home of the historical society, and to a new performing arts center for the Next Stage Arts Project, was going to cost more than $1.3 million and the supporters realized that all of the work was not going to happen right away.
Over the past few months, after waging a silent fundraising campaign among local donors, the historical society was able to make significant progress on some of the code work.
Work is under way now to complete a new rear, covered egress stair from the second floor auditorium, as well as an ADA compliant bathroom on the first floor.
There also is some moisture sealing work being done in a crawl space to protect the 171-year old building.
Over the past few months the group went to its local donors and raised about $6,500 in cash as well as in-kind work from among 80 individual local donors.
The project also was awarded four grants totaling more than $19,000.
Historical Society member Lyssa Papazian said the recent work as well as the receipt of about $126,000 in tax credits have encouraged the group to push the plan forward, even if sometimes the project seems overwhelming.
"The amount of money we were able to
The Putney Historical Society took over the church building in 2010 and has been working with Next Stage Arts to take on immediate safety code and ADA compliance projects before tackling the larger renovation, which includes installing professional sound and lighting equipment, raising the seating to improve sight lines, installing an elevator and sprinkler system, constructing a green room for the performers and improving energy conservation measures throughout the building.
"The whole idea behind this project is to stimulate the local economy and support our town," she said. "This is not just about preserving an old building. It is about stimulating the village economy."
With the recent work heading toward completion, Papazian said supporters have been taking a closer look at the long-range plan, which could go on for five years, as they try to figure out how to raise the money.
"The project we just finished was for the interim," said Papazian. "We needed to improve the safety of the building so we can keep using the building while we work on the long-range plan."
She said the group is still in the middle of discussions and will be figuring out a more detailed long-range plan in the coming months.
"We want to be realistic about what we can accomplish, and we want to take a look at our list and figure out what we can phase in," Papazian. "It's a large project, and it may take a few years, but we want to shoot for that and maybe have construction milestones along the way.