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Restoring Glory

Once Boarded-up and Abandoned, the Stately Temple House Has Been Resurrected
Attorney Raipher Pellegrino

Attorney Raipher Pellegrino in front of his new offices at 265 State St.

At first, attorney Raipher Pellegrino wasn’t thrilled with the pale green paint suggested for his main conference room.

Wrinkling his nose at the memory of the bright paint sample, he said that though he knew the color was an historically accurate example of shades used in the 1800s, when the Stately Temple House – the building that now serves as his local offices – was built, he just didn’t see it working.

“Turns out I was wrong,” he said, glancing around the recently completed conference room, with its striking green walls. “Once the color went up, I knew authentic colors were the way to go … they pull all of the rooms together and creates a flow that I don’t think we would have otherwise.”

That’s an effect he’d also like to see extend to other buildings in the area, too. Located at 265 State Street just across from the new federal courthouse, currently under construction, the Stately Temple House was purchased by Pellegrino in 2002, and, after months of renovation, celebrated its grand opening as the law offices of Denner Pellegrino LLP last month. The location now serves as one of four Denner Pellegrino offices, following the merger of Pellegrino’s firm with the Boston-based Denner Associates earlier this year.

The property was also recently honored with the Preservation Trust Award for restoration of an historic structure by the Springfield Preservation Trust, a member of Preservation Coalition of Massachusetts. The award is proof of the historic standards that were adhered to during renovation of the building and its accompanying carriage house, but it also underscores the resurrection of a property that had been written off by most.

A Vestige of the Past

The property (which straddles both State and Temple streets) has a rich history, but of late was best known as one of Springfield’s most dangerous eyesores.

The home was construcuted over a period of several years, with its first section completed in 1883. An addition was constructed in 1898. The carriage house at the rear of the property was also built during this time, and later in the 1900s, a final rear section of the main house was added. Its pre-Victorian style is similar to several other buildings in the Lower Maple Historic District where it’s located, featuring Ionic columns and tympanums (architectural panels), all of which were preserved during the recent renovation.

The 22-room house was used as a residence until the 1940s, when it was converted briefly into a theater and later used for offices. Similarly, the carriage house – one of only a handful still standing in Springfield – was used by the Wesmas Candy Corp. for candy making and packaging in the 1940s, and as an office building as well.

Until recently, however, both buildings sat vacant for years, serving as little more than magnets for crime. Pellegrino said he saw potential in the buildings due in part to their proximity to other historic structures in the city, including the Quadrangle, but added that, similar to the span of years in which the Stately Temple House was built, its rebirth also took a winding road.

Nailing it Down

He said he placed his first bid on the property in 1999, and was actually the only bidder when the deadline for requests for proposals was reached.

“But we had originally planned to tear down the carriage house for parking,” Pellegrino explained, noting that the idea didn’t jibe with the Planning Board and Historical Commission, which wanted the carriage house preserved and, ultimately, restored.

He said the property was returned to the market, and went out to bid again two years later, at which time he was again the only bidder. He purchased the front home and carriage house for $10,000, and in 2004 began major renovation projects on the two buildings.

Both were in a serious state of disrepair. The roof, second floor, and back wall of the carriage house had almost completely caved in due to neglect, and walls and flooring in the main house were damaged in all of its rooms. In addition, nearly all of the house’s mantles, wood paneling, and plumbing fixtures had been stolen.

Pellegrino explained that renovations included rerouting of all electrical wiring; rebuilds of several walls and ceilings; installation of walkways, fencing, parking areas, and a patio; rehabilitation of hardwood floors; construction of five new bathrooms and three new kitchens; landscaping, and the creation of handicapped-accessible entrances, as well as extensive shingling, beam replacement, and door and window replacement.

Rooms were also restored using standards of the ‘gilded age’ of the late 1800s, including those authentic colors – lilacs, yellows, and greens in particular – which were new offerings at the time due to the advent of blue pigments, and often featured in the homes of the wealthy.

A $25,000 community development block grant helped defray some of the costs of environmental clean-up, Pellegrino said, but the bulk of the improvements made to the property were privately financed; he would say only that the monetary investment was “substantial.”

“But I see it primarily as an investment back into the community,” he said. “No one wanted this property when it was falling apart and there was no federal courthouse being erected across the street, but this entire neighborhood has some amazing properties that would sell for millions in Boston, and we’ve just shown what can become of them.”

Indeed, the Springfield Preservation Trust was quick to recognize the renovation. Founded in 1972 by a group of homeowners living in the Quadrangle-Mattoon Street Historic District, the trust works to preserve the city’s historic districts and historically significant buildings through education and advocacy, honoring restorative projects and hosting several tours of historic homes each year.  The award given to the Stately Temple House is the second Pellegrino has accepted; the first was for restoration of his own home – dubbed Derby Dingle – in the Atwater Park section of the city.

But beyond accolades, the renovations to the property have allowed two businesses to maintain offices in Springfield. In addition to Denner Pellegrino, the carriage house has been converted into an open-space, multi-use building with a lofted ceiling and a patio, and soon after its completion, Hawthorne Services Inc., an adult day health provider, moved in. Pellegrino said the partnership fit well into his overall community-oriented goals for the property.

“The timing worked, it worked for Hawthorne geographically, and it’s a good fit to have a service for the elderly in this area,” he said.

Green with Envy

The renovation also created a Springfield foothold for the 30-attorney firm of Denner Pellegrino, which also maintains offices in Boston, Providence, R.I., and New York, N.Y.

“Our other offices are cool,” Pellegrino joked, “but this one is like no other. And because it’s owner-occupied, we take a lot of pride in what we’ve done, and the maintenance of those improvements, too.”

Jaclyn Stevenson can be reached at[email protected]

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