Patricia Johnson, the treasurer of the Friends of the Little Red House group stood in front of the Canton Community Preservation Committee (CCPC) making the case for the project that would "once and for all" save the Tilden House from the imminent threat of destruction by neglect. Johnson's voice trembled as she explained that "this is the last chance" for Canton to save one of the most important parts of a more than 300 year legacy. While the numbers were large, the task at hand was equally large - to convince the CCPC that the project was well planned, and indeed, would be a success.
For more than forty years the Friends have been advocating for the Tilden House. When the Community Preservation Act passed, the Tilden was a cause célèbre - a poster child - for all the promises of what the CPA would do. The idea of funding historic projects that culturally are a link to our past is embedded in the CPA and the Tilden House epitomizes all that CPA stands for. In the August 2014, the Friends began work on an ambitious funding request that would use Community Preservation Act money to preserve the Tilden House.
On a frigid December night, in the Community Room of the Canton Public Library, Johnson, - along with Wally Gibbs made their pitch. The questions for Johnson were tough and yet at each turn she had the answers. The timeline, the budget, the historic relevance. At least one of the CCPC members had visited the site before the meeting and exclaimed that he house is in dire condition, yet had to be saved. The presentation images flashed on the screen, and one by one each member of the committee came to see that the plan was doable and one that deserved support. The request was aimed squarely at Phase One - which would largely take care of the exterior, framing, foundation, roof, and structural interior support. Johnson explained that in fact there would be additional phases over time, but this first critical phase would mean that the house would be placed into a condition that more than renewed its lease on life.
As Johnson finished, Emily Prigot - a Canton resident and National Park Ranger, spoke passionately about why we save such buildings. “This house is a powerful reminder of our origins and destiny, of our town, of our Commonwealth, and indeed, of our nation." Powerful words that resonated through the presentation.
It worked, the hard work and exacting grant application paid off. The CCPC voted to recommend to the Annual Town Meeting a sum of $414,150 for a major preservation effort in the life of the almost 300 year-old home. What's next? - Work begins anew on the public relations campaign that will assure passage of the funding in May 2015. If all goes well, the plan is to begin construction in late summer 2015. Working with the Town of Canton's building renovations committee, the project has one more hurdle after Town Meeting - that being the selection of an architect to create the bid documents and specifications. It is indeed an exciting time for the Friends of the Little Red House as we get one step closer to the kicking off one of the largest preservation projects in the history of Canton.
The behind the scenes look at the preservation of this historic structure.