The referendum North Kingstown voters will see April 24 concerning the sale of the Old Library/Annex building at 55 Brown St. has been discussed in great detail in print media, social media and numerous town meetings. Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to consider the proposal and its details. If not, it is available on the town’s website, northkingstown.org.
Most of the people I’ve spoken with are in favor of this proposal because it makes sense on every level. Most importantly, I believe, it makes sense on a stewardship level with respect to how we value the long-term use of our municipal buildings, particularly those with great historical and architectural importance.
This proposal, although specifically addressing the Old Library/Annex building, is really indicative of a bigger issue in North Kingstown, and that is our town’s appetite for maintaining and repairing many of our most significant architectural and historical landmarks. How we got to the point where Wickford Elementary, a.k.a. Washington Academy, as well as our own Town Hall and the Old Library/Annex had to be shuttered is heartbreaking, to say the least. Although I’m confident that this issue will continue to consume the attention and resources of this town for a long time, it could take even longer if we don’t recognize the value of the potential momentum that we have with the current Annex proposal.
I believe we’re at a tipping point with respect to the restoration of our beautiful old municipal buildings, in particular, and the revitalization of the town, in general. The catalyst, is this first piece – the restoration of the Old Library/Annex into a cultural hub that benefits the entire town. I’m confident that when you consider the facts as well as the alternative of continued neglect and decay, you’ll see this proposal is truly a rare and wonderful opportunity to restore this cultural, historical and architectural treasure.
I have heard some dissent concerning the benefactor’s intentions for this building. You should know that this building came about through the generosity of C. Allen Chadsey, who bequeathed the funds and the land to build a public library. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly how Mr. Chadsey would have felt about the current proposal and the town’s associated referendum, but it is quite clear that he had an intuitive sense of the enduring value of doing what he could to make life better for those around him, and currently this building is of little value to anyone. Perhaps it would not have met the literal interpretation of his intention, but I’m also very confident that this proposal would have absolutely met the spirit of his intent. Through the sale of this property to an individual with the expertise and resources to restore this magnificent building, we have the ability to honor this man’s legacy of generosity, and the good fortune to have the opportunity to continue Chadsey’s vision of a resource that truly benefits everyone in North Kingstown.
The author is a retired Navy commander and a member of the North Kingstown Republican Town Committee, Zoning Board of Review and the Sewer Appeals Board.