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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Chandler library sold for a fraction of its assessed value; future uncertain

NASHUA – After sitting dormant since it ceased operation as a city library and ethnic center seven years ago, one of Main Street’s most historic and stately buildings has been purchased by a local developer affiliated with the Nash-Tamposi family business.

Ben Bosowski confirmed Tuesday that he bought the former Chandler Memorial Library, 257 Main St., for $160,000, far less than what library trustees initially had hoped the property would bring. ...

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NASHUA – After sitting dormant since it ceased operation as a city library and ethnic center seven years ago, one of Main Street’s most historic and stately buildings has been purchased by a local developer affiliated with the Nash-Tamposi family business.

Ben Bosowski confirmed Tuesday that he bought the former Chandler Memorial Library, 257 Main St., for $160,000, far less than what library trustees initially had hoped the property would bring.

But several factors prompted the panel, chaired by Arthur L. Barrett Jr., to settle on the lower price, current library director Jen Hinderer said.

“Being vacant that long, it had begun to suffer signs of deterioration,” Hinderer said Tuesday. “There are also essential problems, such as lack of parking and adequate handicap access, that together made it a very difficult property to market.”

The building, constructed in 1886 by Seth D. Chandler, Nashua’s 13th mayor and a successful businessman, is assessed at $649,000, down $10,000 from 2010, according to city property tax records.

Bosowski said he is weighing options for the property.

His top priority right now, he said, is removing the remaining asbestos, most of which still surrounds pipes as insulation.

“Once my contractor finishes another project we’re doing, we’ll be looking at what we can do,” Bosowski said of the Chandler. “I’m not quite sure yet what will work best.”

The Hudson-based developer said history played a significant role in his decision to bid on the building.

“That’s something that fascinated me,” he said. “The place has such a rich history.”

Library trustees, after brief discussion at a March 13 special meeting, voted unanimously to accept Bosowski’s offer, according to meeting minutes. Bosowski’s was the second bid; the first was a $150,000 offer by Brian Zagorites, which trustees approved on Feb. 22, but Zagorites later withdrew his bid, according to the minutes.

The three-story Victorian, with architectural and unique appointments that have impressed many a historian over the years, has presided for several generations over the corner of Main and Kinsley streets.

After Seth Chandler’s death, his only daughter, Mabel Chandler, occupied the home alone until her death in 1959.

The unmarried Chandler died wealthy, leaving an estate valued at more than $4 million, which would be close to $30 million in today’s dollars.

She quietly spread her wealth around, bequeathing various sums to what’s now Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, along with the Good Cheer Society, the YMCA and YWCA and a dozen other entities.

Chandler in her will was most specific about her home.

It was to be left to the library trustees, along with a considerable endowment, and be named The Chandler Memorial Library “in memory of my family and of me,” according to the will.

A month after her death, the library trustees accepted the gift with “sincere gratitude,” according to documents included with her will.

Chandler’s namesake library opened to a grand reception in October 1959, serving a smaller but very devoted group of local bibliophiles and learners.

It housed a children’s department for a time, and in 2003 was redesigned as the Chandler Memorial Library and Ethnic Center.

But three years later, just shy of what would have been its 46th birthday, the Chandler was shuttered for good, a victim of budget cuts and library officials’ insistence that too few people used the place to justify keeping it open.

Not long after its dramatic final moments – just after 3 p.m. June 30, 2006 – concerns over the building’s future ignited a controversy that, in addition to plenty of comment by local civic advocates and historians, involved several Chandler descendants.

Trustees’ plan to sell the building drew strenuous objection in public proclamations and letters to the editor in The Telegraph. Nearly all who chimed in pointed to wording in Chandler’s will stipulating that if the building ceased to be used as a library, it would become part of her estate.

“The city does not have the right to sell this property, Richard L. Chandler, of Hanover, Mass., a cousin of Mabel Chandler, wrote to The Telegraph. “If the Nashua Public Library no longer has a use for the building and property, it should revert back to her estate. Mabel Chandler still has many relatives who feel that the Nashua board of library trustees should respect her wishes …” he wrote.

Several other descendants and relatives echoed the sentiment.

The trustees went to probate court, however, and in January 2007 agreed to a deal that they could sell the Chandler, but only to a charitable organization.

The agreement also stipulated the building keep the Chandler name, and that trustees apply proceeds from the sale to complete the east wing of the library’s main branch on Court Street and name it the Chandler Memorial Wing.

But in 2010, with potential buyers still few and far between, the trustees dropped the asking price from $800,000 to $624,000, then sought additional relief from probate court.

At that time, Chandler heirs reportedly agreed to remove the restriction that it be sold only to a charitable or nonprofit agency, and that the barn, a room to the rear of the building connected by a hallway, could be torn down if the buyer wanted to create additional parking.

Restrictions that stayed in place included the stipulation to carry the Chandler name, and that the building couldn’t become a service station, funeral home or “other uses deemed undesirable,” according to a Telegraph story.

Hinderer, the current NPL director, said although the selling price ended up relatively low, those involved are nevertheless relieved that someone now owns the long-vacant property and has plans to occupy it.

“It’s a beautiful building. There’s a lot of institutional memory there,” Hinderer said. “It’s a relief that someone will be taking care of it. Many employees have a lot of fond memories of working there.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).