SHS is encouraging residents to help document historic homes

by beth on September 22, 2020

Post image for SHS is encouraging residents to help document historic homes

Above: SHS is launching another project to preserve the history of Southborough’s historic homes. (image from SHS’ reorganized index of Historic Homes)

The Southborough Historical Society is launching a project to document the history of houses for the next generation of homeowners . To that end, they are looking for residents to share the info they have on their old homes.

SHS President Michael Weishan posted:

Over the last few months as we have been all hunkered down, I’ve received quite a few inquiries from residents in town asking whether or not we had information on their individual houses. The sad truth is that for most homes we don’t—not because that information doesn’t exist—but simply because individual homeowners, after researching their own properties, never thought to share that information with the Society, and until now, we never thought to ask.

So this fall the Society is launching its “Discover Your Old House” program. To make things easier, the Society has digitized and reorganized Southborough’s Historic Homes database so you can rapidly and easily find your home in a simple alphabetical list. This will allow you to quickly see what we already know about the history of your property. The next step is up to you! Send us your research, tell us your stories, share with us pictures of your home, and we will add them to our collections, so that the next generation of owners won’t have to begin from scratch as I did.

To participate, you can email info@southboroughhistory.org.

To inspire others to share their knowledge, Weishan wrote about his own experiences as the owner of an old home. He was fortunate enough to strike up a friendship with a previous owner who turned out to be a treasure trove of information on the house. 

The SHS President explained that back in the 90s when he took on major renovations to his newly purchased home:

I saw a white minivan with three people in it, advancing at a snail’s pace down the road, obviously looking at my house. They pulled over. Curious, I went up to them and asked if I could be of service, and rather shyly they told me that they had lived in my house a long time ago. (More than sixty years earlier, as it turned out!) I said: “Do you want to come in? It’s a wreck, but I would be happy to show it to you!” At first they didn’t want to impose, but I insisted it would be a pleasure if they were prepared to wade through the destruction. Finally they agreed, and thus began my wonderful relationship with E. Warren Ward, his wife Edith and their daughter Beverly.

As it happened, I had struck the jackpot, because Mr. Ward wasn’t merely a former resident, but a retired engineer with a prodigious memory—at 88! As we toured the house, recollections flooded back (they literally hadn’t been back to see the place in 60 years) and this chance encounter turned out to be a gratifying, and rather emotional, visit for the Wards. (Mrs. Ward was particularly distressed to note that the huge old elms along what was then a gravel Cordaville Road had disappeared. “We had such lovely Sunday picnics under those trees!” she said, a bit tearily)

Weishan and the Wards kept in touch. He shared a letter from Mr. Ward with recollections including his family’s move to Southborough in 1913. You can read the full story here.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Not so Fast September 23, 2020 at 10:21 AM

This information you provide might be used against you if you ever decide update your house. These town boards (handful of people) can actually prevent you from rebuilding. Check out the couple who bought a dilapidated old house in Newton that was within their budget to get into a town with a good school system. They figured they could demolish and build a house that works for them financially. Well the town board determined that the house was historically significant and they needed to renovate it not take it down. The cost to do what the board wanted was exorbitant because the house was in such disrepair. Ultimately the old house collapsed as they were doing it. The extra expense with lawyers and plans certainly wasn’t in their original budget.
Southboro board has done the same thing to a house St. Annes owns.

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2 beth September 24, 2020 at 8:29 AM

What house are you referring to?

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3 Michael Weishan September 28, 2020 at 10:35 AM

Not so fast, as president of the Southborough Historical Society and as a member of the Southborough Historical Commission, I can assure you that any information deposited with the Society will not be used for or against anyone, but rather will serve as a depository of memories for future owners. Properties covered by Southborough’s Demolition Delay Bylaw (which is what I presume you are referring to) are already a matter of public record, and sharing research on your home won’t alter its status one way or the other. We all benefit when we can enrich the historical context around us, and we’d encourage home owners to deposit any information about their historic homes to benefit future generations of Southborough residents

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4 Alan September 28, 2020 at 11:58 AM

I for one don’t believe you.

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5 Kelly Roney September 29, 2020 at 2:41 PM

Be aware that many of the links in the SHS’s database of historic buildings (https://southboroughhistory.org/historic-homes-data/) wind up at the same PDF. When I was trying to find various houses in the East Main neighborhood, it took me a while to realize I needed to scroll down, since the PDF covers the entire neighborhood, not just one building at a time.

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