Virginia H. Collins recalled Tuesday how her late husband, over his 50-year career, taught a couple of thousand children and adults to play instruments at his music school in the family home at Stone and Sherman streets.
Mrs. Collins had not been inside the Watertown Music Center since selling the 200-year-old building, at 196 Stone St., to Neighbors of Watertown Inc. in 2006. Her husband, F. Joseph Collins, who also taught music for five local Catholic schools, died two years later at the age of 81.
On Tuesday afternoon, Mrs. Collins, 83, and two of her children got to see the restored music school building while about 50 city, state and federal officials joined representatives from Neighbors and other local agencies to celebrate three new apartments inside and an additional 10 studio apartments in the former 6,500-square-foot Social Security building next door.
We lived there with our eight children and their grandfather, she said about the 2,200-square-foot music school, a former farmhouse and one of the oldest houses in that section of the city.
The restoration project was funded by a $2.1 million grant from the states Homeless Housing and Assistance Program.
The former Watertown Music Center now contains a pair of two-bedroom units and a one-bedroom apartment that feature modern kitchenettes, hardwood floors and new bathrooms.
Mrs. Collinss daughter, Jane A., remembered how the music center had two large rooms at the front of the first floor: one where students learned to play the piano, accordion and band instruments, and another for parents who waited for the lessons to end.
Both structures will be inhabited by people transitioning back into the community from area treatment programs. Neighbors of Watertown will be the property manager while four of the units will be leased to Credo Community Center for the Treatment of Addictions.
It means a lot to me, said Jane Collins, who served on Credos board of directors for 20 years.
Other organizations involved in the project are the Childrens Home of Jefferson County, Transitional Living Services of Northern New York and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
That is the first time the Neighbors organization has worked on transitional living space in such a formal way, said Gary C. Beasley, Neighbors executive director.
Credo program director Jennifer B. Lachenauer said meeting the Collins family made it more rewarding to know that Credos clients will make their home where the family lived for so long.
There will be families living in your home, she told them.
Through the McKinney Act of 1987, the federal government donated the Social Security building for $1. Named for a former Connecticut congressman, the act authorizes the Department of Housing and Urban Development to coordinate the disbursement of unused federal property to community groups interested in providing shelter to homeless people, Mr. Beasley said.
The building sat dormant for five years while some bureaucratic red tape was sorted out between the state and federal governments over the propertys mortgage lien.
It was long and sometimes painful, but its now wonderful, said Scott M. Edwards, who, as director of the state Office of Temporary Disability Assistance, worked for years on getting the project completed.