hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

November 7, 2013

Whittier helping Whittier

Whittier students repair building at birthplace of school's namesake

By Mike LaBella
Staff Writer

---- — Their school bears the John Greenleaf Whittier name.

Now they are putting their stamp on his birthplace.

Whittier Regional High carpentry students are enjoying the significance of working at the home of their school’s namesake.

The students have been busy refurbishing a carriage house that is part of the Whittier Birthplace complex.

Trustees of the birthplace hope to transform the small building into a center for tourists who visit the birthplace.

The carriage house, a reproduction of the original building, is currently used for storage and meetings, and as a waiting area for visitors to the Whittier Museum and Birthplace during the bi-annual February re-enactment of Whittier’s famous poem, “Snow-Bound.” The carriage house reproduction was built by Whittier students about 20 years ago

It is unfinished inside, where fiddlers entertain and coffee, hot cider and doughnuts are served to guests waiting to tour the birthplace.

“We would like to make it more of a gift shop,” said Glen Hamilton, a member of the Trustees of the Whittier Birthplace, who oversee maintenance of the buildings and grounds.

On a recent sunny, fall morning, one group of Whittier carpentry students stained pine boards and installed them, while another group fit panels of insulation into ceiling bays. Students had previously insulated the walls and installed drywall, said Whittier carpentry instructor Earl Corr.

“Knowing the link between our school and Whittier’s birthplace makes the job more meaningful,” said Whittier senior Stephen Stasio of Bradford.

“I think it’s pretty cool we’re helping to build something for the community to enjoy,” said Whittier senior Josh Comeau of Haverhill.

When the famous poet was living on the property from 1807 to 1836, the carriage house served as a blacksmith shop and shoemaker’s shop, according to Gus Reusch, curator of the Whittier Museum.

In fact, Whittier earned money making women’s slippers in the little building.

“He sold them for eight cents a pair and earned money so he could attend Haverhill Academy,” Reusch said. “He was a member of the academy’s first class.”

The academy was located in the Whittier Building at 87 Winter St., which is now the Haverhill YMCA’s Children’s Learning Center.

The trustees are thrilled with the work Whittier students did on the carriage house. More work still needs to be done, including installing ceiling lights and ceiling panels.

“They’re doing a nice job,” Hamilton said. “We’re very, very happy. It’s great to get people in the community to help maintain the house.”

The historic home, which is 325 years old this year, is at 305 Whittier Road, just off Route 110, and is about two miles from Whittier Regional High on Amesbury Line Road.