Historical Commission reassuring public about coming tree removals at Burnett House

Above: Town officials are reassuring the public not to panic over tree removals happening soon at the historic, preserved Burnett Estate. (photo by Allan Bezanson)

The Historical Commission is warning residents to expect a “substantial amount of tree removal” at 84 Main Street in coming weeks. But the message is intended to reassure that what is being done is necessary, and will work out in the long run. (And that the three “stars” of the property will remain standing, with just minor pruning.)

The Commission expects that within the next several years, “the property will have 20-30% more foliage cover than it does today and regain its reputation as one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens west of Boston.”

In April, Town Meeting voters ratified the purchase of a preservation restriction for the historic Burnett Estate. In August, the deal went into effect, signed by the Town and property owner, Jon Delli Priscoll. A week later, Delli Priscolli met with the Commission to discuss his renovation plans.

According to the letter from Historical Chair Joe Hubley, the commission has been working closely with Delli Priscolli since then. And they have confirmed the necessity of removing specific trees “either past or approaching the point of imminent demise.” For more details on the necessity and their plan of action to preserve/restore foliage, read the full letter below:

An Open Letter to the Residents of Southborough from the Historical Commission Regarding 84 Main Street

The Southborough Historical Commission is pleased to announce the commencement of work to the landscape at the Burnett mansion in the next two weeks. Over the summer members of the Commission, in particular Michael Weishan, who runs a landscape architecture firm, have worked very closely with owner Mr. Jon Delli Priscolli to assess the condition of the trees on the property.

Jointly, Mr. Weishan, Mr. Delli Priscolli and his arborist have come to the conclusion that the majority (some 65%) of the trees on the property are either past or approaching the point of imminent demise. The causes of this are principally age, lack of maintenance over the last forty years, and further severe damage caused by the downburst Southborough experienced in July.

This will mean that over the next few weeks, residents will see a substantial amount of tree removal at 84 Main. The Historical Commission wishes to reassure the public that we have personally inspected and tagged each tree to be removed, and are working very closely and amicably with Mr. Delli Priscoli to develop the master landscape plan that will see the replanting next spring of what are called “century trees” — large specimens of species designed to give beauty to the property for more than a 100 years.

Additionally, residents should be aware that the three principal “stars” of the previous landscape — the two great beeches and the larch near the house —will only receive some minor necessary pruning. When planting is completed over the next several years, the property will have 20-30% more foliage cover than it does today and regain its reputation as one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens west of Boston.

We remain grateful for your support of historical preservation in Southborough, and will periodically keep you updated on progress as the restoration continues.

Joseph Hubley, Chair

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