The History of the BHS
The Barre Historical Society began after the following notice appeared in the Barre Gazette on Friday, April 30, 1909:
“All persons interested in the formation of a local historical society are requested to meet at Library Hall, Monday evening, May 3, at 8 o’clock. The object in view is the gathering of facts and data relative to the past history of Barre, recording and preserving them for the use of the future historian of the town, whoever that may be, and interesting meetings to discuss different localities are in anticipation. Let everybody who is in the least bit interested, the ladies as well as gentlemen, be present.”
The article was signed by George R. Simonds, a local businessman and the man credited with the idea of forming the Barre Historical Society.
Mr. Simonds’s meeting was indeed held, in the spacious auditorium of the Woods Memorial Library, generating a large attendance and significant interest. Officers were elected, committees formed, and there was general agreement about the importance of a local Society dedicated to the collection of historical documents and objects particular to Barre.
At that time – and for yet another half-century – the Barre Historical Society shared quarters with the town library, meeting there on a regular basis and using that structure’s large attic for the accumulation of its treasures. The Society featured a regular and continuing selection of lectures, programs and site visits to fulfill its mission to preserve, protect, interpret and display items from the town’s past.
By the mid-1950s, it became apparent that the symbiotic relationship between the Woods Memorial Library and the Barre Historical Society was evolving. The Society was growing – both in terms of membership and collections – and its burgeoning presence on the second floor and attic of the library had expanded to capacity. It was time for the Society to seek another home.
At first, the Society’s Directors looked for a piece of land near the center of town, upon which to construct a new headquarters building. Promising negotiations to purchase a portion of the former Harding/Carrie Allen estate fell through at the last minute. The Directors also began looked at existing structures, sizing up their suitability to the endeavor at hand.
One of the buildings the Society considered was the residence of local attorney Arthur Winters. As a headquarters for the Barre Historical Society, it would have been perfect – located right on Barre Common, steps away from the Harding Allen Bandstand, the structure was historically and architecturally significant and classically attractive as well. But the purchase price was too steep, and the Directors continued their search.
Fate intervened, and Winters’s health and fortunes changed – literally. He moved to Worcester, but not before he and his bank reached a deal to sell his residence to the Barre Historical Society for $10,000. The year was 1962, and the Society had incorporated the year before in anticipation of becoming the business they now were. Through the determination and leadership of then-President Alice Roper, the Society’s mortgage debt was retired in a year’s time.