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Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center Fund and Preservation Society of Pawtucket Fund
By Jean Cohoon / December 31, 2013 /   Loading Disqus...
Three generations of the late Elizabeth J. Johnson’s family lived in the Joseph Spaulding House, circa 1828, at 30 Fruit Street, Pawtucket. Elizabeth and her late husband, John, restored the Federal style cottage and, in 1976, it became the first residence in Pawtucket to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the House, Elizabeth and her grandmother amassed a collection of material about Pawtucket, its people, businesses, nonprofits, and government. A self-educated archivist and genealogist, she did extensive research; engravings, photographs and newspaper clippings document the nature of work in the textile mills, community services in the 19th century, the diversity of cultures in Pawtucket in the early 20th century, and more.

In 2002, Elizabeth established the nonprofit Elizabeth J. Johnson Pawtucket History Research Center with the mission “to collect, preserve, enhance, and make available materials about Pawtucket.” In 2005, she transferred ownership of the Spaulding House to the Center. Elizabeth died in 2010 at age 85.

Lacking sufficient funds to operate the Center, the board decided to donate her history collection to the Pawtucket Public Library and to transfer ownership of the Spaulding House and its remaining contents to the Preservation Society of Pawtucket.

With the proceeds from a public sale at Christie’s of a set of diaries in the collection about the gold rushes in California, Colorado, and Idaho, supplemented by funds raised from local trusts and foundations, the Center board created a room at the library for the collection, gave a similar sum to the Preservation Society for costs of operating the House, and established these two funds: one for the Friends of the Pawtucket Public Library to support the Center and the other for the Preservation Society of Pawtucket to benefit Spaulding House.

Dennis Stark, president of the Research Center, said that the board is proud they were able to continue both of Betty’s goals, albeit in a different way than she originally envisioned. He stated, “The board selected the Rhode Island Foundation to hold the endowments because of its track record in handling similar funds, including outstanding long-term investment results and generous annual total return payouts.”
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