Northwood Center School avoids demolition for a few more weeks 

By NINA MOSKE 

Monitor staff 

Published: 06-17-2023 3:41 PM

The demolition of a historic Northwood building was put on hold for a few more weeks after a last-ditch preservation effort Tuesday night. 

Built over 200 years ago, the Center School, a small white building named for its location at the geographic center of Northwood, was first a neighborhood school and later a meeting place for the American Legion Post #73. It became a preschool in 1977 and served Northwood’s youngest until 2017 when the school closed and the building was returned to the town. It has sat unoccupied since. 

In spring, the town was given a choice: demolish the old building for $15,000 or preserve it for $95,000. With no other alternatives, the majority favored the less expensive option, despite opposition from many residents. The town has a verbal agreement with a contractor who will begin demolition soon. 

“Northwood is having an identity crisis,” resident Jamie Lynne told selectmen. “We’re losing the essence of our town and our culture and our history, and it certainly doesn’t help that to take down buildings without preserving them if we have the option to do it.”

Lynne, who owns the garden store Cavaretta Gardens on Route 4, proposed a potential solution. 

Lynne offered to orchestrate a controlled demolition of the building, reclaim the materials and reconstruct the schoolhouse on her own property for less money than the town’s current plan. She would keep the restored building open to the public and use the space to hold community classes and display artifacts and antiques. 

“This ties the past with the fu ture, preserves our town's image and culture, and there are no disadvantages to the community or the taxpayers,” Lynne said. “It’s going to benefit everybody involved.” 

She said she has received an “outpouring of support” for the idea.

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“Even people that voted for the demolition see the value in spending less money to preserve a historical artifact for generations to come,” she said. 

Tom Chase, a Northwood resident of over 40 years whose daughter went to preschool in the building, agreed with Lynne that the building is worth saving. 

“Without that little building sitting up there next to the town hall, it’s like there’s going to be a tooth missing from somebody’s dentures,” Chase said.

Chase said the value of preserving the past shouldn’t be influenced by one’s age. 

“While there are a few people who are still interested in our history, like many towns, the people who carried that history have died,” he said in an interview. “They’re replaced by younger folks who really don’t care… they don’t have the same enthusiasm for the town that other people who were born and raised here, lived their lives here, had their businesses here would have.”  

At Tuesday’s meeting, board members were wary of Lynne’s plan. Some worried about violating the town’s original vote to demolish the building, while others considered the verbal agreement with the current contractor. 

But they didn’t say no. Chairman Hal Kreider said the board will dissolve their current contract and allow Lynne to bid on the building. She will then have to move through the planning board and comply with zoning regulations. 

“I personally feel like we’re taking a risk here… I don’t want it to come back to bite,” Kreider said. “It’s a nice thing to do, but I think we have to be very careful.” 

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