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Approvals Sought For Two New Historic Districts

     The City Council in Springfield, Massachusetts is scheduled to vote tonight on creating two new historic districts downtown.  

   One of the proposed historic districts is for an office block that is home to the Springfield Innovation Center. The other is for a single house that has been described as one of the most unusual buildings in the city.

    The City Council in July gave initial approvals to create both districts.  The Massachusetts Historical Commission and the Springfield Historical Commission endorsed the proposed districts. The designations are a prerequisite for grants from the Springfield Historic Preservation Trust Fund to help pay to restore both properties.

    The derelict house at 60 Byers Street is to be designated as the Thurston Munson House Local Historic District.  Built in 1953 by artist-architect Thurston Munson, the house has a flat roof, curved walls, iron work, and a wall of glass on the rear of the house that overlooks downtown Springfield.

    This design is a rarity, not just to Springfield but to the region, according to Bob McCarroll, a trustee of the Springfield Historic Preservation Trust Fund.

    "It is built in the International Style, the modern style, that was never very popular in western Massachusetts especially for residences," said McCarroll. "This looks almost like a Frank Lloyd Wright-type house."

     Abandoned more than a decade ago, the house was purchased last year at a tax foreclosure auction for $19,080 by Miquel Menchu, who reportedly plans to renovate and restore the property.

    "The owner is really thrilled regarding the historical and archetectural importance of this building," said McCarroll.  "He was more than happy to petition that it be made into a local historic district."

    The proposed Trinity Block Local Historic District on Bridge Street was once the site of the Trinity Methodist Church. It was replaced in the 1920s by the existing office block.

   "This is a wonderful 1920s era building, very fanciful, unusual for Springfield in that it has a terracotta exterior," said McCarroll. "It is in the process of being totally renovated by DevelopSpringfield, a local nonprofit that has done several other historic projects."

    $7 million has been spent to renovate the inside of the building and restore the façade.

    Although scaffolding remains outside the building, a grand opening was held earlier this year for the new innovation center and its anchor tenant Valley Venture Mentors.

   "We had no shortage of challenges with this project. But we are definately pleased with the way it came out," said  DevelopSpringfield Chairman Nick Fyntrilakis at the center's opening in February.  He said funds for the project came from a combination of state funds, private loans and grants, and historic tax credits.

    Springfield has 14 local historic districts that include some single buildings.  Any exterior changes to structures located in a local historic district require approvals from the Historical Commission.

    

   

    

      

   

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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