Recent History of Patton Homestead
Joanne Patton’s generous gift to Hamilton in 2012 of the Patton Homestead and 27 acres of land bordering on the Ipswich River is now realizing the vision that many hoped for. Plans, renovations and fundraising of the Homestead for public use are underway.
After the gift was accepted, the Board of Selectmen appointed a Board of Incorporators to study the Homestead and recommend how it could best serve the town. That Board is now the Patton Homestead Inc. non-profit. In March 2017 they submitted recommendations for management of the site to the Selectmen (refer link below). Since then the non-profit team has been working closely with Town Manager and his staff to implement those recommendations.
A first step was to build a parking lot. That was completed Fall 2017 and townspeople are welcome to park there and enjoy the grounds (the Homestead building is not yet ready.) Also in the fall of 2017 the town requested bids for an architect to engineer the renovations and develop a design for the Homestead’s use for a variety of historic, social, and other events.
Spencer & Vogt was selected based on their considerable experience in renovating historic places for public use. Their draft designs were presented to the Selectmen in March 2018. S&V’s designs are being developed into construction drawings for bidding the renovation work in July 2018 so that construction can begin the following fall. The first phase are external renovations which have been mostly completed so that the Homestead can be ready for use by Spring 2019.
How will a renovated Patton Homestead benefit the town of Hamilton? Already the town can use the grounds for a variety of activities such as hiking and picnics in the summer and sledding and snow shoeing in the winter. The first annual “Snow Day at Patton Homestead” was surprisingly successful in January even though there was no snow! Nearly a hundred visitors stopped by, mostly families with children. And even though no snow, the kids had a great time running the grounds, rolling down the hills, climbing on the cannon and toasting marshmallows.
There is also a small dock for that canoes or kayaks can be launched into the Ipswich River.The town is cooperating with the Essex County Greenbelt for a nature trail to connect with their other properties along the River.
When the Homestead is renovated, townspeople will have a delightful historic property for a variety of meetings and events – class reunions, family parties, weddings, lunches and dinners, lectures, concerts, and so on. There are two large rooms that can accommodate 50 + people for sit down events and up to 90 for other less formal gatherings. And there is a lovely patio, complete with a an early 1620's Spanish military cannon, overlooking the grounds for outdoor and evening events.
While these facilities will be available to the general public for renting, Hamilton residents and veterans will pay a reduced fee. Event venues can be expensive so having a local place at reduced costs will be a great benefit for families and couples.
To recognize the Patton family’s military history and Joanne’s devotion to veterans, a major consideration for the Homestead is to serve our military families and veterans. A major effort will be made to invite and encourage them to take advantage of this historic military home.
In fact that is already happening. For the past several years the Wenham Museum has rented the grounds for their Military History Day. Last July nearly 1000 visitors came to the Homestead for all kinds of military activities – military reenactments, displays of military memorabilia, and military vehicles including a tank. The highlight was the landing of a Blackhawk helicopter on the Patton grounds.
The Homestead will also be a national attraction as Mrs. Patton is working with the Wenham Museum to maintain the Patton archives and memorabilia in their present location. Almost one third of the Homestead is devoted to these materials and the Wenham Museum will provide access to them by military history researchers and scholars as well as public tours of the Patton rooms.
Designs are underway for Phase 1 renovations. This will include the restoration of the exterior (dormers, windows, stone work, roofing, painting, etc.); upgrading of utilities (electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, lighting, etc.); installing fire sprinklers; making entrances, rooms, and bathrooms handicapped accessible; providing a serving kitchen for caterers; and refurbishing the interior spaces.
How will we afford the renovations? The town has funds in hand from the sale of four acres of the property for moderately priced housing, as stipulated in the gift agreement. Public and private grant funds are being actively pursued. A $200,000 grant request was approved at Town Meeting for the town’s Community Preservation funds for historic preservation. Within the next few months a capital campaign will begin to raise additional funds.
Following Phase 1 renovations, there is more to be done for the full development of the Patton Homestead and landscape including an exterior courtyard and accessible pathways. Plans are underway for that and will be supported solely through fundraising.
The good news is that no taxpayer funds are being used for any of these activities, except for CPC funding. In fact, the Patton Ridge 12 units of senior housing bring in $145,000 in tax revenue to the town, much more than the $34,000 when Mrs. Patton lived there! That additional revenue helps bring down the average tax bill for every homeowner in town.
Furthermore, the land sale generated:
$156,000 for affordable housing and immediately allowed the Town to fund the two new Habitat for Humanity houses on Asbury Street,
and $500,000 in a Town stabilization for natural or turf recreation fields.
The generosity and foresight of Joanne Patton’s gift has provided the seed money for getting things started. And the expectation is that the Patton Homestead will be fully self-supporting. When all is said and done, Hamilton will have a wonderful and unique resource and venue for resident activities. And for that we can thank our benefactor, Mrs. Joanne Holbrook Patton.
Relevant documents & reports…
Special Act S2245 Chapter 84 of 2018 to create Hamilton Fund for complete transparency of economics for the Patton Homestead