Historic village sees major improvements through boost from federal grant

Historic District Commission Chairman Charlie Wilson stands in front of his Town Trader Antiques store, one of the most well preserved historic buildings in the Village. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

GLOCESTER – Chepachet Village is beginning to show the results of a Grant from the National Park Service awarded in 2019 and other community efforts as paint, renovated buildings and homes and other changes continue to take place.

The grant, totalling $250,000, launched an opportunity for businesses and homes in the Chepachet Village National Register District to apply for individual grants to improve sites. Glocester was the only applicant to receive the award from the $5 million program.

“We were very surprised to receive a grant as only about 2 percent of applications were funded nationally,” said Town Planner Karen Scott. We were thrilled that the National Park Service recognized what we know here in Glocester: Chepachet Village is a special place and worth the investment.”

“It was fortunate to see this money come into town,” said Charlie Wilson, who has served as the Historic District Commission chairman for the last 15 years. “It was a nice shot in the arm for several builders.”

Wilson owns one of the most well preserved historic buildings in the village, which houses his Town Trader antique store. He explained that some of the grants required matching funds or owner’s contributions, while others did not. Still others, he said, simply pitched in on their own to improve their facilities and homes. Apparently, even those who did not benefit from the grants felt it was worth the investment.

Stone Mill Antiques received new windows, gutters and other improvements to help enhance the exterior or the building. The building was built in 1819 as a textile mill. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

“A rising tide lifts all boats,” said Wilson. “Everyone got a facelift in town. People recognized that it was giving the village a boost. It has absolutely made a difference.”

Still, said Scott, $250,000 only goes so far in improvements and materials. Tavern on Main received $122,100. Stone Mill Antiques received $66,715, and Jeremiah Sheldon Tavern and Barn, a residence, received $58,375. The balance of the grant was used for architectural oversight and project inspections.

“We have approached the board about doing this again,” said Wilson. “They were very pleased with the outcome and are very much on board about doing it again.”

The Hen House, one of the recent successful additions/renovations fueled by its owners Jody Esposito and Kim Bellavoine. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

“There is no way for the town to fund all the necessary improvements with budget funds alone; therefore we are constantly searching for grant opportunities to leverage available funds and bring more resources to Chepachet Village and the town in general,” said Scott. “As an example, this grant brought $250,000 in direct cash investment to the town and cost the town only the staff time necessary to implement the program. It is through these types of opportunities that the town can really see huge returns on smaller investments.”

Scott explained that they had hoped that seeing properties improved would encourage other owners in the village to do the same.

“I think that this grant has been very effective in that regard, because there has been an incredible amount of private investment as we have many amazing property and business owners who share the town’s vision for the future and have invested their own capital in seeing that vision implemented,” she said.

Still, said Scott, there is more to be done. As part of the Chepachet Village Revitalization Plan, the town is in the process implementing several other grand-funded projects, which include Glocester Memorial Park, a public water feasibility study for the village, an implementation plan for decentralized wastewater improvements, and a recreation master planning exercise for the town’s two parks which will kick off in August.

The Job Armstrong House and the Brown and Hopkins Store, which still sells penny candy. Brown and Hopkins is one of the oldest continuously operating country stores in the United States, dating back to 1799. NRI NOW photo by Dick Martin

“All of the projects, investments and improvements could not have happened without the strong support of the Glocester Town Council and other town staff, especially the Department of Public Works, and partnerships with the Economic Development Commission, the Historic District Commission, the Planning Board, the Senior Center and the Glocester Business Association,” said Scott. “This is truly a team effort and the town of Glocester has a great team.”

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