Active Year Ahead for Bellingham Historical Commission
Bellingham’s history comes alive inside the Ernest A. Taft Jr. Museum.
By KEN HAMWEY,
Bulletin Staff Writer
The Bellingham Historical Commission is gearing up for a busy year.
The six-member group, which deserves lots of credit for the recent upgrades and revitalization of the Ernest A. Taft Jr. Historical Museum, has a variety of projects on its to-do list.
Always working to ensure that the town’s history is preserved, the commission teamed up with the Bellingham Public Library and participated in the Mass. Memories Road Show. Residents were encouraged to provide community photos that had historical value.
The Ernest A. Taft Jr. Museum was built in 1930 and was Bellingham’s Public Library for 59 years
“We received 167 photos, and they’ve been digitized,’’ said Bernadette Rivard, Bellingham’s Library Director who also serves as secretary of the historical commission. “The photos will soon be available for viewing on the Mass. Memories Road Show website (openarchives.umb.edu).
Another project involves the planned restoration of a 1930 Ford vehicle, Bellingham’s first firetruck.
“Thanks to Matt and Tom Clark, the truck is in a heated warehouse at the Bellingham Industrial Park on William Way,’’ said Rick Marcoux, chairman of the commission. “The goal is to restore the truck for display at town events, parades, etc.’’ Rivard noted that the commission currently is exploring options on how to fund restoration of the vehicle.
Two other activities already underway are quarterly meetings and the publication of Crimpville Comments. “We’ve begun a quarterly Bellingham History Discussion Group that meets to discuss town history,’’ Rivard said. “And we’re continuing to publish Crimpville Comments, a newsletter that offers a variety of topics focusing on Bellingham’s history. “The next discussion group meeting will be in April and we’re planning to print 2-4 issues of Crimpville Comments this year.’’
Two future projects involve an event during the Memorial Day Parade weekend and participation in Bellingham Days, a fair that’s held in August. “Stay tuned,’’ Rivard and Marcoux said.
The museum, located opposite the Municipal Center, is now must-see viewing since its renovation. The brick building is 93 years old, built in 1930 at a cost of $10,000. The structure was Bellingham’s Public Library from 1930 to 1989 before it became a museum. On May 22, 2011, it was dedicated and named for the late Ernest Taft, who served as chairman of the historical commission for 25 years.
The contents in the museum are grouped into six classifications. They include historical records (annual reports, yearbooks, Crimpville Comments); military, civil defense and public safety history, including mannequins wearing the uniforms of Bellingham veterans; sports and recreation history (Silver Lake and Bellingham High sports); school and municipal history, including an 1891 bell from the Center School and an 1802 bench from Upper Town Hall; home and farm history, including a sleigh from the Goldwaithe Brothers Grocery Store that was used to deliver groceries from its Pearl Street location from 1900 to 1920; and a display case of intriguing memorability of Bellingham history.
“Town Administrator Denis Fraine encouraged the commission to take advantage of the down time during the pandemic to renovate the building and reorganize the collection,’’ Rivard said. “I’m delighted the museum’s visibility has dramatically increased since the demolition of the Domino’s pizza building. This will enable us to install signs to better inform the community of our hours and events.’’
Marcoux noted that the last time the interior of the building was painted most likely was in the 1950s. “I’m also pleased that we were able to install new lighting, air conditioning and ceiling fans,’’ he said.
The museum, which is staffed by volunteers and tax-workoff employees, is open every Wednesday (9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), the second and fourth Saturdays of the month (9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), the third Monday of the month (6-7 p.m.) and also by appointment. If there’s inclement weather, residents can call the museum at (508) 966-5838 or check its Facebook page for possible closures.
Other commission members include vice chairman Steve Joanis, Franco Tocchi, Majorie Turner-Hollman, and Pam Johnson.
Marcoux put the commission’s efforts in clear focus, saying: “My goal is to make Bellingham’s history come to life and be available to all our residents.’’