Mr. Sam Stivers Replies to the Candidates Preservation Forum

We will publish results from the other candidates as we receive them. Eds.

1. Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not?

Yes.

2. Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?

The Advisory Committee did such a study several years ago, confirming that additional residential development likely results in a net cost to the Town. Because development is largely controlled by the Town’s zoning bylaws (managed by the Planning Board), modification of the development process is something that starts with the Planning Board. I support a Planning Board initiative to update the zoning bylaws, which can address growth and other issues. The Selectmen
can collaborate with the Planning Board on such an initiative.

Additionally, the Selectmen can help manage the Town’s exposure to “unfriendly” 40B housing projects by smart planning to meet our Housing Plan objectives. Using monies in the Housing Trust Fund we can work with developers and/or nonprofits to create “friendly” 40B housing projects so we can meet our housing obligations through a process the Town controls, instead of reacting to developer proposals.

3. If the majority of home owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?

I support this concept. I would need to see the specific details of such a proposal before I can support a particular proposal.

4. Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development?

I support the preservation of open space in the Town. The challenge is to find a way to fund the acquisition of (or acquisition of the development rights to) such property. The Town needs to work with the Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC) to see that the limited resources for such purchases are aligned with the OSPC prioritization of available properties.

5. What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

The Selectmen can support the Historical Commission and the Planning Board to develop a plan for historic preservation and priorities.

6.  What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

The Town could consider creating a zoning overlay district to permit mixed-use structures in the downtown area. This could provide additional commercial/professional space as well as residential use.

7. And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

I would be generally supportive of this concept. I would need to see the specific details of such a proposal before I can support a particular proposal.

Annual Meeting Recap, and a Call for Volunteers

In case you were not able to attend the annual meeting this past Saturday, here is a recap of my presentation about the current and future direction of the Society.

Faced with severe challenges, things looked pretty grim in the summer of 2016. The Museum building was closed for mold remediation after a flood; the membership had fallen to dangerously low levels, and the Society was faced with a serious financial shortfall.

The old interior summer 2016  while undergoing renovations

But from darkness, light: Over the past year, the SHS has gained a new, pro-active board dedicated to bringing the Society into the 21st century. The work began by introducing a set of new, streamlined by-laws that better reflect the realities of today’s volunteer organizations; completing the flood and mold remediation of the entire interior and the collections; and re-inventing the storage and exhibit space to better utilize both the building and the artifacts.

Our renovated conference and meeting area

But a collection is just a bunch of objects until it’s used to tell a story: our story.

A student investigates a particular painting at the Oakland Museum of Art. Notice too that some of the framed panels on the walls are interpretive flat screens.

With the introduction of affordable flat screens over the last decade, there has been a revolution in the way small museums are able to interpret their collections. The Society intends to embrace this new technology with gusto, with plans to secure grants in 2017 to purchase the screens and create new, digital interactive displays with rotating special exhibits. These exhibits will showcase objects in our collections, and will be designed to work equally well in the museum, in the classroom, and online.

For 2017 and 2018, the Society will focus on three aspects of Southborough history that have greatly influenced the way we live today.

The first was the coming of the railroad to Southborough. The Boston to Worcester line is the second oldest in the country, dating to 1835, and brought about dramatic change in the way people viewed themselves and the world. In a single year, Southborough left the 18th century and headed for the 20th.

Our second theme will focus on women and domestic life in the 19th century. Southborough was the second most productive agricultural land in the state by the 1870s, and most residents lived and worked on farmsteads tended by women. The days were long, and unbelievably hard — a fact little appreciated by the youth of today. We’re going to be taking a look back at what it took to tend a home, hearth and bring a meal to the table 150 years ago.

The museum and old burial ground sit adjacent to where once a Nipmuck village stood. The first peoples of this place, the Nipmucks, are almost entirely forgotten today, and deserve a more thorough look as the founders of the place we today call Southborough.

Finally, the Society Board is dedicated to bringing Heritage back to Heritage Day, and we’ll be organizing a set of activities in and outside the Museum to complement festivities on St. Marks Field.

Lastly, we are now once again in a position to accept volunteers. The first opportunity is May 13, empty the trailer day, when the remaining objects in our collection come out of storage. We need able backs and legs to help make this happen.

We have openings for 2-3 curatorial volunteers to prepare our photograph and paper collections for digitizing by the Boston Public Library in their Digital Commonwealth Project. The work is Mac-based using Filemaker, which is a pretty simple database program. The task is mainly assigning accession numbers to photos and transferring content information to the database. As the Historical Commission will be supervising this work, there is a possibility of a senior tax position as well.

