FRAMINGHAM, MA - On Wednesday evening, January 11, the Framingham Historical Society & Museum (FHSM) and the Framingham Improvement Association (FIA) made history when members unanimously voted to merge the two organizations.
The intent is to combine operations and resources to enhance the ability to create a restored, historic campus around Framingham Centre Common.
Both organizations are involved with town-owned historic buildings. Currently the FHSM occupies and leases the Old Academy Building on Vernon St. facing the Centre Common and the Edgell Memorial Library Building on Oak St., also facing the Common. The FIA leases the Village Hall, the stately building with pillars on the south side of the Centre Common.
The Old Academy once housed an esteemed school, where General George H. Gordon, who served with honor in the Mexican-American War and trained Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts Black Regiment of “Glory” fame, was a student. Now the building houses three centuries of Framingham’s history, from Native American artifacts to Civil War items through Christa McAuliffe memorabilia.
The Edgell Memorial Library was built of local materials as the town’s first public library and a living memorial to the Framingham men who served in the Civil War. It now showcased FHSM exhibits and gift shop.
The Village Hall was built in 1834 to serve as Framingham’s Town Hall. When the town outgrew it, it fell into disrepair, until the Framingham Improvement Association was formed around the Turn of the last Century and raised funds to renovate it and add the lovely portico facing the Common. Periodically it has fallen onto hard times and citizens have rallied to restore it. It has seen historic debates and events through the years and is currently rented out for weddings, anniversaries, and other celebrations.
As the Town-Owned Building Task Force recommended that the town entrust the buildings to the FHSM and FIA via long-term leases, the two organizations decided to join forces to come from a position of strength when negotiating with the town and with applying for funding via grants and donations.
Prior to the vote, discussion touched on concerns about the current condition of the buildings, how much the town would put into the buildings before the organizations would take them on, how much utilities would be for the three buildings, how the upkeep would be funded, how to increase revenue from rentals of the Village Hall and Edgell Library, and engaging the membership and the public in supporting the buildings, whether by private donations and by encouraging town meeting to vote funding towards long overdue repairs.
Members of the public interested in the preservation of the buildings are urged to join the FHSM and encourage town meeting to vote funding towards the immediate pressing repairs to the buildings before the FHSM can shoulder the responsibility for them. Donations are needed and welcome, as well as help with securing grant dollars.