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Natick Historical Society gets town OK to plan moving historic Sawin House

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  March 13, 2013 09:45 AM

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The Natick Historical District Commission gave a conceptual go-ahead last week on plans to move the first house built in Natick from the Audubon Society's Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary to Shaw Park, a small space about a mile-and-a-half down the road situated across from the Bacon Free Library.

The Natick Historical Society is hoping to deconstruct the Sawin House, which is vacant and fallen into dilapidation due to a lack of funds from the Audubon Society, and move the house to Shaw Park, where the house would be re-built from the original materials and restored internally.

The Historical Society would open the house as a museum for the public, and use additional space inside as their headquarters.

The society needed conceptual approval from the commission so they can move ahead with gaining the okay from other town boards and start raising the $750,000 needed for the project. The whole process could take years, officials said.

Permission from the commission is necessary because Shaw Park is in a historic district.
Once the society has raised the funds and received necessary approval from other town boards, they will circle back to the Historical District Commission to get an official Certificate of Appropriateness, which states that the project is appropriate for the historic district and meets local code standards.

Steve Evers, chair of the Natick Historical Commission and board member on the Historical Society, said the project’s leaders plan to appeal to the town’s zoning board next, since the park is not zoned for a museum. Evers said they have not yet selected a date for the appearance.

The group is also slated to present the project to the Board of Selectmen in September, and will continue to report back to the Historical District Commission periodically to give updates.

However, there is a long road ahead before the project is close to completion. Evers said the group faces many challenges, including raising the money necessary for the project, making the park handicap-accessible to comply with disability laws, and waiving a parking requirement by using spaces across the street at Bacon Free Library, for starters.

“[The commission] can’t give a final vote until we have the very last detail put on paper,” Evers said. “That could be a year or two away.”

Although Broadmoor officials say they have no official plans to demolish the historic 18th-century home, the house will continue to fall into a state of disrepair without the funds to properly maintain it.

Broadmoor Sanctuary director Elissa Landre said the organization is keeping all its options open if the plan to give the house to the Historical Society falls through.

"If it came to a point of needing additional significant expensive work, then I don’t know what we’d do," she previously told Boston.com. "We’d have to revisit it.”

Landre said that the Audubon Society cannot afford more than the basic structural upkeep and insurance on the home.

"It's hanging in there, but it's in pretty severe shape," she said of the house.

If the society gains town approval for the project, Landre said the sanctuary would mark off the home's original resting place and direct visitors to the house if they so wish.

"We recognize the historic value," she said. "We would work cooperatively to interpret the current location, and we would mark the foundation site, at the very least."

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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