Local efforts to save historic structure

grave 6By Jaime Thomas

As mixed messages surface about the immediate future of the Quaker meeting house slated for demolition, efforts continue to preserve the very history that gave Quaker Street its name.

“I have no plans at the current time,” said Tom Burke, owner of the plot that houses the schoolhouse, the former veterinarian office and a house. His company, Burke Cos., owns or operates over 35 Dunkin’ Donuts franchises.

However, Jesse Howard, of Howard Properties and Building Co., said otherwise. Burke hired Howard to demolish the three buildings, and Howard said the plan is to do just that as soon as he’s able to get the asbestos removed.

“Once we get the asbestos removed it’s all getting demolished,” Howard said.

Meanwhile two local historians and other concerned residents are trying to gather numbers and support in an endeavor to stop the demolition.

“Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever,” said Sally Brillon, former president and trustee of the Washington County Historical Society and former director of the Washington County department of information and historic preservation. “If we don’t stand up for ourselves and what we stand for, who will?”

Brillon has been working with Granville’s town historian, Edith Sparling, to make people aware of the historical importance of the site. Sparling mailed 14 pages of information regarding the meeting house and alternatives to tearing it down to an address provided by Burke’s secretary, but she said she had no response whatsoever as of Tuesday.

“My greatest disappointment is that Mr. Burke, as a man that wants to do business here in the future, didn’t respond at all,” Sparling said.

When contacted by the Sentinel Monday, Burke said he had not seen the material Sparling mailed him.  “I’m not aware of any documents, to be honest with you,” Burke said of Sparling’s letter, adding that he’s often out of town.

Brillon stressed the necessity for a community that cares about its heritage to rally in such a situation, because the government does not step in on its own and designate a spot as historic. She said Granville is one of only three Washington County towns to have a Quaker meeting house.

“The fact that you can come in and tear down a Quaker meeting house is hard to believe. Historic sites remind us of something special in our past,” Brillon said.

Both women believe the best solution would be for Burke to leave the building where it stands, which is next to an equally historic cemetery, and work around it. In addition to Burke, Sparling has sought support from Granville Town Supervisor Matt Hicks and the Washington County historian’s office, but to no avail.

“There’s no hope coming from that source. There isn’t anything more I can do as an individual,” Sparling said. “I was hoping those with private or political clout would do something about it.”

The historians think funding for the project could be spread out over many people.

“Just because we don’t have this money ourselves doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” Brillon said. She mentioned other local communities such as Cambridge and White Creek that have created a historic district. If the nearly 200-year-old meeting house could be listed on the National Register, she said, it would gain importance.

“This should be a wake-up call of what’s important to save as far as Granville’s history,” Brillon said.

As to why no one has addressed this issue earlier, Brillon thought they perceived no threat.

“You don’t have to panic when it’s there, you panic when you think it’s not going to be there,” she said.

Howard said he is still waiting to hear back from the department of labor and get a price quote for asbestos removal. After that he’ll have to go through the town and the county before demolition can begin.  He said demolition of the buildings will begin no sooner than March 1.

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