Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Friday, November 30, 2007

Damn, the History, Full Strip Mall Ahead!

I'll make this a short one.

The Lodges and Oliver Wight House of Old Sturbridge Village on Route 20 have been for sale for well over a year. OSV decided to divest themselves of the motel, and devote the energy and funds to the village itself. Wise choice. The Lodges were built back in the time when there were few motel rooms available to the tourists in the area, and they served a great purpose: lodging for the tourists on site with Old Sturbridge Village. Disney has been very successful with this idea. However, times have changed.

There are many hotel and motel rooms available in the area now, not to mention the numerous inns and bed and breakfasts. It was time to sell. Problem is, it didn't.

Recently, a developer came before the town with a plan for a strip mall, but there is a problem. You see the historic Oliver Wight House is smack dab in the middle of where the developer would like to build. What to do?

The house is on its original foundation in its original location facing diagonally westward out onto Route 20. It is a beautiful old home. The house is, obviously, a strong part of our history here in Sturbridge. It should be left where it is. Build around it, and incorporate it into the plans better. In fact, all of the little lodges should be used. Rehab each one of them, make them into "retail condos", and sell/lease them to artists, gallery's, sculptors, potters, and the like. In Lenox they did something very similar with an old motel. Now, it has new parking, landscaping, and the old units have become shops for furniture, art, linens, and clothes.

Now, I don't expect the developer to change all their plans, but I do expect the Town of Sturbridge to lay down the law regarding relocating the Oliver Wight House. If the town can forbid drive-up windows in Fiskdale at places like Dunkin' Donuts because it is an historic area (I know, what about the Southbridge Credit Union drive-ups, and where the heck are the Historic District Signs?), then it must forbid the tampering of such an historic home in the same area.

Finally, do we really need another strip mall here in town? I am all for retail, and convenience, but I am not exited about redundancy. What other types of stores would the new strip offer that we don't already have? And, would they fit in that location?

Just some thoughts.


  1. I agree with your comments about the OSV Lodges as far as the Oliver Wight house, but the hotel units are unusable for retail of any kind, the builder could "rebuild" though to look like the same campus. The issue with drive throughs in the Fiskdale section is that fast food restaurants are not an allowed use and a drive through attached to a restaurant is how fast food is defined. Hence no drive through at Dunkin, but it's ok at the bank (unless they start serving food).

  2. Well, that would explain the drive-up windows then. My concern is, if Fiskdale is considered a Historic District, then why is not treated as such? Signage indicating that it is an Historic District would be a start, and of course, rehabing the infrastructure as well.

    The developer "rebuilding" the Oliver Wight site would be an option for exploration. The trick here is to maintain the character of the area, and still serve as a useful, and profitable, retail space.

    This will take a great deal of cooperation between the developer and the Town, but is not impossible.


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