Carriage Barn re-opening celebrated at Kirkside
By Jill Ribich
A crowd of about 100 people was on hand in Roxbury Tuesday evening to celebrate the opening of the restored Carriage Barn at Kirkside Park.
The restoration of the barn was a labor of love that was over 30 years in the making. The barns were part of the estate of Helen Gould Shephard, daughter of railroad magnate, Jay Gould, which included what is now Kirkside Retirement Home and Kirkside Park.
The home became a boarding house for a while until it was purchased back by Helen’s brother George in 1948 and donated in his sister’s memory to the Reformed Church in America to be operated as a retirement home for ministers.
In 1980 the Reformed Church decided to close Kirkside and sell the property. That is when a group of Roxbury residents formed the Keep Kirkside Committee with the purpose of preventing the closing of Kirkside Retirement Home and opening the park to the public.
Under the leadership of now town supervisor, Tom Hynes and others, the Keep Kirkside group reached a settlement with the Reformed Church in 1981 to purchase the park property for $3,600, money raised by the Keep Kirkside group. The terms of the settlement also allowed the committee to lease back the retirement home, which has been a home to senior citizens for the past 32 years.
In order to maintain and improve the property The Kirkside Park Committee was formed in 1990. There have been dozens of local citizens who have served on both the Keep Kirkside group and the Kirkside Park Committee over the years, with the leadership and support of Tom Hynes.
The committee worked to restore stone walls, walkways and bridges in the park. In 2005 the town acquired the barns from the retirement home with the intent of providing the residents of Roxbury, as well as visitors, a beautiful and useful recreational facility to go with the park property. Peg Ellsworth, who had written several grants to fund the restoration of the park, worked to get Roxbury a Preserve America designation. A six phase plan to restore the barns was implemented. Phase one was to complete in 2007, the installation of modern restrooms. Phase two is the carriage barn restoration which is now complete and was the reason for the celebration on Tuesday, June 23. Future phases include the completion of a museum in the Carriage Barn and restoration projects of the North Barn.
Making it official
Supervisor Tom Hynes was honored at the ribbon cutting ceremony for his commitment to the project. Peg Ellsworth presented Hynes with a large framed print of an historic post card depicting the park in the late 1900s. He was also presented with a wooden bench that was handcrafted by Steve Walker of Beverdam Builders . Walker, who has donated countless hours of his time and skill to the restoration of Kirkside Retirement Home and the Park, was honored for his attention to detail and fine craftsmanship in the restoration of the carriage barn. He was also presented with a framed print of the park in its turn of the century glory.
Former Director of the Kirkside Park Revitalization Project, Joe Farleigh, was invited to speak and provided the history of the property that is outlined above. He spoke of the efforts of many Roxbury residents over the years including Supervisor Hynes, Steve Walker and Peg Ellsworth.
When presented with the framed print by Ellsworth, Supervisor Hynes reminded the crowd that the project has been grounded in community support and volunteerism since its inception.