Established in 1993, the Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources Program is one of our most important preservation advocacy and education tools. Local groups or individuals who are deeply concerned about the potential loss of these significant resources nominate sites from across the state. The list is one of the first steps in focusing statewide attention on the condition of these historic resources and their importance to communities, and often serves as a catalyst for extensive preservation opportunities.
The Most Endangered list at its core an advocacy and education “PR” program. Preservation Massachusetts utilizes our statewide visibility, resources and networks to promote the importance of these resources and work with the nominators and other involved parties to find a solution to the preservation challenge. Since the first listing in 1993, only 17 resources have been lost, over 40 completely saved and restored and many more progressing well on the long road back from the brink.
The Most Endangered list is announced each year at the Believe in Preservation event.
Visit our YouTube channel to view last year’s most endangered and other PM movies!
2012 Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources
(listed by community, in alphabetical order):
Outbuildings at Elm Hill Farm, Brookfield
Elm Hill Farm dates to the 18th century and eventually became one of the largest working farms in the region, owned by the Blanchard Means Family. The farm’s biggest claim to fame was “Elsie the Cow”, who in the 1930’s and 40’s was the icon for Borden Dairy products. In the late 20th century, the farm changed from agrarian use to a rehabilitation center that serves people with special needs in a beautiful natural setting. With the main focus of the farm and the Blanchard Means Foundation being special programs, several historic buildings on the property are in a state of deterioration from lack of funds and use.
The Parley Blanchard House, Rev. C.P. Blanchard Chapel/Library and the Carpentry Shop are all important to the site and the history of Brookfield. Over the past thirty years roofs have leaked, windows have been broken, exposing interiors to the elements, and a fire caused major damage to the rear of the home. These buildings offer tremendous opportunity for space for the foundation’s programming, or restored as historic elements that can attract tourism to the area. Listing will hopefully show the true value of these buildings, their possible uses and help garner support to restore and reuse these incredible pieces of a remarkable landscape.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the buildings at Elm Hill Farm. “The Town of Brookfield has a long and storied past and the three historic buildings that were nominated by the Brookfield Historical Commission and listed by Preservation Massachusetts this year to the Statewide Most Endangered List are certainly a major part of Brookfield’s history. Hopefully, listing these buildings will provide additional advocacy support to Rehabilitative Resources, Inc., the non-profit owners, and help motivate funding sources to restore and reuse them for the good of this wonderful community.”
Ron Couture of the Brookfield Historical Commission adds, “It is imperative that these buildings be saved as part of the Elm Hill Farm heritage for they are the supporting evidence of the daily lives and work of the people that lived there.”
Durgin Garage, Brookline
In 1926, Charles Durgin hired Harold Field Kellog, who designed Boston’s Batterymarch Building and Brookline’s Longwood Towers, to design this ornate Neo-classical garage. It was built with seven storefronts and the capacity to hold 225 cars, and is considered one of the most distinguished and most intact of early 20th century garages in the city. At well over 80 years old, the garage continues to deteriorate and several of the storefronts are vacant.
The garage’s location in the heart of Coolidge Corner makes it very valuable real estate and the potential for demolition for development is considered a real threat. A study committee for the area around the garage has been recommended, and their findings will hopefully facilitate in the preservation of this unique piece of Brookline’s history.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Durgin Garage. “Designating the Durgin Garage to this year’s endangered list allows us to support the positive efforts of concerned citizens of a landmark building in their town in an effort to amicably reach an appropriate development resolution while giving preservation a place at the table during discussion.”
Eunice White and Jean Stringham, concerned citizens who nominated the Durgin Garage add, “Preservation Massachusetts’ recognition of the Durgin Garage as one of Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources for 2012 is most gratifying. It is our hope that public recognition such as this will bring attention to the plight of this elegant building which has suffered from neglect for many decades and that it will help our community in its efforts to preserve the building for future generations to enjoy.”
Fitchburg City Hall
Fitchburg’s City Hall holds visual and historical importance along the city’s Main Street. Built for $14,000 by a local mill owner in 1852, this Greek Revival building is an iconic representation of civic architecture. Despite modifications and additions over the years, the building’s prominence in the downtown still remains strong.
