Termites destroying Luther Retailer museum in Swansea, funds wanted

Termites destroying Luther Store museum in Swansea, funds needed

SWANSEA — Bad things come in small packages, too. And if the historic Luther Store Museum could talk, it would tell you.

Devastated by termites and dust beetles in the COVID-era, the museum, owned and maintained by the Swansea Historical Society, requires extensive floor and window repairs. And on top of that, the rear extension is removed from the main building.

Because significant money is needed to keep the Luther Store afloat, town resident and friend of the Historical Society, Sandra Clark, has started a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $120,000.

Why should people contribute?

“This is Swansea history,” said Cheryl Bogle, vice-president of the Swansea Historical Society. “This is one of the last historic buildings we left in town.”

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A pre-pandemic building inspection revealed damage to interior and exterior walls, and the historical society was recently awarded $125,000 by the Community Preservation Committee solely for these wall repairs.

The Luther Store at 64 Pearse Road, which was closed for more than two years due to the pandemic, subsequently saw very limited traffic and attention. Except for the insects. While termites nesting in the crawl space made their way into town on the first floor, the powder beetles directed their locations and appetites for artifacts and some parts of the building itself, including the now leaky windows.

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The pests have been eliminated, Bogle said. But the extensive and expensive repair work is written all over the museum’s face. Building materials are already expensive, and because the Luther Store is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, only specialty materials and approved contractors may be used for repairs/restorations.

Due to a backlog of orders, contractor Island Construction of Fall River won’t be able to begin the building until late next spring, Bogle said.

The costs for attaching the rear attachment are open. Bogle said the bricklayer, Jon Israel, has to remove 16 square feet of brick before he can properly assess the repair. His early estimate, she said, is at least $40,000 to $60,000.

“Things are pretty expensive,” Bogle said, “but we’ll work it out.”

The Luther Store opened in 1813 and operated until 1925. It has been owned by the Historical Society since 1936.