Massachusetts Historical Commission - 2012 Preservation Award Winners
Baird and Benton Block / College Internship Program at the Berkshire Center • Lee

Baird and Benton Block / College Internship Program at the Berkshire Center • Lee

Adaptive Reuse, Rehabilitation & Restoration

The Baird and Benton Block was constructed in 1879 for brothers George and Prentice Baird and their partner, William Benton. All came from prominent Lee paper manufacturing families: the Baird family manufactured paper collars, and the Bentons produced fine writing paper. The building is an excellent example of an Italianate commercial building and is prominently sited next to the 1874 Memorial Hall, making it an important presence along Main Street. Over the years, the building was home to the Lee Cash Grocery, the Knights of Columbus, the Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Lee Bowling Alleys, and Johansson's 5 & 10. By the 1950s, however, the top two floors were vacant, the exterior had undergone alterations that obscured the original storefronts, and the block was falling into disrepair. For the next sixty years, the building was only partially occupied.

The rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Baird and Benton Block converted the building into a new facility for the College Internship Program, which provides college and career support for students with Asperger's syndrome, ADD, autism, and other learning differences. Using state and federal historic tax credits, the interior and exterior of the building were fully rehabilitated in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's standards, including the removal of non-original storefronts to expose original masonry and support elements. The façade was returned to its original grandeur with a replicated cornice and masonry and storefront restoration, and windows were repaired or replaced with historically appropriate materials. The building was updated with new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and sprinkler systems, as well as a new elevator. Its long-vacant top floors now house the College Internship Program, while several new retail operations have joined the two previously existing businesses on the first floor. The Baird and Benton Block is once again a vital community resource, which has made a significant and positive impact on downtown Lee.

< < 7 of 12 > >