Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Mansion on the Green

This column was submitted by Betsy Huber Port for posting on the LongmeadowBuzz blog.
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What is the Fate of the Mansion on the Green? 

Quality schools are what we are known for, plus good services, a fine quality of life, safe neighborhoods and an appreciation for history.  And on the surface this place looks pretty perfect lately, enveloped in a cool blanket of snow.  Almost perfect that is.  Look across the way from our local Community House and what do you see? A beautiful and stately old house that looks sad and abandoned.

What is the story?


Long ago in 1884, the house was built for Yale trained minister Samuel Wolcott. The house was built for Dr. Wolcott by his sons Henry and Edward. Reverend Wolcott lived in the house only two years and died in 1886. Soon after in 1889 it changed hands to a new resident named State Senator George Brewer. For over twenty years Brewer owned this magnificent mansion on our town green until after WWI.

Mrs. Mary Ida Young, wife of Wilbur F. Young the inventor of the liniment Absorbine Jr. became the new owner in 1922. Founded in 1892, this local company enjoyed success for more than 30 years before she moved to Longmeadow.  Following the stock market collapse of 1929, the house was secured by iron grids on the windows, and a fortune of valuables was stored inside.  The 10,907 square foot home with 11 bedrooms survived the long years of the Depression and also the WWII era.

At some point in the 1970-80s this antique house was restored to its former glory. I can only imagine the grandeur of the formal dining rooms and wonderful parties and events took place there. There is a uTube video showing how the place used to look.  House tours occurred to benefit Center School, but in the past five or so years the place has been slowly deteriorating.  It is my hope that this house can be saved. The bank that foreclosed on the property does not seem to be caring for it. J.P. Morgan Chase has a responsibility to protect this asset, don't they? As we all know, our homes need love and maintenance, especially in the bitter cold winters.  What can be done to prevent further rack and ruin? What can town leaders do? Can local state representatives and preservationists step in? This house has "lived" for over 130 years - but this year could be one of its last. Someone with a vision could transform it again, but they must act swiftly.  This is sad and tragic to see it every time I drive north or south on Longmeadow Street. Ideas anyone? Let's think outside the box to preserve our history! What are the priorities of our community? It is a piece of our history and I hate to witness its complete destruction!

Betsy Huber Port

Here is a link to a video of the house during earlier times.
 

7 comments:

John Fitz said...

What about the town taking the property and using it to house some departments of municipal government?
We could probably get a good price from the mortgage holder.

It could serve as an anchor for the civic center of town.

Any thoughts?

Regards,

John J. Fitzgerald
Cedar Road

Buoniconti Sisters said...

I have long loved this house! About 25 years ago it was purchased by two local developers. At the time I believe they were trying to convert it to an inn. Unfortunately, it was voted down by the town. It is unfortunate as the day of 11 bedroom house is over and most folks do not need or cannot afford such a large home. An inn would have provided a welcome venue for vistors/wedding, etc, not to mention a tax base.

last I heard, the developers were hoping to sell for $525k.

Perhaps a wealthy townsperson or beneficiary could help. It is so lovely and would be ashame to see it go the way of the old house near Forest Park (off Laural and Park?) that was torn down several years ago in favor of unimaginative large homes.

Buoniconti Sisters said...

I have long loved this house! About 25 years ago it was purchased by two local developers. At the time I believe they were trying to convert it to an inn. Unfortunately, it was voted down by the town. It is unfortunate as the day of 11 bedroom house is over and most folks do not need or cannot afford such a large home. An inn would have provided a welcome venue for vistors/wedding, etc, not to mention a tax base.

last I heard, the developers were hoping to sell for $525k.

Perhaps a wealthy townsperson or beneficiary could help. It is so lovely and would be ashame to see it go the way of the old house near Forest Park (off Laural and Park?) that was torn down several years ago in favor of unimaginative large homes.

Dan Teree said...

I believe the wise town fathers voted down the idea of this amazingly central historic structure being converted into an Inn. People - that's what you do with a historic structure that is too big (and expensive) for a normal family to own! The town should let someone develop it into an inn (before some kid dies in it) and not charge hospitality taxes for like 20 years (cuz it's going to cost 2-4M to restore it!). It could be a great place for weddings & events!

Buoniconti Sisters said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Buoniconti Sisters said...

Perhaps a real estate investment trust could be formed. Each investor could contribute a minimum amount, say 50k. Grants may be available for preservation and profits from a business could be used to pay back those original investors.

where are all the smart longmeadow financial types? They can help us solve this!

Buoniconti Sisters said...

perhaps we could create a real-estate investment trust. Townspeople could purchase shares. We could apply for grants for historic preservation.

if if all works out, we could convert the home to an inn and dividends could be payed to the shareholders?

hmm..where are all our smart longmeadow financial types who could help us figure this out?


ps.one possible place for grants is the National trust for Historic Preservation - the Hart Fund (http://www.preservationnation.org/resources/find-funding/special-funds/hart-fund.html)