Saving Medfield’s History, Character and Property Values; Making Medfield, Medfield

The attached album of house photos gives ample proof that historic landmarks can be restored and that they can be put into a profitable sale condition.

Yet another piece of bad news circulated out of last week.

The historic landmark 1811 Fairbanks-Chenery house and barn on 34 South St. was sold to a developer with initial plans to demolish this important piece of Medfield’s history and build in its place another of the generic duplexes recently appearing around town as well as another box-type house. 

The Medfield Historical Commission has placed a one-year demolition delay on the developer, Robert Borrelli, with the hope they can work with him to save the historic landmark or at least have him incorporate the house into his building plans.

The argument given for demolishing the landmark was that the house and barn are not in a condition to be saved, even though in 1998 the Massachusetts Historical Commission researching the house reported that “the property is in good condition and that the Fairbanks-Chenery House on 34 South St. possesses integrity of location, workmanship and association and meets the criteria to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”

In the case of 34 South St., because it is not in an historic district, the only weapon Medfield has to save such an important piece of the town’s character and history is the one-year demolition delay. But such action is only temporary, for if the developer does not want to cooperate with the town and has no interest in preserving or saving the house, the developer can simply wait out the year and demolish the property.

The argument is often given that the house, or in the case of 34 South St., the house and barn, is too far gone to be restored. But there are many examples of houses and barns in a worse state of deterioration than 34 South St. that were saved. They can be seen around town today.

The attached album of house photos gives ample proof that historic landmarks can be restored and that they can be put into a profitable sale condition.

For example, in the case of the Dwight-Derby House, which was going to be torn down along with the house next door and made into a condominium complex, many said the house couldn’t be saved; that it was going to fall down.

But a grass roots effort proved the naysayers wrong and Medfield's oldest house and one of the oldest in the nation is now an important town landmark.

It is interesting that when Chronicle and Fox News came to Medfield, their focus was on the Dwight-Derby House, the Peak House and the historic character of the town. This historic and still rural look gives Medfield its own special uniqueness.

Recently, The Boston Globe ran a story concerning what makes some towns more successful and desirable than others. The answer was that residents need to capitalize on and preserve what makes their town unique. In the case of Lexington and Concord, it was its Revolutionary history, with New Bedford it's whaling ties, with Lowell it's textile and mills. In Medfield's case, it is its historic character, including the historic houses and landscape.

Medfield has been very fortunate that so many people in town take pride in their homes and those living in the historic houses work very hard to preserve its history and appearance. But not all. House by house we are losing that special quality that is Medfield.

Today it is 34 South St., which historic house will it be tomorrow? Historic properties can be saved. In the attached photos, one can see some of the examples. Two of the houses in the photos were destroyed by fire and the insurance company and contractor both said the house can’t be saved; tear down and build new.

Both the McCrossan and Phipps families said it can be done and today both 49 Bridge St. and 661 Main St. stand in testimony of historic properties that can be saved after facing extreme devastating damage.

Both families have helped to preserve that special uniqueness that is Medfield. That special historical characteristic, that so many in town try hard to preserve, also impacts our property values as well. It helps to make Medfield, Medfield.

Fred Rogers October 02, 2011 at 02:20 PM
Richard I agree with you on most subjects but not this one. It is not the old homes that make Medfield what it is it is THE PEOPLE! The town of Medfield like most towns is strapped for money just to meet town services. I DO NOT WANT TO SEE THE TOWN OF MEDFIELD SPEND ANY MORE MONEY TO SAVE THESE OLD HOUSES. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Colleen M. Sullivan October 03, 2011 at 09:44 PM
Fred, sometimes it takes more than money to save these old homes...it's important that the townspeople and potential buyers know of the history of these homes...not all old homes need to be rescued by tax dollars but they also don't always need to be demolished by the new owners. With the proper information, maybe, just maybe, the buyer will turn out to be someone who wants to restore it. Knowledge is power!
Fred Rogers October 04, 2011 at 07:19 PM
The new owners should be able to do what they want with their property. If they want to tear it down and start over the should be able to do just that.
Errin Chapin October 06, 2011 at 12:18 PM
I guess I missed the part where the town of Medfield was going to pay to rebuild this house? What the article is discussing is the lack of concern that the developer has for the property and how it has existed for years. I think the town needs to put in place a tax on developers in general. If there already is one, I would love to know the details. Building permits do not cover the costs that the town bears when developers put in multifamily homes where single family properties stood. Brook Street is a perfect example. Two adjoining single family homes were sold to a developer who literally jammed in condos. I truly feel sorry for the old gentleman who is now forced to live next to that complex. Most of the condos appear to still be for sale BTW. Perhaps the town should rethink the existing zoning laws. And perhaps add a tax to developers. Come up with a formula based off the number of bedrooms in each new structure multiplied by the cost of educating a child in the school. Payable up front. It is truly a shame that this house on South Street cannot attract a family that is interested in renovating it. That being a moot point now, it would be a better turn out if the developer had a conscience and a true concern about the houses surrounding the property.
Richard DeSorgher October 06, 2011 at 06:02 PM
Fred, I agree with you. If you read the article, at no time did I ever suggest the Town of Medfield buy the house. That is not what I am saying. Medfield can not afford to be buying houses. What I am calling for is preservation and protection by having historic districts. That does not cost a cent and in fact would improve property values. If you want owners to be able to do anything they want to then are you suggesting doing away with all zoning rules; because zoning prohibits people from doing what they want to... so a gas station or pig farm could open up next door to you. I think we have to act as a community with concern for all the people


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