We’re also looking for experienced editors and writers familiar with Word Press to edit and publish content on our website, including this blog.

And finally, in conjunction with myself and our new Treasurer, Rebecca Deans Rowe, we’re looking for people experienced in writing grant applications to help fund our activities.

It’s been a challenging but rewarding year. Let’s make the next even better!

With heartfelt thanks to everyone for their amazing support,

Michael Weishan,
President

Our New Candidates Preservation Forum

The old burial ground, through the talented eye of Allan Bezanson

Dear Friends,

It was a big win for historical preservation last night at Town Meeting. All the preservation CPC articles were funded, including those of the Society; the Adaptive Reuse Bylaw was passed with close to 90% agreement (a remarkable feat for a zoning regulation) and the Main Street Registrar District was funded. The only cloud on the horizon was the authorization to sell the historic Fayville Village Hall. The Selectmen, though pledging to work for preservation of the exterior, refused to commit to that in writing, and a last minute amendment to place a permanent preservation restriction on the building before sale (full disclosure – proposed by me, but advocated this past August by the Historical Commission) failed after the selectmen again argued it wasn’t necessary.  (A preservation restriction would have preserved the restored facade and open space on the property in perpetuity. At present, the building has no such protection, and once sold, will be out of all Town control.)  Admittedly the selectmen pledged transparency and full cooperation with the citizens in determining the fate of the parcels, but we currently have only their word – which has gotten me to thinking. How binding is the word of a board whose members may or may not be in place when final decisions are made on multi-year projects like this? Mr. Cimino is retiring, Mr. Rooney has already resigned, Mr. Kolenda is in a highly contested race for re-election, and Mrs Phaneuf is up next year, most likely before the disposition of Fayville Hall. So if there is no written guarantee, what do we have? There is also the issue of “executive session,” which has been used extensively by the Selectmen for recent real estate transactions, and excludes the public from deliberation. It’s pretty hard to be “transparent” behind closed doors.

It would seem to me then that now is the ideal time to ask the candidates running for Selectmen this May their views on historic preservation, which includes to my mind, preservation of historic landscapes and open space, preservation of historic buildings and townscapes, funding of future preservation projects, and the candidates’ opinions on how best to preserve the historic nature of Southborough. In that spirit I have framed seven questions for our candidates, and I have already extended an email invitation to each to share their views via the comment section.

TO THE CANDIDATES FOR SELECTMEN:

  1. Given the argument above on the fluidity of Town board makeup, would you commit now to placing a preservation restriction to protect the exterior of Fayville Town Hall before it is sold? If not, why not?
  2. Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. (Sometimes, astronomically so, as we learned at town meeting: sending a single student to Norfolk Regional Agricultural costs 46K/year!) Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?
  3. If the majority of home-owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?
  4. Would you support the Town acquiring any open parcels that come out of agricultural use to prevent their development?
  5. What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?
  6. What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?
  7. And finally, if plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

 

Important Town Meeting for Historic Preservation: April 25th 2017 at 7 PM

Dear Friends in History,

As part of our expanded mission to encourage historical preservation in Southborough, we wanted to make you aware that there are quite a number of questions at April 25th’s Town Meeting that have a direct effect on historical preservation in Southborough.

Articles 15 & 16 are requests from the Historical Society to finish the climate control work at the Flagg school, and to seek CPC funding for curatorial work on the collections. We’ve made vast strides since our flooding disaster, but we still have a long way to go. This year we will begin working with the Digital Commonwealth Project, digitizing the vast majority of our paper collections to make them widely available for the first time. The curatorial funds we are requesting are a critical step in this process.

Article 17 seeks funds to remove invasive species from the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. These protected acres are an important part of our agricultural heritage, provide much needed recreational space, and deserve our active support.

Article 21 suggests raising the limit for tax support for our seniors from 1000 to 1500. This valuable program allows seniors to work off a part of their real estate taxes, and starting next year, the Historical Commission will open a slot for a senior to work on the Town’s Historical Records. This helps seniors, and helps the Town.

Article 24 opens the historic Fayville Town Hall to sale. The Historical Commission has voted to support this measure ONLY if the Town first approves Articles 26-30, Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings, proposed by the Historical Commission. The purpose of this bylaw is “to allow for and provide incentives for the adaptive reuse of Historical Buildings in  a manner that ensures compatibility with their surroundings and that preserves their historical nature and appearance. This section is intended to promote the preservation of Historic  Buildings by allowing Historic Buildings to be adapted for a purpose other than that for which they were originally built, thereby enhancing the community’s appearance and preserving Southborough’s architectural legacy for future generations.”  The bylaw encourages reuse through various means, mainly by more ample interpretation of our existing zoning laws in order to support the reuse, rather than the demolition of historic structures. For example, if you have an old barn, you might consider installing a small rental unit to help pay the mortgage, or open that home-based business you’ve always dreamed of. Most importantly, this bylaw grants approval authority to the Planning Board (where it belongs) rather than to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which in previous years has proven capricious in its rulings. If Articles 26-30 pass, then the Fayville Town Hall (Article 24) can be converted into condos or retail or affordable housing. Without their passage, the Hall has no such protection.

