That Old Salt Shed Is Valuable

It sure doesn't look like much. No matter which side you look at, no matter if the sun is shining or it's cloudy, it's just, well, not impressive. Not impressive at all.

But it's stood the test of time, and now, it's valuable. Endangered, in fact, according to Historic Massachusetts. It's among a unique collection of buildings, bridges and open spaces declared historically significant and threatened with being lost forever.

It's the Montgomery Salt Shed, originally a carriage shed, built in 1915 for just $90. And it's one of the few remaining public carriage sheds in Western Massachusetts. It's right on the highway when you drive into Montgomery, right across the street from Town Hall and the Library.

Now you may think that this tiny town of Montgomery, without a gas station, without a school, without a store or a business or even a fire station inside its boundaries, doesn't care about the historical significance of this small shed.

You'd be wrong. Historic Massachusetts reports, in its magazine "Preservation and People," that the shed's been remarkably well preserved because, for years, Montgomery residents have been working to restore the historic buildings in the center of town.

But, it might be destroyed to make way for a parking lot. So, it's on Historic Massachusetts list of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources. That's right, top ten.

Right along side the Washburn and Moen Wire Rope Building in Worcester, which played a leading role in the barbed wire industry, and the Sawyer Homestead in Sterling, built in 1756 and still in the Sawyer family.

Or Heywood Meadow in Concord. On the route the British soldiers took to Concord at the start of the Revolutionary War, it attracted literary figures like Hawthorne, Thoreau and Emerson with its quiet beauty.

The Old Northern Avenue Bridge in Boston, a swing-span drawbridge to allow boats to pass; West Cemetery in Amherst, laid out in 1730, and containing 5,000 graves including Emily Dickinson's; Fenway Studios, build in 1905 for artists; and the Natick Town Hall and Central Fire Station are also on the list.

Others include the Chestnut Hill Waterworks in Boston, which served the Metropolitan area for more than 100 years, and the Old Danforth Street Bridge in Framingham, one of the oldest Pony Pratt Truss types in New England and one of the last bridges to be built with wrought iron columns.

From previous year's lists, we know that some of the endangered lands have been saved. Like Woodsom Farm in Amesbury, 355 acres of rolling farmland, that was in danger of being turned into soccer fields and a golf course. Well, Amesbury residents took a vote and decisively decided that development was out of place, thus eliminating the threat of inappropriate development.

If you'd like to know more about the Montgomery shed, about Historic Massachusetts, or how you can help preserve a treasure in your area, you can contact the nonprofit organization at 617/723-3383, or e-mail jshad@historicmass.org.

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