During the summer months, after years of neglect and deferred maintenance, serious issues were discovered in the roof truss system. The city building commissioner announced that no one would be allowed to enter the building after the first serious snowfall of the season. The Mayor has begun to organize a committee to chart the needs of city government and the future of City Hall, but there is real concern that demolition of the historic structure will be viewed as the easiest and cheapest solution. Fitchburg has already lost two significant Main Street buildings and the fate of City Hall will have a ripple effect on the future of Fitchburg’s past.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Fitchburg’s City Hall. “This beautiful brick Greek revival city hall is an important landmark in downtown Fitchburg. The threat of demolition would be a huge blow to the City because the 1852 building is not only architecturally significant; it has a long and storied history in Fitchburg. PM hopes that a listing as one of the most endangered properties in Massachusetts will cause the City to rethink any thoughts of demolition and look at the viable options preservation can bring to restoring a major piece of Fitchburg’s pride and its heritage.”
Many civic groups and concerned citizens strongly support the idea of saving and restoring City Hall and hope the listing will be a catalyst for allowing preservation to be a viable option for the future of Fitchburg’s City Hall.
Herbert M. Farr Residence, Holyoke
Built in 1881, the red-brick Queen Anne style Farr Residence was home to one of the most progressive businessmen of the area. Herbert Marshall Farr moved his Canadian alpaca company to Holyoke, where it became dominant in the nation’s textile industry. Details on the house, including brackets, iron grill work above bay windows and carved vine motifs point to the Farr family’s prominence in the city. The property continued to be a single family residence until it was converted into a professional building in 1946.
The building is suffering from deferred maintenance and neglect, but was also recently purchased by the YMCA, whose future plans for the building are unclear. Local preservationists are concerned that the building will be demolished to provide for more parking, but as it is privately held, public concern can only go so far.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Farr Residence. “This once stunning historic residence is in serious danger of being lost and unfortunately one more of Holyoke’s historic heritage endangered. The Holyoke Historic Commission felt that the Farr residence should be nominated to Preservation Massachusetts Statewide Most Endangered List and we agreed. Too many historic properties are being lost in this very historic city and this property needs to be restored.”
Local historic commissioners see options for the Farr Building, such as offices and other space for the YMCA and their programs and hope to work in partnership with the Y on the future of this beautiful red brick home.
North Brookfield Town House
The Town House was once the center of commercial, political and cultural activity for North Brookfield. The unique mix of Italianate and French Second Empire demonstrated the town’s affluence during the mid-19th century, when it manufactured boots for the Union Army during the civil war. Built in 1864, the Town House featured street level retail, an off center bell-tower and an auditorium that hosted events from basketball games to productions by George M. Cohan, the Emperor of Broadway. Cohan and his family summered in North Brookfield during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Town House was been vacant since 2006 and suffers from neglect, deferred maintenance and difficult financial times endured by the town. In 2001, Tropical Storm Irene caused damage to the bell tower, which had to be removed. There is overwhelming support to restore the Town House but with estimated costs around $5 million, it is a daunting undertaking. Without a restoration of the Town House, North Brookfield will certainly stand to lose a valuable asset and local treasure.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels very strongly about the future of the North Brookfield Town House. “The Friends of the North Brookfield Town House as well as many town officials and residents have done a wonderful job advocating for the restoration of this magnificent historic building. It would be a crushing blow to the great community of North Brookfield to lose such a prominent structure on Main Street. The architecture and the long and impressive history of this public building must not be lost. The cost of restoration will be challenging but must be met. As a person who grew up here and spent time in the building, this property means more than words can say. Preservation Massachusetts has already dedicated itself to be as helpful as possible in the efforts to save and restore this gem.”
Maureen Wesolaski of the Friends of the North Brookfield Town House adds, “Having Preservation Massachusetts recognize the North Brookfield Town House as a historic treasure, by listing it as one of Massachusetts Most Endangered buildings for 2012, further acknowledges the importance of the restoration and renovation of this historical building. A building that was once and will be once again a valuable resource to the community. We thank all the town officers and organizations that supported us in the application process.”
Mechanics Hall, Princeton
Mechanics Hall Constructed in 1852 as a schoolhouse, Mechanics Hall is the oldest municipal building in Princeton and the Greek Revival gable front façade looks much as it did at the turn of the century. In its 160 year history, Mechanics Hall has served as a meeting place and function hall for many local organizations, social events for the village of East Princeton. It closed permanently in the 1980’s though its proximity to a busy roadway makes it highly visible to the community, many of whom want to see the building saved. In 2004, a committee surveying Princeton found 97% of residents wanted to see the building restored for community use.
