State tells Belmont that Gale School has historical significance

CANTERBURY — Apparently, the empty Gale School is historically significant — at least to the state of New Hampshire's Division of Historical Resources.

According to a letter sent to the town on August 16 and made public at last night's Shaker Regional School Board meeting, the former school that sits up behind the Belmont Middle School was determined to be eligible for the National Register in 1985.

The letter said the Gale School "was an important Colonial Revival style building in the town. May of these resources have irreplaceable architectural detail and historic import to the town."

The state said that Gale School is part of the Factory Village (Belmont Village) Historic District that also contains the bandstand the Corner Meeting House, and the library as well as the Belmont Mill.

The Gale School belongs to the Shaker Regional School District but was briefly inspected by the town's code enforcement officer in June as part of a town-wide project that evaluated all of the public-owned property.

In his report presented on July 15, Code Enforcement Officer Steve Paquin reported to selectmen that the Building Assessment Committee said it was decayed to the point that it was likely not economically viable to be rehabilitated. The committee report also said it would likely fall down if it were to be moved and because of its size would be nearly physically impossible to relocate it in one piece.

Paquin also told selectmen that while it had sentimental value to the people of Belmont, it had no historical or architectural value.

Last night the School Board accepted the letter from the state for what it was and said they would be willing to wait until an ad hoc group of people in Belmont — comprised of Conservation Commission Chair Ken Knowlton, former School Board Chair Pret Tuthill, and Diane Marden — make a presentation about how to possibly save the school.

When reached for comment in July, Knowlton said his group was working on a plan but wasn't ready to release any details.

While the state cannot compel an owner to preserve a building, it recommends and encourages the reuse of them. The N.H. Division of Historical Resources said they offer resources than can assist municipal and private developers for rehabilitation of historic properties.