April 17, 2015 (Salem, MA) – Essex National Heritage Commission (Essex Heritage), a non-profit that manages and provides numerous programs preserving and enhancing Essex County’s historic, natural and cultural sites, announced the 2015 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program recipients at the Commission’s Spring Meeting in Lawrence on April 16. Over the next year, the 15 grant recipients will be working to implement a diverse range of educational, interpretive, and preservation projects throughout Boston’s North Shore.
“We recognize the importance of supporting local organizations” said Annie Harris, Essex Heritage CEO, “and we are proud that we are able to award fifteen partnership grants again this year – we know that this seed money greatly impacts the region by leveraging more investments in Essex County.”
2015 Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Recipients:
Lake Gardner Improvement Association
Seeking to increase awareness and use of Amesbury’s publicly owned historic conservation properties, the Lake Gardner Improvement Association will partner with Amesbury Trails to improve, interpret and promote a recreational trail connection linking the Town Forest to the Woodsom Farm Conservation Area. The all-volunteer project includes trail blazing, construction of a boardwalk, and installation of trail signage through Amesbury’s Great Swamp and across land managed by Essex County Greenbelt. In addition, maps and related materials will be created for distribution online and via social media.
Boxford Border to Boston Trail Committee
Employing the graphic and interpretive style already used by four contiguous trail communities, the Boxford Border to Boston Trail Committee will develop and install two informational kiosks along its recently opened section of the emerging 30-mile Border to Boston Trail. Spread over approximately four miles, the visual materials will enhance the public’s safety and provide directional and cultural information on the railroad’s history and its surrounding sites. When completed, seven of the nine Border to Boston Trail communities will have installed branded interpretive displays funded, in part, with Essex Heritage grants.
Essex Technical High School
Combining elements of vocational education and place-based learning, students at the new Essex Technical High School will create a conservation and preservation plan for the school’s campus in Danvers. Commensurate with the school’s stewardship of its natural resources, students studying Natural Resources Management and Environmental Technology will focus on the campus’s wetland environment. While taking into account both the local watershed and historical land patterns dating to the colonial era, students will be engaged in topics such as site assessment, watershed hydrology, botany, soils and regulatory law, and will produce and analyze GIS maps and water quality data.
Essex Shipbuilding Museum
Part tourist attraction, part community ambassador, part teachable moment, the 15-foot, hands-on exhibition model of the Schooner Effie M. Morrissey is a centerpiece of the visitor and school field trip programs offered by the Essex Shipbuilding Museum. The beloved model is a replica of state’s official sailing vessel, the 1894 Schooner Ernestina-Morrissey. With such a pedigree, the “Effie” serves as a three dimensional gateway to discussions about sailing vessel design, Arctic exploration, immigration and prominent role of Essex-built vessels in the sail-powered era of commercial fishing. A victim of her popularity, the “Effie” will be returned to her place of prominence following the publicly viewable repair and refinishing of her hatches, masts, rigging, hardware and wheeled cradle.
In order to better connect residents and visitors to Gloucester’s maritime traditions and unique ecology, Maritime Gloucester will pilot a summer program offering experiential activities at its waterfront campus. Throughout the summer, visitors will be able to explore a changing set of programs in a drop-by format. Examples include rope making, sea-faring board games, navigation tools, “plein air” painting demonstrations, historic films, fish feeding, "mug ups" with local fishermen, mast rigging, fish filleting demonstrations, and net making. These enhanced daily offerings will provide the visitor with a memorable experience of the maritime traditions and skills still practiced in coastal Essex County.
Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce Community Arts & Education Foundation
With the goal reusing the vacant 1891 Cogswell School as a community art center, the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce Community Arts and Education Foundation seeks to preserve a beloved vestige of Haverhill’s past by capitalizing on the city’s cultural renaissance. Recently buoyed by a 3-year lease-to-purchase agreement with the city, the foundation will utilize an Essex Heritage grant to plan and execute a community awareness campaign. Activities include creation of a brand identity, on-site signage, enhanced web presence, and a fundraising prospectus.
Ipswich River Watershed Association
To promote conservation and recreation on the Ipswich River, the watershed association will create a branded network of educational kiosks. The river, a source of drinking water for 350,000 residents and businesses, is used by thousands of people every week during the paddling season, making it one of the most utilized recreational resources in Essex County. The project builds upon the work of an Eagle Scout and entails the refurbishment or installation of eight wooden kiosks at key access points in five Ipswich River communities. Featuring a unified design, the kiosks will engage river users with a regional map, photographs, and messaging about the importance of protecting the watershed.
