Carolyn R. S. Harris • Wilmington
Under the leadership of Carolyn Harris, and through her outstanding ability to collaborate with civic organizations and departments, the Wilmington Historical Commission has earned a reputation of balancing progress with preservation for future generations. Ms. Harris was born and raised in Wilmington and attended Lowell State College, where she obtained an undergraduate degree in history and education, as well as Master of Arts degrees in teaching and American studies. Ms. Harris worked for the North Reading School Department for more than thirty years, serving as the chair of the History Department for many years leading up to her retirement. Ms. Harris was appointed to the Wilmington Historical Commission in 1987. She was elected chair of the Commission in 1988, and has held the position for 25 years. With Ms. Harris at its helm, the Commission has successfully advocated for the preservation of Wilmington’s historic resources, and has educated the community about the town’s history.
Among the preservation achievements with which Ms. Harris has been associated are: the establishment of five National Register historic districts in the town; expansion of the town’s historic house plaque program; preservation, rehabilitation, and reutilization of two of the town’s one-room schoolhouses; successful nomination of several private and public properties to the National Register of Historic Places; and promoting awareness of threatened historic sites and properties such as the Clapp Mill, the Butters Farmhouse, the town’s Scales Keeper’s House, the Whitefield School, and the Town Pound, among others. She was instrumental in the creation of the Wilmington Town Museum at the Col. Joshua Harnden Tavern. Today, the Museum is a vibrant historic resource, receiving hundreds of visitors annually. It is also the site of educational programs, social events, senior citizen work programs, and Eagle Scout projects. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever” is her motto. Ms. Harris is held in the highest regard by Wilmington’s administration and its citizens. She will soon retire from the Wilmington Historical Commission, but her dedication to historic preservation will benefit the town for generations to come.