Gloucester Historical Commission
March 28, 2016
Stanley Stone, W4HIX
Treasurer, Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association
The Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association is seeking affirmation from the Gloucester Historical Commission that the building located at 6 Stanwood Street is of historical significance to the City of Gloucester. Presented in this document are maps, deeds, research from city archives, a repair history and photographs documenting the building’s history.
The building was owned by the City for 147 years and served as the Wheeler School and later a Riverdale fire station. Later it filled many community roles. In December 2014, the building was sold to the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association (CAARA) who had used the building since 1975. CAARA now owns the building, though it can not be sold without the permission of the City. If CAARA ceases to exist, the ownership reverts back to the City (see current deed). CAARA is in the process of applying for a Community Preservation Act grant to restore the exterior of the building under the category of historical restoration.
The property at 6 Stanwood Street in Riverdale was purchased by the City of Gloucester in 1867 for $200. This property was defined as a 50’ x 100’ plot, as it is today, though larger plots are shown on atlases in the late 1800s. From 1867 until the end of 2014 the structure built on the property served many purposes and underwent many changes. The property’s history is detailed in the section “History from Gloucester Archives”.
The land was originally purchased for the construction of the Wheeler School. The Wheeler School is mentioned in the Gloucester archives and probably was a single-story, one room schoolhouse. Atlases produced in 1884 and 1899 show various locations for the structure, lending some credibility to story that the schoolhouse was moved and raised to build a new first floor for the horse-drawn fire fighting equipment. There are many inaccuracies in the size of the plot in the atlases, but the deed from 1867 reflects the definition of the current plot.
The building is a two-story wood frame structure with a basement and is approximately 22’ wide by 29’ long. A 14’ x 14’ single story kitchen was added to the rear of the building, probably 1960s or 1970s. There are two half-baths in the building, one on each floor.
The first floor has ceilings that measure 11’ high and employs a unique suspension method for the second-floor floor structure. Two iron rods running from the front to the back of the building with turnbuckles create a suspension system for the second floor, eliminating columns–necessary to house the fire engine. Trap doors can be found in the first and second floors.
Originally two large doors were in the front of the building for egress of the fire engine. This configuration is shown in the photograph of the fire company on the cover of this paper. The doors have now been replaced with windows. It is unknown when the front patio was added to the structure. A chalkboard on the first floor has been preserved with the notice of the last call of the station, probably in 1943 (see. Fig. 5)
During the last quarter of the 20th century, CAARA and the previous tenant (Cape Ann Flyers-a pigeon racing club) were responsible for all maintenance and upkeep, highlights of which are listed in the section titled “List of Improvements and Repairs on 6 Stanwood Street Since 1966”.
As previously stated, the property was sold to the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association in December of 2014. Originally only second floor was used by CAARA, starting in 1975, using the exterior entrance on the east side of the building. From repair records, it appears that CAARA took over the entire building in 1982. CAARA has used the building for amateur radio purposes, including the construction of enclosed operating stations (upstairs and downstairs), work and equipment repair areas, and meeting spaces. Antennas have been added to the exterior of the building for the use of members and for emergency communications purposes.
The building is used for general club gatherings twice a week, plus monthly board and monthly member’s meetings. Other times it is used for training, equipment repair, and housing of a significant number of amateur radio stations and equipment. These stations are used for the enjoyment and training of the membership as well as the occasional radio contest. New developments in amateur radio are also discussed and explored. A monthly breakfast is held as a fundraiser for the CAARA scholarship fund. FCC exams for amateur radio operator licenses are also held monthly.
Proposal for Historical Restoration
Shingles were installed in 1980 over the clapboards due to the poor condition of the clapboards, as evidenced in the photographs of the exterior (see Fig. 1, 2 & 3). The shingles were painted/stained a few times over the years. By 2015 (35 years) the shingles on the south side of the building (building front) were extremely brittle and in very poor condition. The old shingles were removed and replaced with white cedar shingles with no stain to naturally weather in over time and match other buildings in the neighborhood along Washington Street.
It is the intention of CAARA to restore the remaining sides of the building, including the kitchen addition with the same cedar shingles. The door, window and roof trim have not been painted, and will be part of the restoration work. Restoration of the original clapboard siding is out of the question due to their poor condition and their use as a base for the nailing of the shingles in 1980. If clapboard was to be considered, the old ones would have to be replaced.
The cost of re-shingling the front wall was approximately $5,500. Painting and restoration of window and roof trim has not been completed on the front wall.
