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
Thursday, January 17, 2008
The Wight House, but the Wrong Way
You should recognize the house, but the setting? Well, that is long gone. The house is the Oliver Wight House on Route 20 next to Friendly's. It is owned by OSV,and it and the land around it was used for years as a motel for the Village. Now, it is no longer used, the land and the buildings upon it are for sale.
A piece of Sturbridge history is for sale. Built in 1783 by Oliver Wight, the house has stood in the same location, and is in good condition. Its architecture is so significant that during the 1930's, the federal government thought enough about the house to do a photographic and architectural drawing survey of it. This Historic American Building Survey was one of the many surveys performed around the country during the time of the Works Progress Administration. The WPA was a New Deal Program designed to get people back to work. Architects,artists, photographers, designers, historians,and writers all unemployed by the depression were given meaningful projects around the country to perform. The HABS was designed to record significant buildings by photography and drawings in case something ever happened to them. There were hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of buildings that qualified, but only the most significant were chosen.
This house was one of them.
Now, it is for sale, and discussion is taking place for a developer to buy the land. Unfortunately, the old house does not fit the foot print for what is planned on the site. Moving the house is being considered.
The Town of Sturbridge has made some unique purchases in recent years with the goal of preserving open space,and our rural environment. In a town like Sturbridge, consideration should be seriously made to also make purchases that preserve our heritage as well.
The Oliver Wight House is located right on our front door on the only plot of private land left on Route 20 that resembles what our town looked like 200 years ago. We don't need another strip mall, coffee shop, dry cleaners, cell phone store, hair salon, at least not at this site.
What we do need is our heritage preserved.
Speak up. Voice your opinion. Write to the Town Manager, the Historic Commission, and the Board of Selectmen. Tell them you want this final piece of unspoiled Main Street preserved.
Heritage is a wonderful thing to have, regrets are not.
Click here for more photographs and drawings of the Oliver Wight house at the Library of Congress.
Photographs: Arthur C. Haskell, Photographer