Irish Cultural Center seeks funds for phase two

6/22/2017 | Chris Maza

Category: June

Renderings of proposed plans show an outdoor patio with exterior windows of the center designed to look like an Irish street.
Reminder Publications file photo

With ambitious long-term plans for the future, the Irish Cultural Center is embarking on its first major capital funding drive in its continuing efforts to improve its new home on Morgan Road.

“We’ve never raised money like this before. We’ve never reached out to the Irish community like this. This is important to support and promote their culture. We want this to be a monument for 100 years to the Irish,” said President Sean Cahillane. “Eventually we’re going to have an 1860s thatched Irish cottage that would be an authentic recreation and an educational exhibit. In the end we want to have a famine memorial out front. Those are things we have to take care of after we take care of the facility.”

That facility, the former Elks lodge, has been an ongoing project for the ICC. The first phase, which included a opening of offices on the building first floor and an Irish pub and restaurant, was completed earlier this year.

First established in 1999 and originally housed on the campus of the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, Cahillane explained the move to West Springfield was part of a strategic plan that was developed with the help of an outside contractor who suggested the need for an independent location.

“One of the things they said was that we needed our own facility to grow and to develop,” he said. “We had name recognition and quite frankly the Irish community here is pretty extensive. I think in West Springfield it’s 21 percent.”

The organization began a one-year process of identifying potential sites in the area. “We looked everywhere. Every storefront, every empty field somewhere,” Cahillane said.

During that time, West Springfield under then-Mayor Edward Sullivan, put out a Request for Proposals for the former Elks property and ultimately selected the ICC’s plan.

“It was sort of like we were ready to get lucky,” Cahillane said. “After that, we started to work because the building was in very bad condition. It had been vacant for five years, so it really needed a lot of work.”

The move to West Springfield and completion of phase one of the renovation were made possible by a number of factors. First of all, Cahillane said, the fact that the city is the landlord and the ICC is a nonprofit charity allows both entities to capture funding through grants and other sources. Cahillane also praised the ICC’s relationship with The Log Cabin, which manages the food and beverage service at the center. Also, in addition to the ICC’s donors and “talented and committed” volunteers, Cahillane pointed out that residents have been very welcoming and supportive of the center.

“If you take one of those things away, it all doesn’t work. It’s a big project,” he said. “This is an iconic facility for West Springfield. The Elks were here for about 50 years or so, so they all like the place and it’s a great facility and they’re all happy to see it come back to life.”

Now addressing phase two of its renovation of the facility, the ICC set out on a campaign to raise $477,000 to create an outdoor patio, a library and museum, and exterior renovations such as painting.

“The patio would be built off the back of the facility and in the back of that facility, we have five big windows and those windows would be changed out and decorated to look like a streetscape in Ireland,” Cahillane explained. “We also have a big collection of books and memorabilia, but now we want to have a place to display them.”

He added that the campaign would continue indefinitely until all aspects of phase two were completed. With a categorized list of needs, the ICC is able to complete projects as funding becomes available.

As of now, 25 percent of the total target funding has been raised, allowing certain elements to be completed.

“The furniture is all here, the fireplace is finished, all the flooring and the carpet and those things are all done,” Cahillane said.

After phase two is completed, the center would have to install an elevator in order to complete renovations to the upper and lower levels.

He added the city recently obtained two separate grants that will allow for the development of a ¾-mile nature walk behind the ICC.

“That’s something the city is doing for the people of the town, but it’s on the property, so it’s an amenity for everybody,” he said.

In addition to physical improvements, some of the funds raised by the campaign will be used for cultural programming, which includes the annual summer Gaelic camp and appearances by Irish musicians, poets and authors. Promotion of events such as visits from Irish politicians and dignitaries also requires funding, as does the restoration of historical items.

“We get a lot of donations to our library. We got a collection from a gentleman in Maryland and one of the books is from 1620,” Cahillane explained. “When we get things like that that need restoration, we see that as culturally advantageous to fix before it gets lost.”

He noted the ICC also plans to bring back its film series and there have been talks of eventually organizing a Feis – a Gaelic arts and cultural festival – which would draw thousands to the area.

To learn more about the Irish Cultural center and its plans, visit

“It’s a nice undertaking and what makes it so pleasant is people are really trying to help us make this a quality facility,” Cahillane said.

Share this: