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Framingham Historian: 1812 House is worth saving

Posted by John Swinconeck  May 6, 2013 05:02 PM

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Framingham's Town Historian said the 1812 House on 1000 Worcester Rd. has historical significance, and that the property's new owners – Framingham State University – shouldn't turn it into a parking lot.

"Myself and other members of the historical commission feel very strongly that the house should be preserved. It's important to the history of the town," said Town Historian and Historical Commission Fred Wallace.

According to Wallace, the man who built the house was John Fiske, who had organized one of the minuteman companies in 1775 during the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Fiske then moved to Framingham and built the house in 1812.

"He was a successful person in town," Wallace said.

Wallace said that Framingham State should also want the house preserved.

According to Wallace, in 1852, Framingham Town Meeting appropriated $2,500 to build a college for prospective teachers in Massachusetts. James Watson Brown, who ran a private school in Framingham, was living in the 1812 House, and along with some neighbors, contributed land on which the college — which is now Framingham State — was built.

In the 20th Century, the house was converted into a restaurant called The 1812 House. "It was a landmark that people came from many miles around to enjoy," said Wallace.

Additions were made to the original structure, although the house has since come under disrepair.

"We are in the process of exploring whether or not it's worth it to maintain the facility that's there," said Dale Hamel, executive vice president of Framingham State. "There's a lot that's in the air."

According to Hamel, enrollment at Framingham State has increased by 20 percent in the last five years. A new residence hall is slated to open in 2015 to address housing, and the university is trying to address increased parking demand through incremental expansion of surface lots.

"If we can find alternative funding, we'll do it," Hamel said. "If not, we'll just say that it's too cost prohibitive."

According to Hamel, the town has restricted it from being inhabited. The facility has had several additions built onto the structure. Wallace said the historic commission is not interested in preserving those additions, only the original footprint of the house.

"We're talking at least a million dollars to renovate the facility," Hamel said. "From our perspective, that's not a cost-efficient approach to create a little bit of – what would essentially be – office space. … If we can find alternative funding, we'll do it. If not, we'll just say that it's too cost prohibitive."

Hamel said the college might pursue alternative funding sources, and has reached out to both the town and state Rep. Chris Walsh to collaborate on ways to pay for a renovation.

"It is structurally sound. That is not to say that it doesn't need a lot of work," Wallace said.

He added: "It's worth mentioning that the Massachusetts Historical Commission issued a finding back in December that there would be no adverse affect on historical cultural aspects of Framingham if the building were demolished. We feel very strongly that is not the case. The Framingham Historical Commission feels this building is historically significant."

John Swinconeck can be reached at johnswinc@gmail.com.

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