Old public safety station demolition update

The tear down of the old police and fire stations is a sad sight for some. But preservationists did manage to save a significant feature and the school is offering bricks as mementos.

Above: The old down town public safety buildings are in the midst of demolition, but some elements are being preserved. (images left cropped from pic by Barbara Jandrue, center and right by Beth Melo)

Previously, I shared that St. Mark’s School planned to tear down the old public safety stations at their 19 & 21 Main Street property. First they worked with preservationists to save a few pieces of Southborough history. Here is an update along with photos.

This morning, construction crews were working at the old Police Station. But rather than a wrecking ball, they were employing a crane.

Scroll down for more details on that. But first, a little on the other building on the property

Fire Station Demolition

The tear down of the town’s prior fire station started on Monday. Former town firefighter John Kendall shared a photo by Barbara Jandrue and his thoughts on losing the station built in 1978 partially through volunteer labor:

Fire Station tear down by (Barbara Jandrue)To me and many others, it’s heartbreaking. Chief Ed Brock sold that idea to the town stressing that members of the fire department would volunteer to build it. The shell was contracted out. After that, the firefighters, including me, volunteered to do a majority of the work in the interior. We all put a lot of time into it. It’s was fun and built our comraderie. I was a call firefighter back then, and then I was lucky enough to be hired full time. We took great pride in that place. Lots of memories made there. I didn’t have the heart to go and watch.

Old Fire Station bricks (photo by Beth Melo)Today, I learned that the school learned about the firefighters’ emotional connection and saved some bricks as mementos. (Anyone who hasn’t already reached out to claim one can email the school’s CFO Rob Kuklewicz at robkuklewicz@stmarksschool.org. They can pull more from the rubble if you act in time.)

According to a recap of Historical Commission members’ tour of the fire station, after the private school took over the building, they temporarily used it as an extra infirmary during the pandemic. (I also witnessed students using the outdoors and garage area for workouts at one point during the pandemic.)

Long term, the school made clear that they didn’t have any logical use for either of the old stations and wanted to clear the slate for potential future uses.

It is worth noting that residents can still view the renovated and preserved smaller fire station that the 1978 station had replaced. Southborough House of Pizza at 5 Main Street is inside the station that was built in 1928, based on designs by architect Charles Baker, who also designed the Peter’s High School Annex. . . 

Police Station Demolition includes Preservation of the Annex Cupola

The old police station building was initially build in 1930 as an annex to Peter’s High School. (Read more about the building’s architectural significance here.) It was converted after the Town partnered with Northborough to send students to Algonquin Regional High School. Since taken over by St. Mark’s School, it had been used just for storage. (The Historical Commission learned on its tour that some windows were also used as a greenhouse for plants.)

While the school couldn’t justify preserving the building, the administration agreed to help preserve a historically/architecturally significant feature. The old cupola with its copper dome was removed this morning. The plan is to relocate the structure to 40-42 Central Street, the site of Southborough Historical Society’s future cultural museum and arts center. 

SHS President Michael Weishan assured that it will not top the old Fayville Hall (currently undergoing restoration and renovations). They haven’t finalized plans, but it may be used for an exhibit or as part of a future bandstand.

He also joked that if worse comes to worst with their renovations and site plan approvals, he might convert it into an outhouse.

Weishan appreciated St. Mark’s cooperation, stating that it was the town’s last chance to save a historical cupola in town. He noted that years ago, the Historical Commission tried to work with a property owner to preserve one on a Lynbrook Road barn. Unfortunately, that property was flipped and the new developer tore down the structure before the commission was made aware.

While the cupola was successfully taken off of the building this morning, the transport ran into a hiccup. Once the 2,700 lb structure was positioned on the truck’s flatbed, the top was measured as reaching 1½ feet taller than the height restriction for transporting it. (There aren’t any bridges between downtown and Central street, but clearance is still an issue due to wires.)

When I left, the school was still trying to track down and bring over a lower trailer bed (one used for hauling bobcats).

The less desirable, but still possible, alternative was to remove the copper dome and transport the cupola in two pieces. (The construction crew’s recommendation was that it was more likely to survive that way than if they tried resting the structure on its side, which could crush it.)

Whichever occurs, I’ll add an update to the bottom of this post (hopefully with a photo). On the positive side, Weishan and others learned today that it’s not just the cupola’s dome that is copper. The slatted louvers are as well. Below are my photos from the action while I was on site:

Separating the cupola from the building (photo by Beth Melo) School, Town, and construction officials (photo by Beth Melo) We have lift off! (photo by Beth Melo) So far, so good. (photo by Beth Melo) Safely settled on the truck - for now. (photo by Beth Melo) Historical Commission Chair Kevin Miller and SHS President Michael Weishan study copper slatted louvres (photo by Beth Melo) Police station to be demolished (photo by Beth Melo)

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John Kendall
18 days ago

Thanks for the article, Beth. It’s still hard to see, (yes, I finally drove by), but I guess that’s progress.

Kevin Miller
18 days ago

From my vantage point as Chair of the Historical Commission I feel compelled to stress my appreciation for the cooperation in all of this of St. Mark’s School and, in particular, of CFO Rob Kuklewicz. Both the old police station and the Peter’s School Annex were outside the scope of the current Demolition Delay Bylaw, which covers only buildings constructed prior to 1925. Nonetheless, Mr. Kuklewicz was fully communicative with us throughout the process. He escorted Historical Commission members on a tour of both buildings, so we could document them photographically, inside and out. When we came upon a significant cache of old fire department documents in the station, he had them boxed up for us; I reviewed them and then turned them over to an appreciative Chief Achilles. Mr. Kuklewicz was, from day one, enthusiastic about my proposal to save the cupola, which St. Mark’s did at a considerable expense of money, time, and trouble, delivering it this afternoon to Mr. Weishan and the Historical Society folks at their future new home in Fayville. St. Mark’s allowed the Southborough Fire Department to conduct a training exercise in the old station before its demolition, and this morning, as Beth has noted, they put aside some bricks as mementos for folks who’d been involved in the building’s construction. There has, in short, been admirable cooperation and consideration extended to us throughout the process. And while it’s a sad moment for those with memories wrapped up in those buildings, especially the fire station, the process has also been a fine example of partnership between the private schools, town government, and a private cultural organization serving the public interest.
Kevin Miller
Chair, Southborough Historical Commission

John Mauro
17 days ago

Thank you for sharing information on obtaining a brick from the old stations!

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