2007 Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources

Campus of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst
The 244-year-old campus was named because of the university's failure to fund a professional assessment of the historic campus's that could inform planning decisions about its architecture. The lack of appreciation for the significance of early buildings associated with the University’s origins as an agricultural college has led to demolition and mothballing of key historic structures. Post-WWII buildings by major architects should also be considered as part of the preservation priorities plan “As stewards of these historic buildings, the administration has an obligation to the Commonwealth to preserve and protect them as they relate to the history of the university, the campus and the town of Amherst,” said Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts. “The campus’s architectural diversity is magnificent and should be embraced by the University. Older buildings must be integrated into the growing campus.” In May 2007, the UMass Amherst administration announced its intentions to demolish a number of historic buildings, including South College - built in 1885 - and West Experiment Station, built a year later. An organization called Preserve UMass, comprising current and retired faculty, alumni and others, formed to pressure the college to protect its historic buildings. Twenty-three buildings are listed on the Commonwealth’s Inventory of Historical and Archeological Assets and still others may qualify, but no attempts have been made to pursue additional historic register listings.

The Achmuty “Dainty Dot” Building, Boston
The stately six-story Romanesque style structure stands at the corner of Kingston and Essex streets, straddling

Chinatown and the Leather District. Developer Ori Ron has proposed building a 29-story luxury condominium tower on the site, which would require demolishing the internal structure of the building and half of each of the two remaining facades. The space behind the facades would become a parking garage under the current plan. "Even though a portion of this beautiful building was lost in the 1960's to make way for the Central Artery, much of its Romanesque style, incredible brickwork and masonry detail remains,” said Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts. “As a survivor of the Central Artery construction era, the building is a compelling case for our Ten Endangered at a time when massive new buildings threaten to encroach further on Boston neighborhoods.” Built in 1889, the Dainty Dot building was part of a commercial construction boom that followed a devastating 1972 fire. It was home to the Boston Real Estate Trust, a leading 19th century investment firm, textile firm Brown, Durell & Company and eventually Dainty Dot Hosiery.

The Jensen Homestead, Granville
The historic farmhouse and three barns of the Jensen Homestead date from the late 18th century through the 20th century. The surrounding 150 acres were actively farmed for over 250 years. Through land takings for aquifer protection in 1921 and 1999 the City of Westfield now owns the property and is allowing the buildings to deteriorate. “The taking of the property for aquifer protection is understandable” states Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “However, allowing these historic structures to decay because of negligence is unacceptable. The full value of this wonderful Georgian home and barns and their ties to Granville and Western Massachusetts was never fully appreciated by the City of Westfield”. The Jensen farmhouse itself is the only remaining Georgian style in Granville and is an excellent specimen of 18th century architecture in the western regions of the state. This property represents the agrarian history of Western Massachusetts, a history that is all too quickly disappearing. “The Jensen Homestead is one of those rare remaining farm complexes that represents 300 years of agricultural history”, says Bonnie Parsons of the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission. “Listing it as among the Ten Most Endangered Resources may prevent its quiet disappearance, which would then be followed by the sad realization of what was lost simply for lack of appreciation.” The City of Westfield views the property as a natural resource only, with no recognition or knowledge of the significance of the buildings. Though the house is heated, it is vacant with no maintenance and concern is rising that eventually all of the buildings will be demolished. Though there has been some re-use interest in the property in the past decade, including establishing hiking trails with a visitor’s center, no actual plans have come to fruition.

The Isaac Crocker Homestead, Marstons Mills (Barnstable)
The Crocker house and barn sit on a 6.58 acre parcel in Marstons Mills. Once part of a much larger farmstead it been owned by only three families during its 250 year history. The house itself dates to 1750, a rare example of a bowed roof house on Cape Cod. The property is currently on the market and proposed for re-development. “Preservation Massachusetts commends the Barnstable Historic Commission for its efforts to preserve this rare 1750 Cape”, states Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “At a time when high pressured development threatens to overtake our historic landscapes and homes, we need to remember what makes our Cape Cod communities such special places. Our fond memories are certainly not of new housing subdivisions”. The ¾ Cape Cod house is in remarkably good condition, still retaining its massive granite foundations and original setting. Isaac Crocker himself was descended from Barnstable’s original settlers and the house is one of the thirty oldest remaining properties in the town. The Crocker House was sold last year and slated for demolition. A six month demolition delay expired earlier this year and the property was then put back on the market as a development opportunity. With such historic integrity intact, the Crocker House stands as a testament to the agrarian history of Cape Cod. Many historic properties like the Crocker house are vulnerable due to high development pressures. Both the Barnstable Historical Commission and Historical Society are seeking preservation alternatives to demolition, including relocation of the house and re-sale to a preservation minded buyer. The retention of this house and property will promote the importance of local history and ensure that another piece of the Cape’s history will not be lost to the wrecking ball.

