Share story

HINSDALE, N.H. (AP) — Donna Suskawicz wasn’t feeling the love from her fellow Hinsdale residents when she set out to save the Hope Engine Co. No. 1 on Canal Street.

“Here I am, this disabled woman that comes up and says, ‘I think this building is fantastic,'” she said. But no one seemed to believe her. It was old, so why not just tear it down and build something new?

But then the members of the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance reached out to her. They had architects and other experts come look at the building, and they all thought it was fantastic, too.

They thought the old Hinsdale firehouse was so fantastic, that they nominated it as a finalist for the annual Seven to Save designation.

Suskawicz announced the nomination to Hinsdale’s Planning Board last week.

Suskawicz has been working to save the firehouse from demolition since June. The building is owned by Michael Foerster, who needed to tear it down and use the extra space to expand his business, Rolling On Motors.

“I went in and practically begged him not to tear it down,” Suskawicz said.

Foerster agreed to not demolish the building as long as Suskawicz could take it off of his property.

Roughly four months later, Suskawicz found a temporary location to move the building. Andy Shapiro agreed to let the building reside temporarily in the back of his parking lot, located right next to the police station.

Despite the apparent progress of the project, Selectman Mike Darcy was concerned the building would take up too many parking spaces, and by Shapiro’s absence at the Planning Board meeting.

“It’s a parking lot and Andy Shapiro isn’t here,” he said.

Suskawicz said trees had been cut from the back of the parking lot specifically to make space. Board members agreed that the lot was deep and that the building could be pushed to the back.

“Having walked it, I’m confident there’s enough space,” Sean Leary, the Planning Board Chairman, said.

The board estimated that taxes for the building would cost about $75 a year. Darcy wanted to know that Shapiro understood the cost, though Suskawicz assured the board that she’d be the one paying the taxes.

Another concern was finding the firehouse a permanent home.

“I just want to make sure temporary doesn’t mean we’re going to try in three years,” Darcy said.

The permanent placement would likely have to be approved during town meeting. Once the building is moved from Foerster’s property, Suskawicz said she’ll focus on finding its permanent home.

Despite the concerns over moving the building, Suskawicz didn’t fail to generate excitement over its long-term future. She eventually hopes to turn it into a museum. Already she’s been offered a fire engine from 1858 with its own hand pumper. There is plenty of other fire memorabilia Hinsdale residents have held onto, she said.

Suskawicz was confident that she could obtain the money to restore the house to its original state. At the start of her project, she thought she needed $10,000 to move the house. Already she has raised $4,000 and is able to move it to Shapiro’s lot.

If the house ends up with a Seven to Save designation, she’ll be able to use resources from the NHPA to apply for grants and restore the building.

The planning board decided to award the building a one-year temporary change of use, so it could be moved to Shapiro’s lot.




Information from: Brattleboro Reformer,