Changing the Face of a Historic Neighborhood

September 2, 2010
350 Purchase Street

CHANGING THE FACE OF A HISTORIC NEIGHBORHOOD by awarding four mini-grants for the sensitive exterior rehabilitation of owner-occupied historic homes in the historic Washington Square neighborhood just south of downtown New Bedford.

There were several important facts that WHALE learned when we surveyed the Washington Square neighborhood and worked with residents to develop a Neighborhood Action Plan but probably the most significant was that the residents of this historic yet challenged neighborhood have a great deal of pride in their homes, neighborhood, and history. What they don’t have is vast resources. The annual median family income according to the 2000 census in this neighborhood is $29,700. Residents told us that they need help keeping up their historic homes and WHALE filled that need by implementing the Mini-Grant program.

Funded by a grant from the Robert F. Stoico Charitable Foundation, the Mini-grant program awards homeowners up to $10,000 for approved rehabilitation work completed on the exterior of their home. In addition to the grants, WHALE also provides free technical assistance to the homeowners. This program has proven two things: 1. Preservation can change the face of a neighborhood; and 2. Preservation is contagious. We can see this when other homeowners begin to fix up their homes and make improvements. The result is a better quality of life and livability for the residents and the neighborhood.

The first Mini-Grant project was 350 Purchase Street. The property is owned by Alice DaCruz, an elderly Cape Verdean woman on a limited, fixed income. She is the third generation to own this home and she speaks fondly about growing up in the Washington Square neighborhood. She has a great deal of pride in her home and her neighborhood but her home needed a little TLC. The Mini-Grant program rebuilt the rotted front porch and painted the house a period appropriate color scheme. For Mrs. DaCruz, the Mini-Grant not only changed the face of her home but made her old home “new” again.

9 Washington Street

The second Mini-Grant project was 9 Washington Street. This great little house needed a new, masonry front porch and period appropriate color scheme to bring it back to life.

Two additional Mini-Grant projects are being planned in the neighborhood and WHALE is seeking another source of funds to conduct future rounds.