Marcy Milne McCann is the president of the board of directors of the Friends of Centennial Hall in North Hampton.
What is Friends of Centennial Hall?
FOCH is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to preserve, renovate and maintain historic Centennial Hall for joint use by both private citizens and the public. To meet the challenges of our most ambitious revitalization effort to date I also assumed the position of executive director. As such, I manage the building, the tenants and the nonprofit organization.
Tell us a little about its history.
In 1997, a group of citizens, many of them alumni of Centre School, joined forces to preserve the Hall. … Since FOCH assumed stewardship of Centennial Hall … there have been 11 separate improvement initiatives, all focused on enhancing the building’s appearance and functionality. … Each of these projects has been successfully funded and completed, overseen by an
all-volunteer board with no paid staff.
Any recent projects?
After conducting a complete building assessment funded in part by the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance, FOCH recently launched the most ambitious effort in our history, a revitalization proceeding along two tracks: rehabilitation and access improvement. The approach to rehabilitation and access improvement is designed in three phases to provide the best possible results at the most reasonable cost and will keep the building open for active use throughout construction.
Can you provide us with some details?
The priority need at the center of this project is to ‘Open the Ballroom’ and restore access to the grand second floor and its 225-person capacity. This will greatly expand current performing arts programming and provide the community at large with what is desperately needed — private/public assembly and function space for a myriad of activities. A fully functioning large event space will bring the benefits of the creative economy to North Hampton, drawing even more arts and culture consumers. Our Open the Ballroom Campaign received a Land and Community Heritage Investment Program [LCHIP] challenge grant of $200,000 last winter, one of the largest historic resource grants given. This was the largest grant award for a historic resource on the Seacoast, in a very competitive year. These funds were designated for Phase 1 of our revitalization and matched in three months with contributions from residents, businesses and foundations. Projects in Phase 1 have a completion target in early spring of 2020, well ahead of LCHIP specifications for grants to be awarded in full.
I understand you worked with other folks. Who else helped make this happen?
FOCH … has benefited greatly with the support and assistance provided by North Hampton’s Heritage Commission, Historical Society, town departments, neighbors and business community. … For example, the law firm Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella have provided legal support for many, many years with immeasurable value. There are two key players with expert skills, dedication, and work ethic center to the current revitalization project’s success. General Contractor and Project Manager Peter Goodrich and historic preservationist and restoration specialist Steve Bedard. It’s accurate to say that we would not be at this exciting stage in delivering a fully accessible and restored building without their steadfast and dogged determination to get things done and done to the highest standards at the best possible price and with the best attitude.
Are you from the area? If not, where from and what drew you here?
I grew up in southern Connecticut, moved around and across the states before spending a significant part of my life in the Bay Area. I have been fortunate to have traveled extensively domestically and internationally and always found myself drawn to the New England coastline. When you live without the ‘seasons,’ the holidays feel disingenuous and hollow to some extent. Living on this beautiful coastline with access to the mountains and airports within a reasonable drive — is there any other place better to live and raise a family? I don’t think so.
What is your favorite part about North Hampton?
Community. We have a tremendously loyal support base in town, as we do with our neighbors, all town departments and commissions and the North Hampton Business Association Community. The only way we have been so successful with our initiatives is because of the people here in town. The support and philanthropy of North Hampton residents is and has been so rewarding professionally and personally and has kept me enthusiastic about the potential for the Hall for many years.
— Rob Levey