Manchester Historic Association celebrates local champions of history with 29th annual Historic Preservation Awards

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MHA Executive Director John Clayton said the organization not only survived but thrived during COVID. Photo/Ryan Lessard

MANCHESTER, NH – This year’s Manchester Historic Association‘s Historic Preservation Awards recognized a family whose stewardship of their 114-year-old house has renovated and maintained it to pristine condition, a grassroots effort to restore the Casimir Pulaski statue in Pulaski Park, and similar initiatives to adapt or save old buildings from demolition.

During the 29th annual event, held Sept. 8 at the Rex Theatre in downtown Manchester, the Historic Association awarded the McLaughlin family the “Homeowner’s Award” for the work they put into their home of 37 years at 176 Walnut St., which was built in 1907.

MHA Executive Director John Clayton said the Homeowner’s Award is always the “sentimental favorite.” 

“The passion and commitment these people demonstrate to their homes — often multi-generational — is what really resonates with our members and supporters,” Clayton said.

Joanne McLaughlin accepted the award. Her husband Stephen McLaughlin died in 2016.

John Clayton presenting the Homeowner’s Award to Joanne McLaughlin. Photo/Ryan Lessard

She told Manchester Ink Link getting the award was a great way to cap off so many years of working on the house, and she’s thrilled to have the work recognized.

“It’s kind of fun that other people noticed what was kind of our life’s work,” McLaughlin said.

She said most of the major renovation projects took place between 2005 and 2015. After that, it was a matter of regular maintenance. 

Ed Brouder on stage. Photo of homeowner Stephen McLaughlin, who died in 2016. Photo/Ryan Lessard

Emcee and MHA Trustee Ed Brouder said McLaughlin was known to tear up old carpets and refinish wood floors by hand. She was particularly excited to discover original wainscotting beneath plastic pink tiles and three layers of paint in one part of the house.

When asked which part was the hardest, McLaughlin thought for a moment and said “There was no hard part. It was a labor of love.”

The MHA also recognized community members who banded together to raise money for the restoration of the Pulaski Park statue, which depicts Polish culture hero and Revolutionary War Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski astride a horse. The project was awarded the Landmark Award.

Over the years, the bronze statue had turned a faded green with stripes of soot and opening seams. One of the first to speak out about the statue’s condition is local historian Aurore Eaton, who could not attend the ceremony. 

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Brouder said it was a community-wide effort to raise the money and hire statue restoration company Daedalus Inc. and the statue now looks brand new, with its bronze color restored.

“The before and after pictures speak for themselves,” Brouder said.

The work on the statue inspired other improvements at Pulaski Park, such as the installation of new benches and a completely refurbished basketball court. Work is still underway to install new historic signage.

The MHA also awarded the Community Leadership and Advocacy Award to the “Save the Chandler House” Initiative; the Adaptive Reuse Award to local developers who helped convert the old Hoitt Furniture building on 267 Wilson St. to a substance use treatment and recovery and mental health mobile crisis facility used by multiple organizations; and the Individual Achievement Award to Brouder who served as a past MHA board chair. 

The honorary co-chairs for the event were Howard and Joan Brodsky of Manchester (Howard is the co-CEO of CCA Global Partners, the second-largest private company in the state).

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Before the awards ceremony, Clayton provided a presentation of all the many activities the MHA and Millyard Museum was involved in during the past year, which was disrupted by the closures, lockdowns and other precautions made requisite by the COVID-19 pandemic.

President and Chair of the Board of Trustees Colleen Kurlansky said the past 18 months or so have been a time of gratitude for her as supporters and sponsors have kept the organization afloat and successful during a difficult time.

“We didn’t just survive, we like to think we thrived,” Clayton said.

During the event, the MHA raised more than $10,000 in pledges.

The lead sponsor for the event was RBC Wealth Management.