Historical Society: Challenge Grant to match your donations, restoration efforts, and more fascinating history

by beth on November 3, 2016

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Above: SHS is making a plea for contributions to help them preserve history. And, I’m sharing some of the fascinating history they’ve recently shared – including an ironic post on why St. Anne’s Church is a replica of the original church which would have been almost 130 years old today.

The Southborough Historical Society has been hard at work this year. A serious water issue threatened the collection of historical artifacts. Thankfully, volunteers worked hard to turn things around:

thanks to an infusion of new members to complement the immense labors of past volunteers, the water damage to the structure has been entirely remediated; re-cataloging and digitizing efforts are underway; new, interactive touch-screen exhibits are planned for the exhibition space; and novel educational programs are in the works to share the remarkable history of Southborough with our school children.

There is a lot of work to be done, and money is needed to help. But the society is optimistic thanks to a new Challenge Grant from the Southborough Community Fund:

The Society alone pays to preserve our past for your future, and it’s very costly. We need your help to raise $10,000 this fall. And to spur us on our way, the Southborough Community Fund has pledged a matching grant which effectively doubles your contribution.

For their full letter, scroll down. But first – some readers may question how “remarkable” Southborough history is. Do we really have a story worth preserving?

Based on the stories the Society keeps digging up, it seems we do.

For example, this summer, I noticed their fascinating post about St. Anne’s Church. The ironic story came out on a July anniversary that I missed. So, I held on to it to share today, the 80th anniversary of the incident at the heart of it:

On the morning of Nov. 3rd, 1936 the parishioners of St. Anne’s were getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the dedication of their church but by nightfall their beloved church building was in ashes.

Some workmen burning old paint off the steeple accidentally set the steeple itself ablaze and the fire raced down into the church itself from there. The flames swept so quickly through the old wooden building, which many of current members had literally helped build when they were teenagers, that nothing could be done. All they could do was watch it burn.

The firm of M.J. Walsh & Sons was hired to rebuild the church exactly as it had been originally. By Easter Sunday of 1937 the building was complete enough for Easter services to be held within it’s walls and the church was totally finished just in time for the first day of the Novena to St. Anne on July 18th, 1937 – 79 years ago today.

It’s one of many stories coming out of SHS this year. 

Just last month, SHS posted more interesting history on another fire – one that threatened another church and shaped the historic face of our Main Street area by ensuring the Town build a brick Town House after residents voted against it. You can read about that here.

More importantly, you can read below SHS’ request for residents to become members and donate towards their efforts:

Dear Fellow Resident,

In the 24 years I have lived in Southborough, our town has changed tremendously. In 1992, our population was roughly half of what it is today; Route 9 only experienced back-ups in bad weather; parcels that are now office parks were still fields dotted with wild flowers and graced by Colonial-era farmhouses. In fact, so much has changed that recently a long-time resident remarked to me: “There seems very little history left to preserve in Southborough.”

As we learned last year with the Burnett House, that’s simply not the case. We have much left to preserve, but all too often we only appreciate what we had after it’s gone. “History,” a professor of mine once wryly observed, “doesn’t preserve itself.”

That is why I have become actively involved with the Southborough Historical Society, and why I am writing you today. The Society is a remarkable 51-year-old institution with a vast collection of documents and artifacts that span the full history of Southborough, from our very own 1776 copy of the Declaration of Independence to menus from the much missed White’s Corner Restaurant. In the last few years, the society has experienced some hardships, in particular a flood in the basement of the museum which threatened the entire collection. But thanks to an infusion of new members to complement the immense labors of past volunteers, the water damage to the structure has been entirely remediated; re-cataloging and digitizing efforts are underway; new, interactive touch-screen exhibits are planned for the exhibition space; and novel educational programs are in the works to share the remarkable history of Southborough with our school children.

But to continue we need your help. Unlike many local historical societies, we receive NO financial support from town government. The Society alone pays to preserve our past for your future, and it’s very costly. We need your help to raise $10,000 this fall. And to spur us on our way, the Southborough Community Fund has pledged a matching grant which effectively doubles your contribution. Donating is quick, easy and can be done in less than two minutes online. Just go to southboroughhistory.org and click on the big FALL FUNDRAISER button. Of course donations by check through the mails are welcome as well. Either way, contributions to the Society are entirely tax-deductible.

We are tremendously grateful for your support over the last 50 years, and look forward to a fruitful next half-century.
Michael Weishan
Treasurer, Southborough Historical Society

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