Castle Hill Farm, Northbridge
The 98 undeveloped and wooded acres of Castle Hill Farm date back to the early 1870’s when John C. Whitin used workers from his family’s machine shop to clear land. A depression had caused production to decline and rather than lay-off his employees, Whitin opted to find them extra work. The stones the workers cleared were made into massive stone walls that still line the property today. The open space of Castle Hill is appealing to potential developers. The property is now owned by the Bernon Realty Trust, who is considering a residential development in the very heart of this local landmark.

“Historic Castle Hill Farm and the preservation of its open space is important to many people at a time when development threatens to consume every available acre within a community” states Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “If listing the property on our Ten Most Endangered aids in the effort to keep this part of Northbridge’s history intact, then we will have succeeded”. Castle Hill Farm operated as a dairy farm. The Whitins brought a family from Holland to Northbridge to aid in the growth and development of milk cattle. Many Dutch in the community find their ancestry aligned with this local farm. The farm grew in production, providing milk to local schools and businesses. A fire in 1957 destroyed the main barn and the farm ceased in operation. The property was given a “high priority” rating by the Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Heritage Landscape Inventory program. The proposed development on Castle Hill farm would place (36/74) residential units on the property. Bernon Realty Trust expressed interest in preserving as much of the property as possible, yet the plans site construction in the center of the farms open space. Northbridge has been working with DCR and the Blackstone Valley Heritage Corridor in efforts to raise awareness about Castle Hill and its local significance.

Bentley-Gallo Property, Princeton
Bentley-Gallo makes up the very center of Princeton’s Four Corners, a tract of land with numerous historic structures, wildlife and scenic vistas. These 168 acres make up the “missing link” between two major greenways and is still used for hay production. The property was purchased in 2006 and proposed for a 36 unit residential development. Such an undertaking will drastically affect the scenic vistas and the overall intact integrity of the Four Corners area. “Our organization has been witness to extraordinary and aggressive development that threatens wonderfully historic and beautiful cultural landscapes. “The Four Corners” in Princeton is no exception with some of the oldest farms in our Commonwealth. This tract of land must be preserved; to lose it to housing development would be a devastating disaster for this pastoral community. The partnerships forged and tremendous effort on behalf of concerned individuals is to be applauded”. The Bentley-Gallo property contributes to the overall historic significance of the Four Corners. It’s characteristically 18th century New England appearance, participation in the Revolution, Shay’s Rebellion and ongoing farming make Princeton’s history tangible. Princeton’s Open Space Committee has dedicated years to crafting a plan for the property, including conservation, recreation, limited development and agricultural use options. The town has been working with the Trust for Public land, the Select and Advisory boards and local residents in order to preserve this valuable part of their heritage.

It is clear that the town appreciates and understands its history and the importance of preservation. Forging alliances and partnerships will aid the community in their quest to keep their history intact.

Old First Church (First Church of Christ Congregational), Springfield
Springfield’s Old First Church dates to 1818, a product of Captain Isaac Damon who gave the community classical meetinghouse with a steeple that could be viewed from miles around. The congregation of the church dates to 1637, just one year after the founding of Agawam (Springfield). The building was named a Massachusetts Historic Landmark in 1971, the first building in Western Massachusetts to receive such a designation. As is the case in many communities today, the church faces rising maintenance costs coupled with a dwindling congregation. The congregation officially voted last week to cease all church functions and close the building as of January 1, 2008. Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the church. “The Old First Church is clearly a special property and stands out as one of the most architecturally and historically significant churches, not only in Western Massachusetts but the entire state. The churches prime location in downtown Springfield unquestionably solidifies its stance as a landmark for the city. Preservation Massachusetts will commit itself to working with local organizations and individuals in efforts to keep this property in use and open for future generations.” The congregation went public with their financial plight, and though many have voiced concern in keeping this landmark open, no plans for the building exist. Constant repair and a major 2001 renovation of the exterior, steeple and parish house have kept the church in remarkably good shape. It sits today as one of the cornerstones of Court Square in downtown and it truly one of the city’s treasures. Issues of vagrancy in Court Square have resulted in the city removing all benches and amenities, and the church’s front steps are blocked by 8 foot iron gates. This present situation does little to encourage people visit the building.

Old First Church does have much re-use potential, from the rear parish house to partnerships between the congregation and other entities for use of the space. This building is truly a jewel for the city of Springfield and for the state of Massachusetts. Ensuring its continued use is priority.

