SHIRLEY -- The Shirley Meeting House has launched its 2018 fund raising campaign with a town-wide mailing that will reach Shirley residents during the week of March 19.
Donations raised will be matched -- dollar for dollar -- by the Massachusetts Cultural Council and will fund the ambitious Meeting House improvement project currently underway. Already completed are bathroom and utility areas which add modern conveniences, including running water, to the 18th century structure for the first time. Further improvements will make the entrance, seating and stage areas fully accessible by those with limited mobility.
The fundraising drive marks yet another milestone in a process that began in 2013 when the Meeting House received a MCC Technical Assistance and Planning Grant to study improved accessibility. During 2014, the Building Committee worked with architect Richard Smith to develop detailed plans for the project. In addition to the handicapped-accessible bathroom, these plans include raising the exterior grade to the portico, thereby creating a natural "ramp" for access to the vestibule, and ramping the interior from the vestibule to the main seating area.
With the plans in place and approved by the Shirley Selectmen and Historic District Commission, an application was submitted to the MCC Facilities Fund in 2015. And in 2016, the Meeting House was awarded a $97,000 matching grant for the construction phase of the project. Initial fund raising launched construction in 2017 but additional funds -- to be matched dollar for dollar by the MCC grant -- are still needed to bring it to completion.
Constructed in 1773, the Meeting House has been deemed one of the region's "unique historic treasures" by the Freedom's Way National Heritage Area. Originally built as a meeting place for governance and worship, the Meeting House is currently home to concerts, recitals and programs of historic interest. Completion of the accessibility project will ensure access to these events for all members of the community.
The Meeting House receives no financial support from the town of Shirley. It is operated and maintained by the volunteer efforts of Shirley residents and supported by generous grants and donations from businesses and residents of Shirley and surrounding areas. For more information or to make a donation, please visit the Meeting House website at www.shirleymeetinghouse.org.