Historical society officials hope for longer lease of schoolhouse

Jun 5, 2018

In the six years of leasing the town-owned Russells Mills Schoolhouse, the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society has hosted countless lectures, educational programs, and events at its base of operations.

As the lease is nearing expiration, society officials hope to continue the momentum with an even longer commitment from the town.

Speaking at the June 4 Select Board meeting, organization president Bob Harding and vice president Susan Guiducci highlighted the organization and its offerings. Harding ran through a list of the numerous lectures hosted over the years, from famous women of the region, genealogy, agriculture, the former Paskamansett Links golf course, to presentations by nonagenarian Cukie Macomber. All meetings are recorded too, Harding noted.

“You can see much of what we have by watching our live presentations at the schoolhouse, you can look at them on DCTV, you can watch the shows on demand on your own computer, or you can purchase a copy,” Harding said.

Guiducci explained the work the organization does with Dartmouth’s schools. Various Dartmouth High art receptions are held at the school house, and each year third graders take a journey back in time as part of an 1800s throwback program. Students are introduced to residents in period costume and are taught everything from how laundry worked back then to punishments children had to endure.

“We’ve produced a very large body of work,” Harding said. “If you were to put a value on that work based on the value of volunteer hours that have been used to produce the work… it’s a very large number.”

Harding concluded his presentation by urging the board to explore granting the organization a longer lease this time around.

It might become a reality if legal issues do not get in the way. Select Board Chair Shawn McDonald said he would even be in favor of a permanent lease, so long as the town attorney checks to make sure the deal would not run afoul with state procurement laws.

“I think it’s something we can work through with town counsel as long as we meet the procurement requirements, Mass general laws, and all of that,” McDonald said. “It's a fantastic program you guys run out there. I’ve heard so much good about it, especially the classroom stuff.”