Residents of the City began organizing in opposition to any commercial re-use or demolition of the historic building. Initially rejected by a previous City Council, in February of 2012 the community organizers received unanimous City Council approval to form a public-private partnership with the City of Somersworth to explore the re-use of the Hilltop School for the benefit of the whole community. The residents formed the Friends of Somersworth, Inc., (FOS) a non-profit, 501(c)(3) whose mission is “to promote and support awareness of and education in the arts, culture, and sciences in the Hilltop City through community building, historic preservation, and public/private collaboration.” The organization’s focus is to develop the Hilltop school into a center for arts, sciences and culture by renting space to artists and community organizations whose purpose promotes the FOS mission and by providing space for education in the arts, sciences and culture.
Emmett Soldati, Chair of the organization’s Board of Directors noted, “The funding provided by the City is a first step in helping the Friends of Somersworth in its initial fundraising efforts. There’s lots of work to be done, and we are starting on the first floor. We need to raise at least $150,000 to be able to open our doors to the first tenants. We’ve met with experts and have developed a floor plan to create a ceramic arts center on most of the first floor. We are seeking grant funding as well as corporate support.” Anyone can make a tax deductible donation to the Friends of Somersworth by mailing donations to Friends of Somersworth, 109 Main Street, Somersworth, NH 03878. For more information, interested people can subscribe to the organization through its website, www.friendsofsomersworth.com or contact Emmett Soldati at 603-692-0220.