Article 34, which was also proposed by the Historical Commission, seeks funds to at last complete the National Register District for the Main Street area. This is the final piece of a project that has been going on for almost 20 years with considerable investment of time and funding. When complete, the area will receive its designation from the US Secretary of the Interior. This naming has proven a critical preservation step in other communities, fostering restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures in the area, while providing positive support for property values.

Whew! Quite a line-up!

If you care about historical preservation in Southborough, this is not a meeting to miss!

Come See the Progress! Join our Annual Meeting, Saturday April 29th 4-6

A newly discovered Depression-era image of the  “Sealey Block” on Main Street, which housed a store, print shop and smithy over the years. One building in this picture still exists. Do you recognize it?

 

Dear Friends,

Come to the Museum for our “soft” re-opening Saturday, April 29th. We’ll host our annual meeting from 4:00-4:30 to discus renovations to date and our plans for the future; afterwards you can enjoy some delicious nibbles and a glass of wine as you view our newly renovated research area and gallery meeting rooms, decorated with images and objects from our collections — many never before on view!

It’ll be a fun introduction to both our new space and your fellow Southborough history buffs;  plus you can learn about some engaging volunteer opportunities we’ll be offering over the next year.

Please join us! Guests are welcome.

All best,

Michael Weishan
President

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Oldest Living Thing in Southborough

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The Lyscom Apple

 

If you’ve ever spent a moment in the parking lot behind Town Hall, or in the playground near the old Town Pound, you may have noticed a somewhat forlorn tree at the edge of the pavement. This battered survivor is the remaining testament to the Historical Society’s 1977 Lyscom Apple Project, which sought to return this historic variety to Southborough to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the town. Of the 32 trees specially grown and planted throughout Southborough, this (with perhaps one other) is the sole survivor, making it possibly the oldest living thing in Southborough. How can that be, you ask? Well, it has to do with how apple varieties are propagated. Apple trees are not native to North America. The first trees were grown from seed carried by early European settlers to this area. Each seed produced a different kind of apple. Most of these new varieties were inferior to their parents, but occasionally a grower would find a tree with particular merit, and name it. Then, through the process of grafting scions, or shoots, onto apple rootstock, exact duplicates of the plant could be created. “Duplicates” is not precisely the right word here, as really, each “new” plant is simply a part of the original. That’s how our friend behind the town hall is so old — it’s a living piece of the original tree grown by Samuel Lyscom 300 years ago.

The name Lyscom rings large in local  history, as Samuel Lyscom was one of the signers of the petition to separate Southborough from Marlborough in 1727. During his lifetime he held every office in the new town and, and eventually became a judge. He was also Southborough’s second representative to the Colonial legislature. Lyscom married twice and had ten children. His eldest surviving son John sold the Lyscom farm (presumably with its orchard of Lyscom apples) in 1772 to Josiah Fay. The exact location of the property isn’t known, though it is assumed to have been in the vicinity of Chestnut Hill Road. Over the years, the original tree continued to be grafted, until the Lyscom apple became a common site in Southborough and the towns around Boston, as we learn from an 1889 book published by Deacon Peter Fay, who was a prominent farmer with an intense interest in fruit culture:

In the fall of 1834, at the Worcester Cattle Show, I carried 2 barrels of Lyscom’s apples and hired a boy to sell them in front of the Old South Church. They were very large and quite a throng of people collected around the boy. Some men from New Braintree call them Mathew’s Stripes, but the true name was Lyscom. The original tree stood on a farm owned by Samuel Lyscom 130 years ago. The reason they were called Mathew’s Stripes was because a man by the name of Mathews (John, I think) went from Southborough to New Braintree about 100 years ago and to with him scions of this variety.

