Johnston Historical Society President Elise Carlson was surprised to hear the latest breaking news out of the Sun Rise during a phone call last week.
She was told the organization would be receiving a Champlin Foundation grant for $5,300, and she joked that she had not received any notification otherwise that its application was rewarded. She was gleeful and appreciative during an interview at the Elijah Angell house on Dec. 3, during which she provided a tour of the home and pointed out the repairs toward which the money would be directed.
The Champlin Foundation funds – which Carlson said have been critical to maintaining the historic home in the past – will cover moisture-proofing the basement, repairing holes in the foundation and replacing the bulkhead. Champlin awarded more than $18 million to nearly 200 projects across the state this year, including a $48,329 grant for Johnston High School.
“The more time I spent down here, I noticed the floor is always wet,” said Carlson, who hadn’t been installed as president when the application was sent. “I tried putting a dehumidifier, it was like trying to dry Middle Earth. It wasn’t helping. Now you look at these walls and everything’s just damp and disgusting. I’m sure it’s always been like that. We used to coat them with just limestone or something, I don’t know exactly what it was.”
Carlson said member Warren Lanphear, who owns Circa 1700 and built the Historical Society’s museum barn, will handle the work. She added there will be a group effort to clear the basement.
“He’s going to put down a big piece of plastic basically and a big load of keystone,” Carlson said of Lanphear. “He’s just a smart guy, he can fix anything. That’s what he suggested for the floor anyway. The walls, it’ll cut down on the moisture anyway if the floors are covered.”
The moisture-proofing project was packaged with initiatives to fill holes in the foundation and fixing the bulkhead, the latter of which Carlson said the society doesn’t use. She said the work will likely be done in the spring, but a few milder days in the winter could get the area cleaned out.
“Then I looked over here at the bulkhead, I said, ‘Well, we’ve got a huge wooden door, and I think it’s original,’” Carlson said. “I look at this thing and I think it’s awesome, but I think it’s not doing anybody a lot of good. We don’t use it, so I said let’s do something with this bulkhead. I don’t know exactly what the plan is. I can see that it’s all wet in there.”
Carlson and the society are grateful for the foundation’s contributions over the years, noting that another $20,000 grant covered the cost of painting the Angell house. She said she was preparing herself to file for another grant had this one not been approved.
Carlson also said she would like to meet with Dist. 25 Sen. Frank Lombardo III to discuss the possibility of legislative grants going forward. She said future projects would be aimed at making the society more noticeable at street level.
“We need it to put lighting outside,” Carlson said. “People just drive by us all the time, nobody knows where this place is. I had that big sign put on the side, that helped a little bit. People sitting at Emmily’s can see us.”
With the constant maintenance that a historic home requires, Carlson said it is “very critical” to have a group like the Champlin Foundation on her side.
“This building, it’s going to need one thing after another,” Carlson said. “We’re doing pretty good so far. The roof is in good shape, the chimney’s in good shape, all the masonry. Everything upstairs will last a little bit longer once we fix downstairs, won’t have all that moisture coming up through the floors. These are all original floors. That’s the underside of it. Even up on the second floor, we have a tenant that lives up there. Everything’s original up there, too.”