New Spring Programming!

Dear Friends,

The Southborough Historical Society is pleased to bring an “Immersive Living History” experience to the Museum and Archives on Thursday, February 28th.

Judith Kalaora, will portray Deborah Sampson, the first woman to fight in and be honorably discharged from the American Military. Deborah enlisted in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment of the Continental Army as “Robert Shurtlieff.” Come and learn how and why she disguised herself and fought alongside male soldiers.

Sampson’s story is the first in a series of three performances the SHS is offering this spring. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Click HERE to hold your place. Limited to 30.

 

 

 

Mourning Kate Matison

It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the passing of Kate Matison, a longtime member of the Southborough Historical Society, the Southborough Historical Commission, and one of our most civic-minded citizens.

Born in Australia in 1948, Kate and her husband Peter Quirk immigrated to the United States in 1988. They settled in Southborough in 1993 with their two sons.

An exceptionally skilled and enthusiastic photographer, Kate lived in London for a period and worked at the renowned Photographer’s Gallery.

Her interest in preservation sprang from her studies in art history, and she went on to combine talent as a photographer with her preservation studies, which eventually included two Masters degrees from Boston University. Kate spent countless hours meticulously photographing historical structures, often providing a complete record of buildings that were later demolished. She was actively engaged in the Vernacular Architecture Forum, and she implemented and moderated their widely followed Facebook page.

A life-time member of the SHS, Kate brought her boundless energy and commitment to the Southborough Historical Commission in 2007. It is impossible to overstate her impact on the Commission and the Town of Southborough.  In 2012, she became the Vice Chair, and she held that position until she was unanimously voted Chair this past January to honor her decades-long commitment to preserving our shared past. Kate never recovered sufficiently to wield the actual gavel, but in truth she never had to—Kate had long ago commanded our respect through a staunch belief that there was indeed a right way and a wrong way, and that we owed it to our fellow citizens to follow the correct path.

It is extremely rare to find an individual who is willing to work tirelessly for the  good of her community for so many years. Kate was that person in spades. We have no doubt that future residents of Southborough will benefit from her dedication as they experience  the historical character of the adopted town Kate worked so arduously to preserve.

It is our hope that the public Kate Matison will be remembered as fondly as the charming Aussie we knew up close: dedicated, tireless, witty, wise, and, above all, a loyal friend.

She was truly one of a kind.

Fare thee well,  dear Kate.

We will miss you.

 


The Southborough Historical Society will host a memorial reception honoring Kate in the spring. Details will be announced as soon as they are available.

We have also just received the news that former SHS Treasurer and renowned Town Moderator John Wilson died yesterday. We’ll be commemorating John in a separate post.

Lost Southborough Publication Update

Dear Friends

A quick update on Lost Southborough: We had a last-minute chance to include 8 never before published  pictures, and took it. To accommodate these extra illustrations, publication date has been pushed back until next week, 2/18. For those of you who ordered mailed copies, the book will hit the post office 2/20. For those who  requested a copy to pick up, we’re hoping to arrange a Town House  location so you don’t have to find a narrow slot at the museum. As soon as we receive delivery from the publisher, we’ll let you know. The proofs are in, and the book is looking fantastic.!

 

Being Demolished

The Flagg School in 1936. The article lists it as Southborough’s first school, but it was in reality part of a second round of school buildings begun in the 1860s.

 

Dear Friends,

For the first posting of 2019, I thought it would be fun to share this newspaper clipping from a scrapbook once owned by Mrs. Arlene Morrison, who ran the general store in the Sealey Block on Main Street across from the old train station. (Older residents will remember the Gulf station on the corner of Main and Newton street that replaced the block. Both buildings are now gone.)

As you can see, the article reveals that the Flagg school, which is now home to the Southborough Historical Society, and where I now sit writing this, was scheduled to be torn down for timber— a fate suffered by all the other clapboard one-room school houses in town about the same time. What saved the building is unclear. But for whatever reason, calmer minds (or more than likely, continued economic downturn) saved the structure for us to enjoy today.

Which brings me to my main point. Every time we allow pieces of our historic fabric to be destroyed, it has a ripple effect of unintended consequences. In this case, a precious part of our educational history would have been lost forever, and the Museum would be homeless.  Think about the other missing buildings mentioned here, and what they might have been: the Sealey block converted into retail and living space on Main Street; the old train station made into a great pub; the Cordaville mills as condo and restaurant space. Loss is just that, loss, especially when these wonderful old buildings are torn down just to sit as vacant lots or parking spaces.

Finally, a quick reminder to those of you who haven’t sent in order forms for our new book, Lost Southborough or haven’t mailed your year-end contribution to the Society.  Please do! Or even easier, donate online! Contributions so far are lagging last year’s tally and we’ve way too much programmed this year to slow down now!

Happy New Year Everyone!

 

 

 

 

The Merriest of Merries

Boston Globe Cut-Out   1985      79.19.14      Gift of Priscilla Laird Lincoln

On behalf of the Board of the Southborough Historical Society, we wish you the Merriest of Merries and healthy and prosperous New Year.

Lost Southborough: Views into a Forgotten Past Now Available for Pre-order

Lost Southborough: Views into a Forgotten Past is the first ever large-format illustrated volume uniting rare period photos with an easy-to-read history of Southborough. Featuring more than 120 pages of black & white and color images from the archives of the Southborough Historical Society, complete with extended captions and  detailed chapter narratives describing the 300-year evolution of our town.

Lost Southborough: Views into a Forgotten Past details the changing face of many of Southborough’s neighborhoods and well-known homes and estates, including:
• Cordaville
• Fayville
• Southville
• The Burnett Mansion
• Deerfoot Farms, mills, and more!

