Tewksbury Historical Survey Completed

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Tewksbury Historical Survey Completed

Postby swamper on Sun Jul 24, 2011 1:47 pm

From today's Lowell Sun:


Tewksbury takes stock of history
By Joyce Tsai, jtsai@lowellsun.com
Updated: 07/24/2011 06:35:26 AM EDT

TEWKSBURY -- Consider it one of the multitude of hidden architectural gems of the town's rich and storied history.

Tucked along the tree-lined pathway of Whipple Road is a spectacular building, in the eyes of historic preservationists.

Beautiful, unusually large and well-maintained, the two-and-a-half-story white Craftsman-style home at 272 Whipple Road, with clean geometric grid-style bordered front porch and paired half-round windowed gables, is known to historians as the Melvin & Florence Rogers House, after one of its original owners. It was built circa 1913.

And according to a recent survey of the town's historical properties, the abode is eligible to be listed on National Register of Historic Places, said Julie Ann Larry, principal at Portland, Maine-based ttl-architects, which worked on the survey.

Larry and her team of consultants found a wealth of historical properties and assets throughout as they conducted the survey from 2009 to this spring.

"Just open your eyes a little when you drive around town," Larry said. "You'll find some spectacular places with a rich history."

Approved during an May 2007 Town Meeting, the survey provides historical and architectural data for about 175 properties, including residences, town and community buildings, churches, cemeteries, monuments and other landmarks. Its long-awaited results were reported to selectmen last week.

It is the town's first professional survey of its properties and landmarks, and the most extensive to date.

A mid-1970s survey by the prior Historic Commission on a volunteer basis identified about 40 historical properties.

"But we thought our baselines of knowledge would be improved through a professional survey," said town Historic Commission Chairman Jay Gaffney.

Money was hard to come by. The survey finally got financial backing with $24,500 from the Community Preservation Act.

"What I hope it will do is increase the awareness and appreciation of Tewksbury's historic assets -- not just buildings, but elementary schools, parks, the Town Common, and monuments and other things," Gaffney said. And with it, "we can build on further education and preservation efforts."

The extensive survey also is a crucial step in the possible creation of historic district, and an invaluable aid to residents who want to place their homes on the National Register of Historic Places.

The survey also opens the door for potential tax credits and matching state and federal grants that might be available for historic preservation, Gaffney said.

Larry said her team relied on a series of historical maps, online databases and other sources, in addition to driving around town. In some cases, she and her team arrived on site, right when the bulldozer was set to demolish some historical properties, such as the Newman Scarlett House at Maple and East streets, which was demolished last year. And it arrived at Mace-Scarlett House on Livingston Street that was demolished in 2009, and was left with its leveled remains to study, she said.

Director of Community Development Steve Sadwick said the town's 2004 master plan called for a state-certified historical survey of the town. This survey gives the town "a very good definitive list that we can now operate off and point to," he said. In the past, "people would sometimes say about a given building, 'I think that's historic,' but we can now all work off the same page."

The town recognized "back in the beginning of the decade that we needed to be an investor of our historic resources," he said. The next step will be to see whether the commission would want to approach those property owners to get them placed on the state or national historic registers, he said.

In its 277th year as a town, Tewksbury adopted the Community Preservation Act in 2006, which helps to provide funding to support open space, affordable housing and community preservation goals in town. The Community Preservation Committee also has spearheaded a $6.1 million rehabilitation of Town Hall that is expected to start in the next six months.

"I'm just really glad the survey is done and it's a very good document -- and something that can be updated every five to 10 years," said Nancy Reed, Community Preservation Committee chairwoman.

"We've lost a lot of historical properties over the years, especially in the town center," she said. "And even though people were up and arms about losing these properties, there wasn't a mechanism in place or a means to preserve them either legally or financially or through planning, to preserve them."

But she says through the groundwork that the historical survey has set, as well as through Community Preservation Act funds, there's a financial mechanism, with the support of votes at Town Meeting, to support those historic preservation goals.

"And the better information you have, the better we will be able to apply for grants and whatnot down the road," she said.

And Historic Commission member Keith Rauseo said that the survey helps to provide "little nuggets" of history strung throughout town so that "you can connect the dots."

"I'm a history nut, and I'm just hoping that people use it, so if they have ever driven down the street and said 'Wow, that's a really nice home,' they can look up the address and find the survey and read the story of the house," he said. A resident was pleased to learn recently that her home was part of the homestead of Lt. Kittredge, moderator of the first Town Meeting.

"History is part of the community's cultural fabric," Sadwick agreed. "So you have to pay attention to those assets and come with the tools to assist property owners with their preservation."

The survey will be filed with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, as well as posted on the Historic Commission website by the end of this summer. Paper copies will also be available at the Tewksbury Public Library, the town clerk's office, and the town's Community Development Department.

Here's a sampling of historical gems from the Tewksbury survey:

* Behind the Center School, Tewksbury Stadium, also known as Doucette Stadium, is a 1930s Work Progress Administration project, which has several small stone-constructed ticket booths, that are notable and unique.

* The Ezra Kendall House at 496 Kendall Road, built around 1760, is a well-preserved Federal-style building with wooden clapboards and asphalt shingles. It was sold to Jesse Ames Marshall, who was active in women's suffrage and an early supporter of birth control.

* The Augustus Fitzgerald House at 190 Kendall Road, built around 1866, is a well-preserved transitional Greek Revival/Italianate house, that was owned by the family of Edith Ames Stevens, daughter of Gen. Adelbert Ames and granddaughter of Gen. Benjamin Butler.

* The Vincent & Louise Boylan Residence at 1582 Andover St. is a Colonal Revival home from 1915, which is currently under redevelopment under Chapter 40B Affordable Housing as Andover Estates.

* Osterman's Dairy Farm at 98 North Billerica Road, from 1889, is a Victorian Eclectic house that played a role in agricultural and farming history.
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