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.