As portions of the building were completed, the Foundation focused on finding the new uses that would ensure its successful future. We operated under the philosophy that the building was not going to be another museum, but a restored structure that played an active role in the community. Since the Statehouse is located in the midst of a number of the grammar schools of the Bristol-Warren regional School District, we looked for ways the building could help them achieve their educational goals. It soon became apparent that their greatest need involved their lack of adequate library and computer related facilities. Their books were spread around a number of buildings, in rooms that ranged from a basement to an attic, and in no case were they able to actually use the library spaces for educational programs. Consequently, most of the first floor of the Statehouse was adapted to fulfill this library function.
The area that formerly housed the Sheriff’s Office has now become a periodical and oversized book reading room, complete with audio-visual equipment that allows classes of 20-25 students to receive library instruction. Since the children involved are in grades K through 5, the area is carpeted since sitting on the floor is the norm. We also designed and built bookcases of quality for the library so that students would experience the attention to detail that an older structure can bring to their lives.
This front room connects to the main reading/computer room which also houses extensive book shelves specifically created for this area, an office/circulation area for the librarian and, in what was once a small bathroom, a work area for the librarian that includes limited kitchen equipment to facilitate meetings with parents and teachers during evenings and weekends. This reading room also has internet connected computers and an area and facilities for AV presentations of all kinds.
This new Library facility is currently used by 400-450 students of the Byfield and Reynolds Schools each week. They use their own entrance on the south side of the building and have exclusive use of the restroom in the east wing. The schools are also able to use the courtroom space on the second floor for various special programs (such as the Reading Day program in April). This use has been a very important accomplishment of the Foundation and is one that we think is making an important contribution to the future citizens of our community.
The north side of the first floor was initially restored and converted to office space for the Bristol County Sheriff. Since this was a very old historic use of the building, the Foundation was pleased to have them move back into the building. Unfortunately, in 2003 an Administrative and judicial restructuring resulted in the closing of this office and merging it with Providence. The next year, the Foundation leased the space to MOSAICO Community Development Corporation for their office.
MOSAICO CDC is a perfect user for this building since the organization is directly involved in the physical and social restoration of the neighborhood surrounding the Statehouse. They are also sponsors of the Mentor program that works with students in all levels of the Bristol-Warren Regional School system. Lastly, they present to all 4th grade students in the Bristol grammar schools an award winning program that works with students in the classroom and in the field, including having an introductory lecture in the courtroom before their scheduled walking tour.
Another major user of the facility is the Bristol Fourth of July Committee. This extremely important local group had once used a portion of the first floor for meetings, thus returning them to the building was an important goal of the Foundation. The Committee (it has over 200 members) now has a place for their sub-committee meetings in their office in the northeast corner and can use the restored courtroom for their general meetings. Since the grand conclusion and reviewing stand of the famous Bristol parade is right in front of the Statehouse, this is a perfect location for their headquarters.
Another room recently restored is the one on the southwest that was just dedicated to the memory of Anthony Quinn, the actor who was an early and ardent supporter of this restoration project. The room has an historic conference table donated by his family and is used by groups for small meetings. It is also the location for the “Great Issues” discussion group which meets there on a monthly basis. This room, as well as the Courtroom, are available for use by the community.