Available January 30 2019. 8.5″x 8.5″ 120 pp softcover; b/w color photos

Advance order now and your receive a signed first edition 30 January 2019.

 

Click the button below to order safely and securely online




Southborough Historical Society Receives 10K Grant

The Society’s Kate Battles, Sally Watters, Rebecca Deans-Rowe accept the check from Andrew Abu and Marybeth Strickland at the Community House Thursday evening.

We are DEE-lighted, as Teddy Roosevelt would have said, to announce that the Society has received a 10K grant from the Southborough Community Fund. As in previous years, this contribution is intended to be both an end and a means—that is, to fund crucial work at the Society, as well as to challenge other donors to join our preservation efforts. We’ll be starting our annual fund raising campaign shortly, and hope this will be the first of many generous contributions towards preserving Southborough’s history. Thank you again SCF!

Join us next Monday at Heritage Day 2018

A recently re-discovered photo of McMaster’s Centre Store, which stood directly across from the Town House. This is the only known close-up view of the facade. Click to enlarge for a fascinating view of the goods on-hand. The building was sadly demolished by the Fay School for dining hall space.

 

The Southborough Historical Society is pleased to announce a day-long program of activities to celebrate Southborough History on Heritage Day!

  • The new Mysteries of the Past Game: Correctly identify all seven antique objects and win! First Prize: a $250 Amazon Gift Card!  Second and Third Prizes will also be awarded. Entry Forms are $5, one per person and will be available both on the field and at the Museum. Play starts at 9:00 AM and ends at 1:00 PM. Winners wills be announced at 2:00 PM.
  • A self-guided tour of the recently restored Old Burial Ground, entitled What Lies Beneath, revealing the fascinating history of Southborough’s buried past. Tour booklets will be available at the Southborough Historical Society booth and also at the Museum at 25 Common Street. Volunteers will be present in the Burial Ground throughout the morning and early afternoon.
  • Brand new exhibits at the Museum, highlighting Deerfoot Farms, Southborough and the Railroad, and the History of Fayville, among others.

 

The Ghosts of Main Street

As more and more of the Society’s collections come online, we can begin to show you some pretty amazing things. Take for instance this 3-minute trip down Main Street, put together using just a few of the historic photos in our collections.  In this video, I wanted to showcase the losses our Main Street has suffered over the last century. Once a vibrant small-town commercial and residential area, disastrous demolitions and total lack of urban planning has resulted in a broken architectural fabric without cohesion or purpose. It’s not too late though: the planned reconstruction of Main Street, plus thoughtful architectural additions that respect the style and scale of the area, could yet return Main Street to a viable, pedestrian friendly destination—exactly the result an effective historic district could provide. It’s time to get serious about restoring Main Street—not just the roadway—but the useful vibrancy of this important part of our heritage. Who among us wouldn’t benefit from that?

This video, by the way, is meant to be a trial-of-concept for a new book we are contemplating, Lost Southborough, that would show you then-and-now views of many spots around Town. If we can get the project launched this fall and winter, it would be our first new book in 40 years.

In the meantime, enjoy!

 

#2 on the List of Endangered Buildings: Fayville Village Hall


“The idea that you maintain the building, I think the value is not in maintaining the building. If someone could buy it and build something there or even knock it down, then there is more value.”
Selectman Brian Shifrin

Given recent comments like the one above by members of the Board of Selectmen, it’s not surprising that Number 2 on the list of endangered buildings in Southborough is Fayville Village Hall, which voters approved for sale at Town Meeting—after the Board of Selectmen promised that preservation of the structure would be integral to the sale. We’ve written about the distinctive history of this 1911 building before, and it seems pretty clear that the majority of voters in Southborough wish the hall preserved.

Yet after much hard work by the Fayville Hall Disposition Committee that created a Request for Proposal (RFP) which stressed the need for affordable housing in Southborough and the desire to preserve the historic facade of the building, the RFP only received a single bid, for $5000, from a local developer.

How could this be, when the property is assessed for more than $300,000 dollars?

Well, part of it could be the apparent low regard certain members of the BOS seem to have for historic preservation, as witnessed by Mr.  Shifrin’s comment above, and various other BOS quips like: “Well, we received one bid. That’s one more than I thought we would,” which reveal a real disrespect for the hard work the Disposition Committee and many other people have already put into preserving this architectural gem.

Another obvious reason for the bidding failure was the advertising method used—or in this case, not used. A notice was placed in the Central Register as required by the State, but the only other notice was a tiny ad placed in the Metro-west Daily News for 10 days.  Now I ask you. If your were a town looking to sell a valuable piece of property at a profit, increase your affordable housing stock, and preserve an historic structure all at the same time, wouldn’t it behoove you to solicit bids directly from contractors that specialize in just this type of construction? Or at the very least, advertise in publications geared to the contracting trade? A 10-second google search revealed dozens of potential firms that do projects just like this every day, including one right down the Pike in Waltham.

Fortunately, the BOS refused the low-ball $5000 offer, and is planning to send the RFP out again. This time I would urge the BOS to put some real effort into the solicitation process, if for no other reason than maximizing the financial return for us ratepayers.  We need affordable housing in Southborough, the voters have clearly stated we want the Fayville Village Hall preserved, and it’s time to get the next chapter in this remarkable building’s history moving!

 

Editor’s Note: Our Endangered Building List consists of structures that are actively threatened with demolition, demolition by neglect, or by changing patterns of use that would harm their architectural integrity. Buildings are added to the list in the order proposed, and their numeration does not necessarily indicate ranking or perceived  level of threat.