By Barbara Mangum
If you drive by the Somerville Museum at One Westwood Road, you may not recognize her. She is hidden by scaffolding and shrouded in black netting to catch the debris from the roof. After four years of anticipation and fundraising, the museum has begun to replace its original slate roof, which is more than 85 years old.
“With proper roof support, the new slate should last more than 75 years,” stated the contractor, Garret Laws of Copper and Slate Co., Inc. Laws, a specialist in the repair and replacement of original slate roofs is working with Morse Construction, Inc., a firm noted for fine detailing in wood. Morse is repairing and replacing damaged sections of the original wooden gutters in keeping with the historic nature of the 1925 building, which is located in the Westwood Historic District of Somerville. Both Morse and Laws are longtime residents of Somerville. The project’s cost has risen from $176,000 to $226,000, requiring the Museum to raise $50,000 in new funds.
The work of taking care of the building has always presented the museum with a challenge. The Somerville Historical Society, the original name of the organization, began building the structure as a place to meet and hold lectures in 1925. Construction progressed well until the Great Depression hit in 1929. It took until 1935 to finish the building.
Being a private local art and history museum, run by volunteers and supported primarily by donations from its members, the organization has no endowment for building repairs or employee salaries. Volunteers of exceptional commitment have kept the Museum open and the building in shape over its history. That is until the extensive patching of the slate roof and gutters just would not hold anymore, and the museum interior was threatened by the possibility of continuous leaks.
The first capital funding opportunity came in 2008, when the museum received a matching grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund (MCFF) for $104,500 to undertake the replacement of the roof and repair of the deteriorating windows and trim. Unfortunately, this coincided with the Great Recession, making raising the matching funds difficult. Even so, by December 2011, approximately $50,000 had been raised. With a major deadline of February 14, 2012 looming, a direct appeal to the members of the Somerville public, charitable organizations, foundations, and businesses raised the additional $54,500 required for the match. The donations came from over 400 individuals and organizations, who gave an average of $100 each. The median amount of an individual donation was an unprecedented $50, showing great community support for the museum.
Once replacement of the original slates began, it became evident that the roof required stiffening to keep the new slates from flexing. This and other smaller change orders such as repointing the masonry at the roofline, adding a chimney cap, and undertaking more painting of trim have raised the project cost by $50,000.
If you would like to contribute to the care and keeping of the Somerville Museum, you can do so online at http://www.somervillemuseumbuildingfund.org or you may write a check out to the Somerville Museum Building Fund and send it to: Evelyn Battinelli, Somerville Museum, One Westwood Rd, Somerville, MA 02143. All donations are tax-deductible as charitable contributions to a 501c3 organization.
The museum wishes to acknowledge financial assistance from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, the Massachusetts Historical Commission and the 430+ individuals, organizations, and businesses whose contributions have made this project possible.