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A matter of history

What happens when a business in a house that's not historic is located on property that has been declared historically significant?

Owners of the Beauty Society Salon at 123 Dunning St. in the town of Malta's Parade Ground historic district are caught in the middle of the dual classification, with an uncertain future as the town works to create a downtown business district.

Cristine and William Connolly have owned the rural farmhouse for six years, and obtained permission to renovate the rear of the building, opening up space to set up their salon. But the rest of the building remains in a dilapidated state, and now the couple needs permission from the town's historic review commission before they start any fix-up work. Patching up a building in a historic district comes with hefty price tags, since historically accurate and approved materials such as slate roofing must be used.

We're zoned commercial, but anything we do on the outside of the building has to be approved, said Cristine Connolly. "They only let us tear the back off the building because it was dangerous; the building isn't even square and the roof is leaking. We can't fix this place up with Band-Aids anymore."

The Connollys also rent out office space to a State Farm Insurance agent. Upstairs, there is space that could be converted to an apartment or office, but because of the leaking roof, is now unusable. There are two other buildings adjacent at the Parade Ground site, a private home and a building formerly used as an attorney's office. Across the street, the Malta Presbyterian Church, built in 1845, is also on historic property.

According to Malta town historian Teri Gay, the town's first designated historic district, the Dunning Street Historic District, includes the 18th-century parade ground given in Revolutionary War times to the town by Michael Dunning. Now referred to as the Parade Ground, Dunning set aside this parcel from his land as a common to be used for military training during the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War.

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