Future uncertain for historic – but blighted – house on town-owned land in Glocester

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1272 Putnam Pike

GLOCESTER– Last year, the Glocester Town Council purchased a 10-acre plot of land adjacent to the Glocester Memorial Park near the center of town at 1272 Putnam Pike. Now, they have to decide what to do with the house that is on it.

At the recent Town Council meeting, Vice President Stephen Arnold brought up topic, saying he hoped to get the ball rolling on discussion of its future.

“We can’t just let it sit there,” said Arnold. “We need to know: what is the grand plan with that?”

Arnold explained that the property wasn’t bought because of the house on it. It was bought for the land.

“It was a good piece of land, a good location,” explained Town Clerk Jean Fecteau later. “We were never interested in the house.”

Arnold explained that he recently walked through the house with DPW Director Gary Treml, and found it to be in a state of disrepair, perhaps beyond saving.

“Any ideas I had of what to do with that structure kind of got crushed pretty quickly,” he said. “If there’s a reasonable way to salvage a historic home and do something useful with it, I am all on board.”

Treml described the building as having a dirt floor and fieldstone foundation. He added that the septic would have to be updated, along with the electrical and plumbing, as well as shoring up the structure itself. Additionally, walls would have to be torn down to the studs, kitchens and bathrooms replaced, and numerous other repairs made.

“You’re going to throw a whole pile of money at it,” said Treml. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

The building, which sits on 10 acres, dates back to the 1800s and is described in the 1980 Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission’s report as a “1 and a half story late Victorian structure with a small, brick chimney, a central entry in a 5 bay façade with gabled dormers and a late Victorian porch.”

Former Glocester School Committee member Walter Steere, Jr., whose son, Walter Steere III, is a member of the Town Council, explained that the house was once owned by a member of the Steere family. According to the Steere Family Association documents, it was the homestead of Joseph Smith Olney, whose wife, Lydia Annie Olney was a member of the Steere family. It was later occupied by Steere’s aunt Helen Brown.

Since then, however, the property has been through numerous owners and tenants, leading to its condition today. The property was bought from Renee Pigeon and Patricia Mann for $360,000 in 2022 using funds from the American Rescue Plan Act.

Arnold added that he was concerned about the security of the building and the fact that the DPW had to use time maintaining it.

“If you’re not going to do anything with it, you should just get rid of it,” suggested Treml.

“I put this on (the agenda) to get this conversation rolling,” said Arnold. “I think it would benefit everybody to have an intelligent conversation if you could get in there and walk through it.”

He added that the structure does have aesthetic, financial and historic value, however, the costs for updating may outweigh those concerns.

“We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars,” said Arnold. “I just wanted to get the conversation going.”

Steere explained that the building had been considered at one point for affordable housing, but with the prospect of the potential costs, it might not be a viable idea.

The council agreed that the issue should be addressed soon.

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