Uncertain future for old YDC buildings in Manchester
Historic buildings at the John H. Sununu Youth Services Center site in Manchester include Pinecreast, left, a former intake unit, and Spaulding, a former boys dormitory. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)
Now, after a serious fire at one of them and questions from this newspaper, elected officials are saying it is time to take a new look at the structures.
“I think we’ve got to be sensible going forward and develop a long-range plan for how we’re going to use all the structures on that campus,” Pappas said. Wilkins Cottage and several other buildings were too outdated to fit the plans when the state moved operations at the Youth Development Center into the modern, secure John H. Sununu Youth Services Center in 2006.
In an agreement forged as the state secured federal funds to build the Sununu Center, Wilkins was classified as a structure “contributing” to the overall history of the state-run facility.
The historic designation was recognized in a memorandum of understanding signed following a detailed report commissioned by the state. Preservation consultant Elizabeth Durfee Hengen broke down the facility’s history from the initial land purchase in 1855 of farmland once owned by Revolutionary War hero Gen. John Stark and the construction that followed.
• Riverview Cottage opened as an isolation hospital in 1904 and converted into a boys dormitory in 1912. Hengen noted in the study the building, like Wilkins Cottage, has been unoccupied since the 1970s. Sampson said it is currently used only for storage;
• Spaulding Cottage, built south of Wilkins in 1927 as a second home for girls, is used by New Hampshire State Police as a training site;
Pappas said perhaps it is time to review the agreement and evaluate where the state is spending its money.
Mike Connor, director of planning and property management for the Department of Administrative Services, said structural engineers have been through the Wilkins structure and evaluated the damage. Connor said the state will review the findings and consider what to do next.
“I think that Wilkins is damaged enough that it should be torn down,” Gatsas said.
Boarded-up buildings are prime targets for vandals and Wilkins has had its share of unwelcome visitors over the last 40 years. Just in May, Manchester police were called when a maintenance worker found a door had been pried open. Officers found no one inside and the building was resealed, but a second call came in later that day and responding officers had to let out four people who were stuck inside. No charges were filed and police described the four as juveniles not associated with the Sununu Center.
“Empty buildings are an invitation to mischief,” said Dick Duckoff, a local historian and member of the North End Neighborhood Association, an organization that fiercely opposed a proposal to convert the property into a women’s prison a few years ago.
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