In Harwich, the Brooks Academy Museum, built by Sidney Brooks in 1844 as Pine Grove Seminary, needs a new foundation. The question before the town is whether to place a basic foundation underneath the historic structure at about $570,000; put in a foundation plus a partial basement at $900,000; or a foundation plus a full basement for about $1.2 million.
The building is certainly important historically and aesthetically, in many ways the centerpiece of Harwich Center. Its preservation is not a question; its future functionality is. As home of the Harwich Historical Society, the building would be much more functional with a full basement to allow climate-controlled storage of artifacts and historic documents. The Brooks Academy Museum Commission is applying for $785,000 in community preservation funds for the project, and there is another $100,000 in previously approved funds from the same source. We'd encourage the town to seek grants to make up the difference in order to install the full basement, or just appropriate the money outright. The Exchange Building has been invoked before as a lesson in past preservation failures. While Brooks Academy isn't in danger of being lost, its structural integrity depends on a new foundation, and a full basement would ensure its usefulness into the future.