Warner takes innovative approach to saving historic Odd Fellows building

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Warner’s Odd Fellow building is sold – almost

Ray Carbone (11)
Warner takes innovative approach to saving historic Odd Fellows building

At a meeting in the town hall Thursday night, the Board of Selectmen moved a step closer to selling the 125-year-old Odd Fellows building to a local contractor who wants to use it for business purposes.
The three-member board unanimously approved the sale of the historic 72’-by-42’ three-story wooden structure to resident Nate Burrington, the owner of Burrington Builders and Maintenance, “provided both sides can come to a mutually acceptable purchase-and-sales agreement.”
The board took the unusual move of approving an action with a significant contingency attached to avoid holding additional public hearings in the coming weeks. As John Dabuliewicz, a selectman, explained to the small group of people attending the meeting, state law requires an agreement be in place within 14 days of the last public hearing, which would be this Wednesday, March 15.

“You probably have it on you now.”

– Selectman Allan N. Brown, jokingly, referring to the price Nate Burrington will pay  the town for the historic Odd Fellows  building if the two sides reach an agreement.


“We didn’t want to do that,” the selectman said, because it’s the same night as the annual town meeting.
The action means that the board can continue negotiating with Burrington and move forward with the sale when both sides agree to all facets of a deal.
But it also means that details about the plan, including the price Burrington will pay and any special stipulations attached to the sale, is not yet been made public.
The selectmen said that their ongoing negotiations with Burrington in recent weeks have been going extremely well. “We’re not there yet, but we’re close,” Dabuliewicz said.
“He’s anxious to get this done,” added Allen N. Brown, another selectman, referring to the local contractor.
Resident Martha Michal asked if the board is considering any tax abatements as an incentive to Burrington taking over the building, or a revisionary clause that would allow the town to regain ownership if the contractor is unable to meet certain renovation benchmarks.
“There is a revisionary clause” in the tentative agreement, Dabuliewicz said, which can be used as “leverage” to make sure the building is not left to deteriorate further, but no tax abatement has been mentioned.

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The historic Odd Fellows building in Warner village has been vacant since the 1990s.

Local man wants to save Warner’s Odd Fellows building

(This story was originally published in the InterTown Record.)

The largest and handsomest business block by far in our village is the new Odd Fellows’ building that is just approaching completion… – Kearsarge Independent, April 1, 1892

