News Column

Hebron hopes grant can fund Peters House project

June 6, 2014

By Traci Hastings, The Chronicle, Willimantic, Conn.

June 06--HEBRON -- Volunteers seeking to fully restore the historic Peters House in Hebron are hoping grant funds will allow them to move forward with saving the past.

The Town of Hebron is seeking grant funding through the State Historic Preservation Office to hire a structural engineer with experience with historic buildings.

The building was acquired by the town in 2004 as part of an open space purchase and, initially, the town was reluctant to retain the house, which had fallen into disrepair, despite its storied past.

The house was once the home of Cesar and Lowis Peters, slaves who were rescued by neighbors from slave traders attempting to ship them out of state. A film was made of that legend in 2009.

Attempts by the town to sell the house fell through and, eventually, the town agreed to keep the house and use it partly as a museum and partly for municipal space.

The barn on the property has already been renovated and made into an annex for the town's Parks and Recreation Office. The land has been turned into Burnt Hill Park.

Volunteers worked to restore the exterior of the home and turned to the interior.

Many renovations were made in the efforts to restore the home to its original look, but then it was revealed three large, load-bearing joists were rotting and weak and work was ordered stopped on the renovations for safety.

Hebron Town Manager Andrew Tierney said once it was realized more intense structural work was required to stabilize the house, the town also decided that rather than just restore the building, it should also take steps to restore it in a way that would be historically accurate.

He said the town was seeking approximately $10,000 in technical assistance grant funds in order to hire a qualified historical engineer. Tierney also said the town would then seek Small Town Economic Assistance Program grant funds to follow through with the repairs once the engineer submits a report on what type of work is needed.

Hebron Historic Properties Commission member Mary Anne Foote, an active volunteer in the restoration of the Peters House, said the house was a prime candidate for historical restoration. "As we worked back through the layers, we found the house had not really been bastardized," said Foote, noting, through the years, various owners had only made cosmetic changes such as different types of flooring and wall paneling.

She said those were relatively easy to remove in the effort to restore the house to an 18thcentury look. "The historic structural engineer will evaluate the structural needs of the house, then we'll find a new plan to bring the structure back up to par in a historically correct manner," Foote said.


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