Structural issues, neglect, faulty wiring, water infiltration and vandalism all threaten the future of Mechanics Hall. A Friends group was established and set out a list of short and long term goals for the preservation of Mechanics Hall. They hope that endangered listing will help to educate the public about the importance of Mechanics Hall, what it means to their town and their connections as a community.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of Mechanics Hall. “This beautiful 1852 front-gabled Greek revival building is far too important an historic property to be threatened and that is why Preservation Massachusetts has listed it on this year’s Most Endangered List. The recently formed Friends of Mechanics Hall group has done a good job advocating and educating the Princeton community about the significance of this beautiful property. Preservation Massachusetts is proud to stand with those working to preserve this historic gem.
Alex Fiandaca of the Friends of Mechanics Hall adds, “The selection of Princeton’s Mechanics Hall as one of Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources in 2012 will provide a critical opportunity for the newly formed Friends of Mechanics Hall to educate the public about the building’s cultural and historical significance and draw attention to the threats and challenges it faces. The Most Endangered designation will also enable our organization to reach a broad range of supporters, which will strengthen our efforts to stop further deterioration of Mechanics Hall and develop a comprehensive plan for its restoration and future use. The Friends of Mechanics Hall are eager to work with Preservation Massachusetts for guidance in saving and preserving this Princeton treasure.”
Methodist Episcopal Church, Ware
The Methodist Episcopal Church was built in 1897, much larger and more ornate that the church it replaced. The Queen Anne style was carried into the beautiful interior, with curved pews, multiple fireplaces and gorgeous stained glass windows. The church operated until 1978 when the town took it over for offices and a senior center. The church has been vacant since 2008 when a new senior center was built, and though the town attempted to sell the building through an RFP, it was unsuccessful. A new RFP will be issues with no minimum bid on the property and there is concern a new owner could demolish the church.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the church. “Preservation Massachusetts is very aware that churches are especially challenging to restore and reuse. We thank the Ware Historical Society for nominating this beautiful building and we are pleased to list it as a Preservation Massachusetts’ Statewide Most Endangered property in hope that the advocacy by the statewide preservation organization will assist the town in efforts to restore or find a buyer who will save this historic property. The interior of this church is magnificent. It is important that the community better understand the significance of this property.”
Julie Bullock of the Ware Historical Society adds, “The character of a town like Ware changes with time and the building of new structures; but the charm of and respect for past eras are engendered in the elements of the historic landscape and must be revered and preserved through the efforts of its citizens and its town governors when they are made aware of the beauty and the value.”
While the ultimate outcome of the RFP process is unknown, there is hope that an endangered listing will encourage preservation of the church or attract buyers with a preservation interest. Over time, numerous historic buildings have been lost but there is support for preserving the church as an important piece of Ware’s history and community identity.
“Orchard House”, 917 Belmont Street, Watertown
Known as Orchard House, this large and graceful Greek Revival home was constructed in 1840. It was situated on what was originally at potato farm but developed into a cattle farm by one of Watertown’s most prominent citizens, Abijah White. The home has rich historical ties to notable people associated with the Revolution, Abolition and Temperance movements, art, literature and education. The home was converted to use as a school for girls in the early 20th century, and in 2006 was purchased by the Walker Home and School as its high school. A plan to demolish a portion of the house and attach a gym did not advance and the property has been essentially vacant since then.
In May 2012, the school submitted another demolition permit to demolish the entire house for green space and put educational trailers on the property, but the local Historic Commission invoked a demolition delay, which ends in July, 2013.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Orchard House. “Orchard House’s listing as an endangered resource allows the passionate and strong support around the building’s preservation to be elevated to a statewide level in the hope of a positive resolution. It is very apparent that this resource is held dearly in Watertown’s heart for both its rich history and architectural character.”
Marilynne Roach of the Watertown Historical Society states: “Abijah White’s high style Greek Revival farmhouse, Orchard House, at 197 Belmont St. has defined its corner since c 1832, a significant architectural example of the area’s no longer common rural past, and of the educational, artistic, and social justice accomplishments of the family that built it. Its ties to the Anti-slavery movement alone prove its importance not just to Watertown and to Massachusetts, but to our Nation as a whole, a historic resource that can speak to us all.”
There are many in the community who want to see the property saved and work collaboratively with the owner to find a viable way to preserve and reuse this extremely historic house. Many see the time afforded by the delay as a way to work collaboratively with the school, who welcomes the opportunity to find the best preservation solution possible.