History from Gloucester Archives
STANWOOD STREET #6
For Henry McCarl, by Sarah Dunlap, January 13, 2016
1867, land bought from Betsy Tucker for $200, Wheeler School house built, lot size 50’x100’, for $1740, including the cellar and all parts. Ward 6.
1884 Atlas to 1899 Stadly Atlas, the building is still called the Wheeler School. But from 1879 in the Annual Reports, it is not listed in the schools of the city, but shows up in Public Property as a school building, “Wheeler School and land”, worth $800 in 1879, $500 in 1882-1892.
In 1882, in the Record of School buildings, p. 50, [CC233], it states that the was “not used at present for school purposes” and therefore is should be made available for “sons of Temperance and other organizations in which to hold meetings.”
1894, it is still not a school, but is in Public Property in the Annual Report, and the value has risen to $1940. And so it continued in the Annual Reports until 1903. In that year’s Engineer’s report for the Fire Department, p.2, he wrote “with a better distribution of the apparatus now located in the heart of the city, as recommended in my former reports, Ward 6 and the Riverdale district would have good protection and without any further outlay for apparatus.” Despite this, the building seems to have remained the unused Wheeler School house through 1909, although between 1905 and 1909 the date of construction is 1897 (perhaps a typo for 1867?)
1911-1920s – the Fire Department Engine House and land, Stanwood St. $1500. It housed Hose Company No. 2, a hose wagon weighing 2,100 lbs, built in 1904. Allen J. Tucker was the captain, and there were 9 other firemen, all from nearby. In 1922, the value of the building went up to $2400.
1926, it was still Riverdale Station, Hose No. 2, and Leroy Collins was the captain, with only 4 others.
By 1932, the hose was gone and Combination B. was housed on Stanwood St., Leroy Collins still the captain. This is from the City Directory. By 1941 and 1942, the City Directory has Chemical Engine #1 housed in the building, Collins still captain.
In 1943, the inaugural address of Weston U. Friend talks about the improvements in the Fire Department under Homer R. Marchant: “He joined the department in the “horse and buggy” days and has witnessed and directed its development into a modern fire fighting organization. …elevating the department to its present high degree of efficiency.” (p. 6, 1943 Annual Report)
Part of this increased efficiency must have been the elimination of several small stations, because the Fire department no longer has it as a fire station from 1944 on. There were then only four: Central, Magnolia, Bay View and East Gloucester stations.
I haven’t found the raising of the building to become a fire station – perhaps indicated by the rise in value in 1894 – perhaps the rise in value was only due to general inflation or property values rising.
If there are specific parts of this that you would like me to look into further, please let me know.
List of Improvements and Repairs to 6 Stanwood Street Since 1966
The Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association has completed the following improvements and repairs, at no cost to the City of Gloucester, since 1966. The following list is a review of the major repairs and improvements, cost estimated to be over $70,000.
PC = Cape Ann Pigeon Flyers
CAARA = Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association
1966 First floor. Painted and paneled, enclosed radiators, sanded and refinished floor, repaired all windows, cleaned and painted toilet and replaced wash basin.
Second floor. Lowered ceiling, repaired plaster and repainted, repaired toilet and repaired windows. PC
1967 Repaired half of roof, stripped old shingles and tar paper, replaced rotten boards, laid new tar paper and shingles. PC
1969 Building exterior. Replaced broken siding, scraped old paint, caulked windows and doors, repainted. PC
1970 All windows on first floor broken by rocks on Halloween. Replaced all broken glass and installed metal screens to prevent further breakages. PC
1972 Touched up paint, replaced broken siding, and caulked where necessary. PC 1973 Installed new gas heater system 1st floor, replacing old deteriorating steam heating system. PC
1975 Second floor. Painted floor, puttied and repainted windows, installed a gas heater, repaired tables and installed a workbench. CAARA
1978 Scraped and touched up exterior paint, replaced broken siding, caulked windows and doors. PC & CAARA
1979 Completed second half of roof, stripped off old shingles and tar paper, replaced rotted boards, laid new tar paper and shingles. PC & CAARA
1980 Shingled exterior walls of building with new cedar shingles. PC & CAARA
1981 Replaced rotted boards and fascia boards around roof, installed new gutters and down spouts. PC & CAARA
1982 Installed lights in cellar. CAARA
1983 Repaired pipes in cellar. CAARA
1984 Completely renovated bathroom. Installed shutoff valves in bathroom plumbing. Installed stair treads. CAARA
1985 Installed new door casing and repaired door. Installed down spouts from roof. Painted entrance walls and ceiling. Repaired service cable to meter box. CAARA