Designed by Groundwork Lawrence staff to introduce the natural environment to urban youth with few opportunities to experience it, the “Knowing Your Environment” program will take Green Team members to ecologically significant sites in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Ipswich, Newburyport, Georgetown and Lawrence. The high school aged youth will explore different ecosystems, learning how they operate and why they matter. The lessons about soil, vegetation and water will be applied as the Green Team members return to Lawrence to provide hands-on project assistance on environmental and healthy community initiatives.
Friends of Lawrence Heritage State Park
With Essex Heritage funding support, Lawrence Heritage State Park will conduct its popular interpretive boat tours on the Merrimack River on Sundays during July and August. Begun in 2005, the free tours are offered in partnership with the Greater Lawrence Community Boating Program, which maintains the 18-passenger boat that is piloted by a Coast Guard licensed and insured captain. The 1.5 to 2 hour tours are narrated by interpretive staff from Lawrence Heritage State Park and focus on the natural history of the Merrimack River, early settlement of the region, and vital role the river played in Lawrence's industrial development.
Lawrence History Center
Built in the 1880s by the Essex Company to house its growing operation in Lawrence, the handsome brick building complex is now home to the Lawrence History Center. As part of its strategic commitment to honoring the city’s heritage, the Center is replacing all 40 of the existing aluminum storm windows on its main building with new historically appropriate, exterior mounted insulating storm windows. In addition to returning the building to its original appearance, the new storm windows will help preserve the building’s original 1883 windows, improve thermal insulation, and preserve the building’s contents by eliminating the penetration of ultra-violet light.
Methuen Rail Trail Alliance
Built downtown in 1907, the brick Methuen railroad depot is the starting point for many of the organized community activities taking place on the 2.4 mile Methuen Rail Trail. To enhance the user experience, the Methuen Rail Trail Alliance will use Essex Heritage funding to create an attractive gateway setting around the depot. The project will include landscaping and the installation of wayfinding and interpretative signage describing the trail’s historical and present day links to mill buildings, the Spicket River Greenway, Nevins Bird Sanctuary and marshlands leading to the New Hampshire border.
Thacher Island Association
Drawing upon its 25 years of experience with the famed twin lighthouses on nearby Thacher Island, the Thacher Island Association will undertake the interior rehabilitation of the Straitsmouth Island light keeper’s house located near the entrance to Rockport Harbor. The project scope includes the house’s walls, ceilings, floors, stairs as well as electrical and plumbing systems. Once completed, the circa 1878 structure will be used as a residence for volunteer lighthouse keepers who will watch over the 30-acre island as well as welcome visitors and provide tours.
The Thacher Island Association will manage the project on behalf of Mass Audubon, which shares ownership of the Straitsmouth Island with the Town of Rockport.
The House of the Seven Gables Settlement Association
Though toured by hundreds of thousands, no visitors to The House of the Seven Gables in Salem have ever seen two key rooms of this venerable National Historic Landmark built in 1668. In an effort to enhance the public’s access and understanding of the First Period structure’s 350-year evolution, the settlement association will prepare detailed plans for the restoring the original second floor dining room chamber and accounting room. In addition to guiding the organization’s interpretation of the spaces, the grant funded work will inform fund raising goals and provide vital information for institutional records.
Topsfield Historical Society
Since the late 1600s, the citizens of Topsfield have been documenting significant civic and church events. Since the late 1800s, the Topsfield Historical Society has organized and published over 34 volumes of this material now contained in the town’s archives. With the objective of making Topsfield’s local history available to a much larger public audience, the Society has initiated the “Digital History Project.” The primary focus of the grant funded work will be the creation of a new website and portal to the society’s digitized collections, links to Topsfield material available on other websites, and robust search tools to access information from all sources.
The Great Marsh Coalition
Addressing the pressing need for increased public awareness about climate change, the Great Marsh Coalition is sponsoring the production of four banners illustrating the consequences of sea level rise on the Great Marsh ecosystem. Created by artist and environmental planner Susan Quateman of Gloucester, the works of public art will be informed by Coalition initiatives such as marsh inundation, invasive species, land protection, and salt marsh restoration. The weatherproof banners will be displayed on a rotating basis throughout 2015 at Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley and the popular Cox Reservation in Essex to coincide with several large-audience events. The project is being managed by Essex County Greenbelt.
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About the Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program
The Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program is a matching grant program created to foster and support the stewardship activities of municipalities and organizations that share its mission to preserve and enhance the historic, cultural and natural resources of the Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County). Impacting many in the region, the 17-year old program has invested more than $1.5 million in support of the region’s nationally significant heritage.