hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

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December 5, 2013

Neighbors win ownership of historic building

Are eligible for money to repair East Parish Meeting House

It was a clash between history and modern red tape.

A 2013 paper-chase road block has been getting in the way of neighbors’ efforts to restore one of Haverhill’s oldest buildings, dating back to the early 1800s.

The neighbors are members of the East Parish Meeting House Society. They live in what historically is known as East Parish, a section of Haverhill in the eastern corner of the city.

The society wanted to make repairs to the old East Parish Meeting House and needed grant money to pay for the work. But the group did not have documents giving it legal ownership of the property — a requirement to get grants.

Even though neighbors have been taking care of the building for years, the society needed to prove ownership before it could seek grants from organizations like the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

The neighbors were able to find documents tracing ownership of the meeting house up to 1784, but no further.

“After Mr. Nathaniel Whittier died, his property was divided amongst his children and his daughter Abigail Whittier sold her share of her inherited property that included the Meeting House land to Anthony Chase in 1784,’’ society member Roberta Roffo said in an email. “We could find no further deeds regarding the Meeting House on Middle Road despite extensive searching by many people including Registry staff.’’

So Roffo and other society members went before the City Council to ask for help providing registered proof that they, in essence, own the building.

The council listened to the society’s story last week and gave neighbors ownership of the building.

“What were doing essentially is saying that we recognize these people as being the owners of this parcel of land, for which historically they have acted as the owners,” Councilor Michael Hart said.

Mayor James Fiorentini signed off on ownership the 300-year-old structure at 150 Middle Road and the society received its Declaration of Legal Ownership document from Haverhill.

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