NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The Narragansett Historical Society has raised $165,000 toward its plan to rehabilitate the Windmill Building on Clarke Road.
The society plans to use the space as a new headquarters.
“We need administrative space, we need room for planning for all the educational efforts on our parts, such as walking tours, seminars, meetings and lectures,” Historical Society Vice President Robert O’Neill told the Town Council Monday in an update on the project.
O’Neill said the society has several other grants pending, including a Champlin Foundation grant.
“We hope to hear from them by the end of this month,” he said.
The two-phase plan for the building includes a “buttoning up” this summer of its windows, doors, shingling and roof.
“A subsequent phase would be the interior efforts,” O’Neill said.
In February of 2020, the Town Council approved a 25-year lease of the building, which is on town land adjacent to the Narragansett Parks and Recreation offices.
The historical society will pay $1 to the town annually for the lease, which terminates on Feb. 28, 2045. There is an option to renew the lease for a further 25 years as well.
O’Neill said that the society had led a “vagabond” existence since the 1970s until inking the lease with the town last year.
The nonprofit Narragansett Historical Society was founded in 1978, with the mission of preserving the town’s history. The organization documents the history of important structures, organizes tours of historic buildings and serves as an expert resource for researchers.
The town had $28,000 in funding in 2019 to demolish the building before the historical society stepped in.
The Windmill Building gets its name from having the shape and appearance of a windmill, but it never actually operated with any turning blades to produce power.
“It dates back to 1935 and was built by Harold Bosworth,” Historical Society Vice President Robert O’Neill said. “We’re not quite sure why he decided to build a home that looked like a windmill.”
By 1940 it became the Windmill Antique Shop, and then became a home again until 1976, when Camp JORI purchased it. The town purchased the property in 2002 and it sat largely unused since that time.
The society did explore other options for space, such as the South County Museum and the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library, but both were not sufficient, O’Neill said.
O’Neill said he plans to give another update on the society’s progress in the fall.
A clause in the lease gives the society two years to fund-raise before starting work on it, including making building and housing code improvements and making it handicap accessible.