St. Mark’s School is taking steps to tear down the old public safety stations at 19 Main Street.
This Thursday, the Historical Commission is scheduled to discuss 19 Main Street.* Looking to get ahead of the news coming out, the school reached out to me with an announcement about their plans. They will be filing applications for demolition “within the next month or two”.
Although the private school is still in the phase of considering how to best to use the parcel, the administration has already determined that whatever plans they end up with will include demolishing the buildings.
Their Director of Communications asked me to share:
We are aware that the police station building was previously an annex to Peters High School, and St. Mark’s is exploring ways to honor the legacy of the high school in some way in any future construction that takes place on the site.
The announcement also notes that the administration will be considering “potential uses which would benefit the School as well as the town” on the property.
The demolition announcement was one we always knew was coming. (In fact, I’m surprised it took this long.)
Still, it won’t be welcome news to residents who hoped to find a way to preserve the historic building. Public advocacy had been less about the history of the building’s use and more about its architectural significance.
The former police station is the smaller building tucked back in the upper lot of 19 Main Street. Built in 1930 as an annex for Southborough’s high school. It has been touted as an example of the Colonial Revival style by “noted architect Charles M. Baker”.
The building was converted for use by the police in 1972, after the Town became part of a regional high school in Northborough.
In 2016, when the Town was seeking solutions for renovating/rebuilding the public safety stations, officials asked St. Mark’s School to consider selling part of their abutting vacant field. The School rejected the request but countered with an unexpected proposal.
The Town could instead purchase the School’s golf course property on Cordaville Road for a building site if they provided the 19 Main Street parcel (and, initially, another small lot) as part of the payment to the school. Although the school didn’t specify when they would tear down the buildings or how the land would be used, they made no secret that they didn’t intend to keep the buildings.
Voters approved a deal in 2017 that would allow for police and fire to remain in their buildings until the the new combined station was built (next to the reconfigured golf course).
That fall, the Town signed a revised Purchase & Sale that cost more than originally pitched. $299K of the increase was to cover the school’s costs for future demolition and remediation of the stations.
Years prior to the combined station project, Town officials unsuccessfully worked on a project to build a new police station. While it wasn’t the final nail in the project’s coffin, one of the challenges at that time was opposition to tearing down the building.
Members of the Historical Commission had advocated for finding a way to preserve the exterior. At that time, the most prominent public face was Commission member Kate Matison (who passed away in January 2019). Matison focused on the building’s importance in her launch of a blog promoting community preservation.
In 2017, when voters were asked to approve the deal for the combined public safety building, preserving the historic station wasn’t a significant part of public discourse. Instead, the focus of debates were the building/project costs and preservation of the St Mark’s Golf Course.
Many of advocates for protecting the golf course “heritage” were appeased when officials committed to putting a Conservation Restriction on the revamped course. (That prohibits the Town from using the large property for other building projects or athletic fields down the road.)
*The 19 Main Street item is under the Historical Chair’s report to the Commission. A vote on whether to consider whether the property qualifies for going through the demolition delay bylaw process will likely wait until demolition permits have been pulled.
When they tear the fire station down, I want a brick. I put in a boatload of hours helping build the interior of the building
Both buildings have a bit of history and nostalgia for many, including myself, that grew up in Southborough.
Like so many others, I attended Peter’s Annex for first and second grade. In the winter, the school’s “gymansium” consisted of Mr. Walsh rolling out gym mats on the basement corridor floor. If you wanted a hot lunch, a few teachers would walk you down and back to Woodard school’s cafeteria (imagine doing that today). Little did I realize than that later in life, I would work in the building, now a police station.
In the mid 1970s, Southborough was looking for a fire station to replace the aging and cramped 1920’s firehouse located at 5 Main St. (the current Southborough Hose of Pizza). In order to reduce costs, then fire chief Edward Brock sold Town Meeting on the proposal of having a contractor excavate the site and construct the shell for the building, The firefighters would do most of the rest of the interior work with the assistance of Assabet Valley High School’s electrical, HVAC and decorating shops. I was one of more than a few dozen call- and full-time firefighters who volunteered thousands of hours evenings and weekends to help build the fire station at 21 Main St. Significant cost savings were realized by the volunteer effort installing sub flooring, partitions, insulation, sheetrock, and assisting with plumbing and electrical, and installing the septic system leaching field for the building. We all took pride in the work that we did that gave the town 40 years of service.
I certainly hope St. Mark’s School honors the legacy of both buildings and their importance to the community.
Thank you for sharing those fascinating details. I was surprised by John Kendall’s comment and had no knowledge of that history.
What a great story. I didn’t know the history either. Coincidentally the HIstoric Commission discussed the pending demolition last night but also spent time lamenting the demise of the actual high school. What a beautiful building that was. I don’t know why it was torn down but that would have been a beautiful building to have today. I had never seen the picture until last night. I hope you are doing well.