1986 Second floor. Painted ceiling, walls and floors. Repaired windows and blinds. Covered cellar window. Graded land for proper runoff. Covered first floor glass in front door with Masonite. CAARA
1987 Upgraded heating system for even distribution. Installed insulated heating ducts. Painted and tiled toilet. Removed and disposed of old steam pipes. CAARA
1988 Built enclosed radio operating room. Replaced windows. Repainted hallway and floors. Overhauled entire plumbing system. CAARA
1989 Touched up exterior paint. Serviced heaters. Re-puttied all windows. Installed automatic safety light system on the second floor and stairway. CAARA
1990 Second floor. Installed an escape door in rear. Repaired ceiling in radio room. Installed new threshold in lower entrance and first floor aluminum window. CAARA
1992 Installed cement base and stanchions to protect new gas meter from damage. CAARA
1993 Installed complete new electrical service. Rewired building. Brought building up to code. Installed new outlets and electrical boxes. Installed new light outside of entrance door. CAARA
1994 Replaced windows and painted trim. Removed oil tank from cellar. Removed broken and dangerous pipe on front patio. CAARA
1996 Stained the outside shingles, replaced screening on attic vents. CAARA
2000 Cleaned and overhauled kitchen and downstairs. Established emergency supplies cabinet in downstairs, replaced refrigerator and microwave and added second operating station. CAARA
2004 Obtained new tables for downstairs, sealed leaks in basement windows, lagged and insulated water pipes, shifted to year-round heating. CAARA
2006 Replaced chimney from the roofline to the peak. Surveyed the electrical systems for emergency services upgrades and the roof for replacement. CAARA
2007 New roof installed. CAARA
2011 Natural gas line modified to accommodate fueling a backup power generator. Existing generator modified to operate on natural gas. CAARA
2012 Extensive renovations on 2nd floor to increase number of stations and to improve operations and training space. Also improved area for small group meetings. CAARA
2013 First floor walls painted. Property survey complete. Negotiations with City of Gloucester to purchase 6 Stanwood St began. CAARA
2014 Purchased property from the City of Gloucester in December for 1% of assessed value ($2,300) and included a license agreement with neighbor for passage to her property. CAARA
2015 Replaced ceiling in kitchen.
Transcription of 1867 Deed
Book 727, Page 238
Know all men by these present,
That I Betsey Tucker of Gloucester in the county of Essex and State of Massachusetts, in consideration of two hundred dollars paid by the Inhabitants of the town of Gloucester, the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged do hereby give grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the said Inhabitants & their successors forever a certain parcel or tract of land situated in Riverdale “so called” in said Gloucester bounded and described as follows,
Viz. [Videlicet] Beginning at a stake by the wall at the side of the road leading from the road to Annisquam into the wood and near the homestead of Henry Stanwood, thence running northeasterly one hundred feed, thence southeasterly fifty feet at right angles with the first mentioned line, then southwesterly one hundred feet to a point fifty feet from and opposite to the place begun at, thence the same course to the aforesaid wall, thence by said wall as the wall mark as the wall runs to the place begun at. It being a portion of the land set off by order of court from the estate of my father David Wharf to me as my share in said estate.
To have and to hold the above granted premises with all the privileges and appurtenances thereto belonging to the said Inhabitants to their use and behoof forever. And I the said Betsey Tucker for myself and my heirs, executors and administrators do covenant with the said Inhabitants heirs and assigns, that I am lawfully seized in fee simple [legal possession–seizen] of the aforegranted premises, that they are free from all incombrances that I have good right to sell and convey the same to the said Inhabitants heirs and assigns forever as aforesaid, and that I will and my heirs, executors and administrators shall warrant and defend the same to the said Inhabitants heirs and assigns forever against the lawful claims and demands of all persons.
In witness whereof I the said Betsey Tucker have hereunto set my hand and seal this thirteenth day of July in the year of our Lord eighteen hundred and sixty seven. The words “fifty feet” were inserted before signing. Betsey Tucker [seal] signed sealed and delivered. Essex ss July 18 1867. Then personally in presence of Cyrus Story Ignatius B. Sylvester
Appeared then personally the above named Betsey Tucker and acknowledged the above instrument to be her free act and deed,
before me, Cyrus Story, Justice of the Peace
Essex as Rec. July 15, 1867 10m. before 12m. Rec & Ex. [Received & Executed] Ephr[a]m Brown, Reg[istrar]
2014 Deed and License Agreement
Click here to view CAARA’s Community Preservation Committee Grant Application.