By Ray Carbone

WARNER – After almost 20 years and multiple development plans, and spending more than $50,000, town leaders may have finally found the person who can restore and renovate the historic Odd Fellows Building by looking right down the road.
At a public hearing before the board of selectmen in town hall Tuesday, Warner native and resident Nate Burrington, of Burlington Builders and Maintenance, announced his intention to purchase the 125-year-old wooden village structure from the town. He plans to restore and renovate the 72’-by-42’, three-story building on his own, and use it primarily for his personal and business needs.
“I think we can do it,” Burrington said late last week. “I think it’s a good building, and even if I don’t make a ton of money (on the renovation), it should be in Warner.”
Burrington said he has experience repurposing old structures locally, including the adjacent Schoodacs Coffee & Tea building and several homes in the Bradford area. His tentative plans are to restore the local building’s first floor and use it for his building contracting business, probably a combination office and workshop. The third floor, which Burrington said has a gorgeous and unique view of the community, could become residential space for one or two tenants, he said.
And if stabilizing the second floor proves too difficult, the contractor might take it out and allow the first floor to have a high ceiling; the building’s many windows will flood the space with natural lighting.
He’s proposing a six-year project estimated to cost between $300,00 and $400,000. “It would all be out-of-pocket; no bank would give me the money right now,” he said He said he will do most of the work himself and that, as a contractor, he’ll be able to make use of left-over materials from other projects.
Town administrator Jim Bingham agreed with Burrington that the 19th century Church Street building is structurally sound. “The most serious pollution issue on the site has already been resolved,” he noted, referring to an environmental cleanup project completed about five years ago.
The town has resolved a drainage problem in the area that hampered earlier proposals, and allowing the new building owner to have nine spaces in the village area will rectify a shortage of available parking.
Burrington said he wants to seek grant support to restore the iconic clock tower – and, perhaps, the slate roofing. And he plans to shore-up the foundation; earlier proposal called for raising the building to install a new foundation. Both ideas will keep the renovation within reasonable costs, he said.
It was back in 1892 that local businessmen, who were members of the local Central Lodge of the international Fraternal Order of Odd Fellows, built the handsome facility. Jim McLaughlin, chairman of the town’s building committee, said its design and structure are unique to the region.
“It’s amazing how it was put together,” he said. “There’s not any other buildings like this in New England.”
The Odd Fellows and the local Masons, another fraternal organization – used the village structure until 1964. Since then, it’s served as everything from an industrial arts classroom to commercial space to private housing. A variety of owners used it until 1998 but after Bruce Martin, who lived and rented out rooms in the building, passed away in the late 1990s, some townspeople were afraid the Odd Fellows building would be purchased and demolished by a developer.
The town bought it for $50,000 in 1999, and a committee of residents was formed to find a way to maintain, renovate and reuse the Odd Fellows building. The group worked with several developers as well as myriad government agencies and grant organizations but was unable to find a program that would work. Proposals ranged from developing the space for commercial use to workforce housing to elderly housing however none were able to find the financial backing needed.
As recently as the February 2 budget committee hearing, Rebecca Courser, director of the Warner Historical Society and a longtime proponent for saving the Odd Fellows building spoke in favor of a petition article that would ask the selectmen to begin looking into ways to take the structure down. Courser said she was concerned about the safety of the empty wooden building after so many years of futility. (Residents will consider the petition at the annual town meeting next month.)
Burrington said that his approach – doing the work himself and utilizing the building, rather than looking for a big profit down the road – will work where other plans have not.
Bingham reported that about 25 people attended Tuesday’s hearing and most were appreciate of the local man’s idea. “It seemed like there was a strong level of support for transferring the property to the contractor,” he said.
One issue that still concerns the selectmen is a timeline for completing the work, Bingham explained. They want some recourse if Burlington is unable to fulfill his part of the sales agreement, Bingham said. “So they’re looking into how they can work that into an arrangement that obligates the contractor to meet certain deadline on rehabbing the building.
“That being said, the board and myself are walking away (from initial negotiations) fairly optimistic,” Bingham added.
Building committee chairman McLaughlin, who was at the meeting, is even more enthusiastic. “This is probably the first real bright spot we’ve had in a long time,” he said.
The selectmen hope to release more information about Burrington’s proposal – including the “token price” he would pay the town for the building – at their next public hearing on Wednesday, March 1, at 7 p.m. in the town hall.

Ray Carbone can be reached at raycarbone@yahoo.com


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Anastasia (Anna) Glavas was born in Canada but somehow found her way to small town America. She works part-time in the local schools and at Mount Kearsarge Indian Museum. When she isn't there, she is either at home...

Darryl Parker is an elected official with the Town of Warner (Almoner) and a Director for the Warner Historical Society. He and his wife purchased 1 East Main Street next door to Town Hall in 2014 and renovated...

Joanna and her family have lived in Warner for 14 years. She enjoys her job in Special Education in the Kearsarge District, her Communications and Illustration freelance work, and her volunteer work as a Costume Desi...

Katie has lived in Warner for the last two years and has enjoyed becoming familiar with the small town's atmosphere. Prior to living in Warner, she lived in Henniker, NH. Katie is an alumni of New England College and...

Ray Carbone was born in Virginia and grew up in the New York City area. But he moved to New England in the 1970s and he's he never left.
Ray's byline has appeared on a variety of media platforms including National Pu...

Vince was born in New Mexico, raised in California and then moved to New Hampshire in 1993. He became a resident of Warner officially in 2001. Vince has coached soccer in the WYSA program for many years. Now that...

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