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Warner's Odd Fellows building getting some love

Special to the Sunday News

April 14. 2017 7:52PM
The Odd Fellows building in Warner was once central to community life. It's been unoccupied since the 1990s but now town leaders are hoping a local contractor can save the historic structure. (RAY CARBONE/Special to the Sunday News)

WARNER - When town meeting voters decided in 1999 to spend $50,000 to buy the historic Odd Fellows building in the village, residents hoped that the stately 125-year-old iconic wooden structure could be renovated and repurposed.

But 20 years later, the building's best - and perhaps last - chance of survival seemingly rests in the hands of a local contractor who's planning a do-it-yourself approach to saving the landmark.

Nate Burrington of Burrington Builders has been in negotiations with selectmen since February about buying the building for a token sum - "You probably have it in your wallet now," joked a selectman at a recent meeting - and then using his professional skills and savvy to restore the three-story building.

Burrington has experience repurposing local wooden structures, including the adjacent Schoodacs Coffee & Tea building and several homes in the Bradford area. His tentative plans for the former fraternal hall include using the first floor for his business office and woodworking shop, and removing the second floor to allow sunlight to flood through several large windows into a high-ceiling main space. The third floor could be used for residences and/or commercial space.

Burrington hopes to find some grant money to fund the restoration of the historic clock tower and the slate roof.

The contractor is estimating that it would take him six years to complete the work and cost between $300,000 and $400,000. "It would all be out-of-pocket," he said. "No bank would give me the money right now."

Preservation consultant Christopher Closs of Hopkinton knows the challenges Burrington could face. In 2004, Closs worked with a local real estate broker, a contracting company and a town committee to save the Odd Fellows building. They looked at public and private financing in hopes of creating commercial space, elderly housing and/or workforce housing. But none of the plans came together, partly because of the estimated $2 million cost at the time, he said. "The building is so small (72 feet by 42 feet) that it would take too long for someone to recoup their original investment."

The selectmen have not addressed the ongoing negotiations with Burrington recently, but there are some known pollution issues on the site.

In addition, voters at this year's town meeting approved a citizens' petition that directs the board to begin making plans to demolish the structure if they are unable to strike a deal with Burrington.

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