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

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Wight House, but the Wrong Way

Look at the photograph on the left. It was taken in 1937. Seventy one years ago. Do you recognize the bucolic setting? The house?

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


  1. Great article as always. Several points worth considering relative to the movement of the house.

    First, I would say that whatever initial thoughts may have manifested over re-locating the property seem to have dissipated due to objections from OSV, among others.

    Secondly, any significant project, such as the one mentioned in your posting would entail Site Plan Review by the Planning Board and Planning Department which (at least from this citizen's perspective), would find little if any support were it to involve the destruction or relocation of such a historic site. Just a hunch.

    Love the photos.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with you on the Oliver Wight House. I have heard that OSV pulled it off the market, some relief for now, if my information is accurate. Preserving it in its present location is so important. I have heard and thought about many good ideas, on what to do with the buildings on the site.

    Really good things have happened in this town over the past few years. Your blog is refreshing and counters the negatives in a positive way. Thank you for that! Thank you for your positive approach, thoughtful ideas and optimism. Your energy is sure to help to keep things working in a constructive manner. Your words inspire those who have been working for a long time, and are starting to feel tired from the constant criticism, as well as inspire those who haven’t jumped in, and gotten involved, just yet.

    Enjoy the weekend.

  3. It is good to here that the property is off the market. OSV should consider selling it to the town. I know a "deal" could be made that was fair to both sides. Talk it up, this could be not only a major preservation score, but also could bring in some $$ (cha-ching). I had mentioned turning the little motel units into shops, but I received a comment that that wasn't possible. Well, they each have power, heat, and plumbing. They may need refurbishment, but I think kind of "Mall in the Meadow" approach would work very well. The Wight House could house an area museum, or move the information center to the location. Next time in Lenox, MA check out what they did with a property very similar to this one on Route 7. Little shops, galleries, new parking, landscaping, and no blight.

  4. Oh boy, just what we need another museum in the middle of Town, or am I wrong in thinking that OSV is considered a museum.
    As for Lenox, if you've been following the news from there at all, there's trouble brewing in their downtown area also, and Lee is considering revamping their downtown looking for new stores, kinda sounds like Sturbridge/Charlton.

  5. Dear Thinking: I cut and paste below a comment from the 2007 portion of your blog, an anonymous writer who says the hotel units are not usable for retail of any kind. I'm curious as to why they're not? I've not been in them, but is it because of zoning?
    I'd like to hear more about it, because "Mall at the Meadows" sounds really cool. I would prefer a professional response to this question.

    "Stur said...
    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 ......Saturday, December 01, 2007 8:58:00 AM"

  6. To Anonymous,
    First of all, I am going against my own rules. Use a nickname when you offer a comment. Makes it easier to keep track of who is writing to who. I can't remember where I live half the time.
    Yes, we do need a "museum". OSV is a living history museum specializing in life from 1790-1840. Not about Sturbridge. We need a place to place the historic artifacts and documents of our town in. The Center school has been discussed for eons. This is better.

  7. Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "The Wight House, but the Wong Way":

    Let me get this right, We rent out the old Fiskdale Fire Station, which could have housed Sturbridge artifacts, but its better to buy more Real Estate to house them, I assume with CPC funds.
    I would think that its about time the CPC funds execute their other obligations, as voted at Town Meeting.

    Two Cents Worth

  8. You answered your own statement. The old Sturbridge Fire Station is being rented out. Besides, not a good place. As far as CPC funds go, who knows. The Town could have a bake sale for all I know. The opportunity is there, the town needs to consider it. Besides if planned right , it will bring $$ in, the old fire station would not. And, if CPC funds were to be tapped,what other CPC obligations need to be executed? Unlike buying land for preservation, this idea will MAKE money.

  9. The Town voted money to restore Town Hall and Center School, both in my opinion are going to be really big money pits, the overrun won't be as large as the BigDig, but I think there will be an overrun, WWT needs updating, annual Town Meeting article asking for 40 Million for a new school, State cutting back on funding Cities and Towns, don't think its time for any more Town funded projects.
    Guess I just don't get how a museum housing Sturbridge History is going to be a money maker.
    Two Cents Worth

  10. I agree about the Town Hall. A new one should have been considered. The Center School needs to have something done with it. It just can't just sit there, and rot. It needs to be restored and utilized since it is just taking up space, and tearing it down is just not an option. And, you are right, a "museum" will not make the town a cent. All I am suggesting is that with the space available, wouldn't it be nice to display our towns history? Where can you see the towns history now? The library has some books, photos and documents, as does the town hall, but what about the artifacts? Where can one go in town and stroll through a space and get a picture of just who we were and where we came from? No where. OSV is not a reconstruction of Sturbridge. It is a valuable museum that displays life as Sturbridge, and central Mass may have lived from 1790-1840. There are buildings from Sturbridge there, but also from other towns in the Worcester County and beyond. We do a need a space for our own history. And, no, it will not make us one cent.

  11. Town hall and Center School are prominent buildings right in the center of town. Sometimes, it's not just about money - it's about beauty and history. On second though, let's knock every old building down and build a new one. Maybe zoning will allow a strip club be built next to the library, then we re-name the town Stinkbridge and we'll have well-educated strippers. I'm sure they'll be able to straighten this town out. ;)

  12. Guess what I tried to say earlier, and didn't do it very well, insteading of renting out the old Fiskdale Fire Station, why wouldn't that make a wonderful museum for our Sturbridge History. We already own the building, there's parking, some redo, perhaps with CPC funds and hey, there's our museum.
    Two Cents Worth

  13. Dear Two Cents Worth,

    There is a business in that space. The town is renting the space to a business. The space is occupied. There is someone there. The space is not empty.

  14. Hi S-L-O-W-L-Y
    I realize there's a business in that space, even know what it is, so what you're saying, its best that the Town rents out space , being a landlord rather than a private owner renting out space,(heaven knows there's enough empty places for rent along Route 20, better for the Town to go out and buy a building for our Sturbridge museum rather than use a building we already own. Guess my pockets aren't quite as deep as your's


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