The Charles Bowker House, Worcester
Situated on a steep hill, the Bowker House was built in 1876 for industrialist Sewell Bowker and it remained in his family until the early 1920’s. Its location makes it visible from many parts of the city, and though it was once a residential neighborhood, over the years the area has grown more commercial and industrial buildings have encroached upon the house. The 20th century saw a number of owners, one being Edwin Luce, a photographer, whose work is in the archives of the Worcester Historical Museum.
A previous owner planned to repair and restore fire damage inflicted on the roof, but those plans fell through, and recent instability resulted in a trustee taking over the building. It is vacant, deteriorating and marked so that the fire department will not enter the building.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Bowker House. “In partnership with Preservation Worcester, listing this fragile but once beautiful historic property on the statewide endangered list will hopefully aid in finding a suitable buyer who would restore this former residence into commercial use or housing. Visibly situated on a hill and only a block from Main Street, this once grand historic property is far too important to be demolished.”
Deborah Packard, Executive Director of Preservation Worcester also feels for the Bowker House. “Located on a hill overlooking the city, the Bowker house could be redeveloped into offices for the nearby courthouse or housing for local college students. Its great location is only enhanced by its architectural details which have been retained even after years of neglect.”
The Palladium, Worcester
Once known as the Plymouth Theatre, the building that now houses the Palladium was begun in 1927. Its original owner ran into financial difficulties and sold to another company, that expanded the seating capacity and when it opened in 1928, it was one of the largest venues in Worcester. The four story exterior features Art Deco motifs and it has an important presence on Main Street. The theatre went through various uses during the last century and is currently home to a popular concert venue.
When taxes were reevaluated, the property taxes went up on the Palladium by 200%. The owners have applied for a waiver for the city’s demolition delay; citing hardship caused by the increased taxes is too much for the theatre to continue in operation. There is concern that the building could be demolished for a parking lot, but as there is already a vacant lot across the street, the loss of the Palladium would be a negative impact on the streetscape. There is hope that listing on the Most Endangered will demonstrate the importance of the building to Worcester, to Main Street and showcase the potential it offers for restoration and continued concert use.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the Palladium. “Clearly, Worcester’s Main Street would suffer greatly should this historic building be lost as a result of demolition. Though always challenging, Worcester officials and the many property owners along Main Street must work to finds ways to develop ways to save, restore and reuse these many historic buildings. Worcester’s Main Street is a very special place and critical to economic development of Massachusetts’ second largest city. Hopefully placing the Palladium on Preservation Massachusetts Statewide Most Endangered List will assist in that advocacy.”
Deborah Packard, Executive Director of Preservation Worcester, also feels strongly about the saving the Palladium. “The Palladium Theater is an important part of Worcester’s Main Street landscape, anchoring an area that has seen the demolition of a number of buildings for parking lots. As an excellent example of Art Deco theater architecture it would be a loss for it to be leveled for yet another parking lot.”
Quinsigamond Firehouse, Worcester
This two and a half story brick firehouse was built to serve Worcester’s Quinsigamond Village in 1892. The area was home to primarily Swedish factory workers, and the area retains its distinct identity. The façade is rock faced with sandstone trim and has detailed carvings on the front windows that speak to its use as a firehouse. The building has sat vacant and deteriorating for many years, and is currently for sale.
Jim Igoe, President of Preservation Massachusetts feels strongly about the future of the the Quinsigamond Firehouse. “In partnership with Preservation Worcester and the current owner, Preservation Massachusetts hopes that listing the Quinsigamond Firehouse on our Statewide Most Endangered List will help provide the advocacy and notoriety in finding a buyer who would be interested in restoring and reusing this 1892 historic property. Quinsigamond Village is a great neighborhood and a restored firehouse would be a wonderful addition, perhaps for a small business.”
Deborah Packard, Executive Director of Preservation Worcester also feels very strongly about the firehouse. “The Quinsigamond Firehouse was placed on Preservation Worcester’s first Most Endangered Structures list in 1995. Virtually nothing has been done to it since the first listing. Quinsigamond Village was once a thriving area of the city, as evidenced by the beautiful brick (Quinsigamond )Firehouse. In an area that includes both residential and commercial buildings, it should be easy to redevelop the building so it is once again a vital part of the neighborhood.”
There are many in the community that want to see the building restored, or sold to a preservation minded buyer who could rehabilitated the building for residential or commercial use. Yet the longer it sits vacant the more imminent the possibility that Quinsigamond Village and Worcester could lose vestige of its unique history