The Lyscom apple – with its distinctive large fruit streaked with yellow – was last recorded as being grown in Southborough about 1917. Miss Mary Finn (of Finn school fame) remembered seeing a tree along Flagg Road, where the apples would fall into the path and be eaten by the cows. Probably others survived too, until a Depression era WPA program eradicated “wild” apple trees thought to be a source of disease for commercial growers.  Fortunately, a few avid collectors in the 1950s began to rescue old varieties, and a Preservation Orchard was founded at Old Sturbridge Village in 1973, which is where the one sole surviving example of the Lyscom apple was discovered by members of the Southborough Historical Society. From this, 32 new trees were propagated, and carefully spread throughout the town to the celebrate the 250th. Unfortunately, rather than giving them to longer-lived institutions, they were mostly distributed among then-members of the Society, and over the years have fallen victim to development, disease, decay and destruction until now there is once again only one left. (Well, maybe two: the other may be in the courtyard of the Neary School.)

So to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Southborough in 2027, the Society has decided to try this project again, albeit a bit differently. In conjunction with our dedicated Director of Public Works, Karen Galligan, this spring we will take grafts from the Town Pound tree, but this time we will distribute them to organizations as well as individuals, with the goal of having bushels of Lyscom apples available for our 300th anniversary celebrations. If you are interested in adopting a tree, be in touch as we’re taking names for 2019 delivery. (Yes, 2019, things move very slowly in the tree world, but if you are Lyscom apple, you already have learned plenty of patience.)

 

 

Southborough Historical Society By-Laws

Southborough Historical Society
By-Laws

Adopted 16 November 2016

 

Article One
Name and Object

The name of the Society shall be The Southborough Historical Society. The objective of this Society shall be to educate, study, collect and preserve for the Town historical records and antiquities relating to the history of Southborough and its people, to preserve items of current events that may have historical interest in the future; to interest and unite the townspeople in a finer public spirit, through a fuller understanding of the traditions and history, both past an in the make of our Town and its neighboring communities. Further, the Society will function as an active advocate for historic preservation in the Town.

 

Article Two
Officers and Directors

There will be a board of directors consisting of six people. Three of these will elected by the annual meeting. The terms of the elected members will be three years, so arranged that at least one member shall be elected at each annual meeting. Three members will be appointed by vote of the Southborough Historical Commission with a term of three years. These six members shall appoint from their number a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, with a term consistent with their remaining term on the board, not to exceed three years. Unless approved by a special vote of the board, no person shall serve more than two consecutive terms in any office.

 

Article Three
Duties of the Board

The Board of Directors shall have general control of the property and affairs of the Society; shall fix dates of meetings as provided in Article Four; and shall otherwise manage the affairs of the Society. Members of the board will be expected to actively work to maintain the the financial health of the Society and well-being of its collections. To that end, the board of directors shall hire an executive director who will oversee the day to day affairs of the Society and serve as curator of its collections. The executive director will will report to the board and serve at its discretion.

Article Four
Meetings

The annual meeting shall be held in April and other regular meetings as established by the Board of Directors.  Special meetings may be called at anytime by the president, the board of directors or upon petition by seven members of the society.

Article Five
Membership and Dues

Any person interested in the objectives of this society is eligible for membership. The annual dues for all classes of membership shall be set annually by the board of directors.

Article Six
Amendments

These by-laws may be altered or amended by a vote of two-thirds of the members present and voting thereon, at any meeting, provided notice of the proposed change shall have been given at a previous meeting and sent in writing to members who maintain a current email address with the secretary.

 

Article Seven
Removal

Members of the society whose dues are in arrears for two consecutive years will be considered to have voluntarily withdrawn from the Society. Members of the Board who miss four consecutive meetings of the board will be considered to have voluntarily resigned their office, unless such absence was approved by vote of the board. In such cases, the board shall have the power to appoint an acting member until a replacement can be found either by election at the annual meeting or appointment by the Historical Commission

Article Eight
Dissolution

The Society may be dissolved by majority vote of the board. After payment of all debts, the property of the Society shall be turned over to the Southborough Historical Commission.

Article Nine
Implementation of Revised by-laws

These by-laws shall take effect on January 1, 2017; for the one-time purpose of enacting these laws, all members of the current board will surrender their offices and be granted lifetime memberships with emeritus status as thanks for their service. The historical commission will appoint the first board from among those who express interest. three members will be appointed with  three-year terms; and an additional three members with terms that will expire respectively in April 2018,  April 2019, and April 2020. Henceforth elections will follow the regulations as set forth in Article Two.

Reminder about the Society General Meeting Tomorrow Night 11/16

Dear Friends,

There is a meeting tomorrow at 6PM at the Museum to discuss revisions to the bylaws that will affect how the Society is governed moving forward. You are encouraged to attend and see the progress we have had restoring the building to health. It looks (and is) empty, but it no longer smells of mold! We’ll also be discussing finances, grants, and plans for future exhibitions. Please do come if you are able.

Michael