Edward Hopper House & Landscape, Truro
The Truro home of painter Edward Hopper and the sweeping landscape that served as Hopper’s muse have been named to the Ten Most Endangered for 2007. The “Hopper landscape” is a stretch of coastal heathland encompassing nearly a half-mile of sandy beach and 30 acres of uplands. The quiet beauty of the land is threatened by a proposed 6,500-square foot mansion that would be built next door to Hopper’s former home, and sit on the property’s highest ridge. “At a time when so many beautiful and significant vistas and landscapes are being lost to trophy homes, the Edward Hopper home and landscape stand out as one of the most significant anywhere in the United States,” said Jim Igoe, president of Preservation Massachusetts. “Listing this property on the 10 Most Endangered list underlines the local, state and national importance of this landscape and a well respected artist's home.” The proposed new home would be eight times larger than the Hopper house and substantially alter its views. These views, which Hopper could see from his modest cottage’s large panoramic window, inspired many of his works which now hang in major galleries around the world. The other threat to the landscape is the possible development of a nearby drumlin, rising one hundred feet above the Cape Cod Bay. A land court ruling has opened the door to possible development of this 3.5 acre parcel as well.

Strathmore Mill, Tuners Falls
Situated on a narrow island between the Connecticut River and an active power canal, the Strathmore Mill is one of the most significant industrial buildings remaining in Turners Falls. Sitting unused since 2003 and amidst controversy over non-payment of taxes and copper wire salvage, a fire earlier this year further endangered this important site. “Tuner’s Falls should be commended for understanding and preserving many of its architecturally and historically significant buildings”, states Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “Strathmore Mill is yet one more important yet challenging opportunity for this community. Coupled with its historic importance, the mill has the potential to be economically important if saved and restored”. The mill’s earliest structures date to 1873, built for the Keith Paper Company. The mill was just one of many in Col. John Crocker’s planned industrial community of Turners Falls. Due to waning industry in the mid-twentieth century, many other mills were demolished. These losses

encouraged the village to embrace the preservation of their industrial past, and take special interest in the Strathmore Mill. The town is concerned the owner will continue the demolition work that the fire started. Increased clean-up and operation costs are a new complication in an already challenging preservation project. Though the fire at Strathmore damaged a significant mill building and left others open to the elements, the town remains hopeful that it will be preserved. A developer was in agreement to take ownership of the mill before the tragic fire struck. Optimism remains that this project will still be viable and keep Turners Falls from loosing yet another piece of their past.

Tremont Nail Factory Complex, Wareham
Much of the town’s history is tied to the historic nail factory, at the heart of Wareham’s historic center. Beginning in 1848, the factory buildings housed the machines that specialized in steel cut nails, known for their durability and historic authenticity. “Preservation Massachusetts is pleased to list the Tremont Nail Factory on our Ten Most Endangered because it is imperative to re-enforce its significance to the community, long manufacturing history and its crucial location amongst Wareham’s most historic buildings” says Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts. “We hope our support of the listing and the Wareham Historical Commission will entice others to become interesting in preserving this property with a viable re-use plan”. Making nails since the nineteenth century, Tremont Nail was the oldest continually operating cut nail factory in the United States, until the company was purchased and production moved out of town. Many generations of Wareham residents worked in the factory buildings along Elm Street. In an effort to keep the property intact, the town utilized Community Preservation Act funds to purchase it in 2004, with the hopes or creating an industrial history museum. Yet there are currently no funds to properly maintain or stabilize the buildings. The complex’s proximity to the Parker Mill Dam is a growing concern, since the dam was classified as hazardous in condition. The quest to find a viable re-use for Tremont is ongoing, and there is growing concern that the property could be sold to alleviate growing funding issues. There are many in the town that recognize the importance that Tremont Nail had and still has for the town of Wareham. Listing the property is yet another affirmation that preservation can be utilized to create economic opportunities while preserving the past for generations to come.

About the ‘10 Most Endangered’ List Now in its 14th year, the list of ten most endangered resources has become an effective tool for preservationists to focus statewide attention on the condition of individual historic properties and their importance to communities. Of the more than 100 historic sites designated as endangered since the list’s inception in 1993, fewer than a dozen have been lost. This year’s list was culled from nominations submitted by preservation-minded groups and individuals throughout the state. Submissions are judged by several criteria, including their historic significance, the extent of the threat and the community’s commitment to preserving the resource. Founded in 1985, Preservation Massachusetts (formerly known as Historic Massachusetts, Inc.) is the only statewide non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the Commonwealth’s historic and cultural heritage.

For more information on the Ten Most Endangered Program, please contact Erin Kelly at ekelly@preservationmass.org or call 617-723-3383.

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