You can own this historic building for $1

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CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Off of Route 9 sits the center of the town of Chesterfield.

Past the town hall, library and across the street from a small post office, is a building with a sign: "Own this building $1.00." 

Jeff Scott, Ron Rzasa, and Babara Girs are three average citizens who have taken an interest in the building in question, the old town office.

They're hosting an open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in hopes of selling it.

"Our Select Board is just so busy," Rzasa said. "They don't have time to do everything, so we're just trying to help them out."

The structure was built in 1845. It has hosted countless families, Scott and Rzasa said, but most recently was used as the town offices. The building has been vacant for almost a decade, since the town offices were relocated to a larger facility.

During Town Meeting 2018, voters will have a chance to vote to raise money to demolish the building. Scott, Rzasa and Girs are determined to avoid that. They've been working with the Select Board to find buyers for the building instead.

The sign has been hanging over the building for about four weeks, Scott said. It's generated a lot of interest. People have suggested opening up business offices, an art studio, a farm-to-table restaurant or even just a family home. One of the most popular ideas is an old-timey general store. The bottom of the building would be the store, - it's ADA compliant - and the owner could live on the second floor if they chose to.

Though the ownership cost is only $1, Scott and Rzasa admit the building will take a substantial investment. It needs completely new plumbing and electricity. The floors and wallpaper in the inside also need to be replaced. There's a fireplace, but Scott and Rzasa aren't sure if it works. Past estimates for the building renovation costs were up to $400,000, the Reformer previously reported.

"I disagree with those numbers based on newly received information," Scott said. Originally, Scott said people were concerned about mold and other environmental hazards. Scott said all of the mold has been cleaned out. He said engineers and environmental safety experts had evaluated the property, and he did not believe that number accurately represented their findings.

There's also a list of criteria that the Select Board requires from people looking to buy the building. Scott said the list will be handed out during the open house. Most of the requirements, he said, have to do with being financially sound enough to invest in the house and being present throughout the process.

"We don't want an absentee buyer," Rzasa said.

The outside of the building has been maintained by the town since its vacancy. The inside, however, has not. Despite the need for renovation, Rzasa said, "the bones are good," and Scott said it meets EPA standards.

"Many people are under the impression the building is in terrible shape but that's simply not the case. It's very solid, according to a structural engineer hired by the town last fall," Scott said in a press release.

From every point in the house, the faint sound of children laughing and playing can be heard. The building is right next to the elementary school and firehouse. The downstairs has several rooms, including two bathrooms, one of which is handicap accessible. A staircase leads to the second floor. The bottom of the staircase is curved to meet the wall.

"They don't make them like that anymore," Rzasa said.

Upstairs there are three rooms, each with lots of natural light and plenty of closet space. One of the rooms has a small sun room that people can walk out into. Another room has a small door that leads to another smaller room. On the wall next to the door are hooks hung low as if meant for shorter people. Rzasa and Scott aren't sure what the room was used for. Rzasa speculated it could have been a birthing room. Scott thought it might have been a playroom for the children. Further still, is an attic. It's empty, a little rough looking, but has a sweet, piney smell.

"This is wood from 1845," Scott said. Despite the age, the attic is still structurally sound.

Ultimately, Rzasa, Scott and Girs just want to see the building used.

"Our dream," Rzasa said, "is that someone local would buy it who's really invested in the town and really wants to preserve the looks of this."

The group working on the property is also responsible for bringing a farmers market to Chesterfield and is working to bring more solar energy to the town.

For more information on the property or the upcoming open house, call Jeff Scott at 603-499-6148. The property is located at 504 Route 63.

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 153. Or follow her @birchharmony.


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