NORTH KINGSTOWN—The town council held a discussion Monday evening regarding the upcoming move of the old town house from its current home next to Cranston Murphy Funeral Home to the Wickford Elementary School site on Boone Street. In April, the Historic District Commission voted unanimously to allow the move so that the funeral home could expand its operations while preserving the structure.
“[Town Water Quality Specialist] Tim Cranston checked with the State Historic Preservation folks and it is the oldest municipal structure in the state,” said Town Manager Embury after the HDC vote. “It is very important to preserve the structure for its value to the historic fabric of the town and state.”
The town will reserve up to a maximum of $50,000 for the removal the current and construction of a new roof for town house, as well as the transfer of the structure’s original chimney and beams to the new site. Cranston Murphy Funeral Home will pay for the remaining relocation costs, which will be carried out by Kettelle Building Movers of Exeter.
“We will be incurring all the costs to move the building, which are close to double what I originally anticipated,” said Andrew Correia of Cranston Murphy Funeral Home. “It doesn’t matter, we will spend the money.”
Correia further noted that Steven Tyson of Architectural Preservation Group in Warwick will be responsible for overseeing the removal of the roof, beams and chimney to make sure that they are preserved during the building’s transfer.
“He is an expert,” said Correia. “[Tyson] has done al of that work at the Wickford House, and I think that speaks for itself.”
Cranston Murphy Funeral Home hopes to construct an addition to its building, which would need extra handicapped parking in order to be built by code. After holding discussions with the town, both sides agreed to move the old town house earlier this year.
“I wouldn’t have had the heart to even put in an application to have the building demolished, but everything really just fell into place quite nicely,” said Correia in April. “We offered the building officially to the town and explored a few different areas as far as where it could potentially go, so [the former Wickford Elementary School] seemed to be the best fit for the town, which was absolutely fine for us so long as it is protected.”
“It is a grand old building and we are happy to see it saved,” he added.
Council members were equally delighted about the town house’s move to Boone Street, where, according to Embury, it will potentially serve as a classroom for historical information. Embury also stated that the Wickford Art Association may utilize the building.
“I think it is a good thing and [the town house] will be a great addition over there,” said Councilman Kerry McKay.
The old town house was built in 1807 and has served many different functions over the years, from a nursery school and a casket selection room to a VFW hall. The building was purchased in 1953 by George C. and Margaret L. Cranston, the original proprietors of the Cranston Murphy Funeral Home.