T he Granville town board has agreed to send a letter to Tom Burke requesting he donate the Quaker meeting house on Quaker Street to the town.
Burke, who owns or operates at least 35 Dunkin’ Donuts, purchased the plot of land that houses three buildings several months ago.
“We’re here tonight to try and beat the wrecking ball, because once it’s gone, it’s gone,” said Nancy Williams at a meeting Thursday night. Williams, along with a few local historians and concerned citizens, is trying to gather support quickly about the issue.
“Our request would be if they’re willing to donate the building to the town, maybe they’re willing to donate the building where it is,” Williams said.
Supervisor Matt Hicks was not opposed to taking action but did not have an answer for the historians.
“You really think he (Burke) would do that? I don’t know how to advise you; I’m at a loss too,” Hicks said.
“It’s in limbo, and that gives us a time limit. We’re working against time, but if the town would send a formal letter to Mr. Burke and address this issue, that’s what we would like,” said Town Historian Edith Sparling.
Hicks asked the women what they would want included in such a letter and agreed to write it, but he seemed skeptical as to whether it would yield results. He said the town has already been trying to keep in contact with Burke about access to the adjacent cemetery, but he is hard to reach.
Sparling had sent a packet of information about the historical site to an address provided by Burke’s secretary three weeks ago, but Burke has yet to respond to her.
“It would be an amazing entrance to your village,” said Sally Brillon, a member of the Washington County Historical Society. She and Sparling acknowledged the possibility of Burke denying their request, but they still want the town’s help in trying to save the building.
“All we’re asking is that you make the initial effort,” Sparling said to the board. “If we remove that, we obliterate everything that got Quaker Street its name — it is historical and important.”
Board member Ken Quick pointed out that it was too bad no one took action took action sooner, as in when the building was previously for sale.
“If I was Burke, I’d wonder why you waited until now to try to save it,” Quick said.
Williams cited other examples of big donations and community efforts in the Granville area, including the Haynes House of Hope, which was built entirely by volunteers and the Slate Valley Museum, which was renovated through fundraising.
“It can be done,” Williams said.
And the issue of the meeting house is not an isolated concern. Sparling told the board it’s time to start preservation work now on other historically important buildings in Granville, so a similar situation doesn’t arise in the future.
“We do need to have a committee appointed to do this; it can’t be done by one person,” Sparling said. Hicks said there’s no one on the board who disagrees with Sparling, but he expressed doubt that many people would join the effort.
“I challenge people to step forward with Nancy and Edith to do this,” Hicks said.
Sparling thought the town board had a positive attitude toward what this small group of people can do.
“I’m encouraged the supervisor has agreed to write to the owner — that’s a step forward for us; that’s a start,” she said. “Perhaps this letter from the supervisor will carry some weight.”