In 1907, Joseph Kimball gave his house to the town of Atkinson, with the provision that it could only be used as a library or a museum. It served as the town's library until 1971, when a new wing was built. That wing was replaced by Atkinson's new library a few years ago. In 1954, the Atkinson Historical Society (AHS) was formed, and the AHS has preserved the town's papers and memorabilia in a museum at the Kimball House ever since.
Today, the Kimball House is in a sad state of disrepair. Three years ago, the AHS researched maintenance and preservation methods which would last beyond the five to ten year lifetime of a paint job on a New England clapboard house. We looked at new cedar siding, concrete siding products, and vinyl siding. The contractors who came to look at the Kimball House advised us that the siding was actually in very good condition. Historical preservation experts advised us that the best solution was a three year program of annual light scraping and milk paint washes, with a final paint topcoat. This method has been used on similar historic buildings in nearby towns with good results, and lasts about 25 years. The price for this multiyear paint project is under $20,000, compared with up to three times that for residing.
The town passed a warrant article in 2010 to do this work. Two years later almost none of the money set aside for this project has been spent. The selectmen have been too busy with other priorities.
New Hampshire law allows towns to create a Heritage Commission to manage historical and culturally important properties. We have drafted a warrant article to create a Heritage Commission specifically charged with managing, maintaining, and regulating the Kimball House, and to take charge of the repairs. The warrant also creates a Heritage Fund which can accept donations for preservation work. A Heritage Commission is different from a Historical District Commission, which can possess zoning powers. The warrant article explicitly prohibits the Heritage Commission from functioning as an Historical Commission. It's only purpose will be to serve as the custodians of the Kimball House.
The Heritage Commission will have members appointed from the board of selectmen, the library trustees, the Atkinson Historical Society, and the community at large. Please join with us in voting yes on Article 2012-30 to establish a Heritage Commission and save the Kimball House.