J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

What Will Happen with the Sawin House?

Back in 2012, I noted that there was a discussion about tearing down the Sawin House in Natick.

The oldest parts of that building are said to date back to 1696 and the first English settlers in that town, which was originally set aside for Native American converts to Christianity. The building also has a connection to the Lexington Alarm, though that’s more tenuous.

The house is now inside a MassAudubon wildlife sanctuary, and that organization says that preserving the structure is not within its mission.

This past week Brian Benson reported for the local newspaper that the Natick selectmen had deadlocked over competing proposals and would probably turn the question over to the full town meeting.
The Historical Society has proposed taking materials from the Sawin House, which is on South Street in MassAudubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, and reconstructing in Shaw Park on Rte. 16 a section of the home resembling its appearance when Europeans settled the area.

But, the proposal has sparked controversy with some people arguing the society’s plan would take the home out of its historical landscape and take away open space. Others have said it would help showcase the town’s history and protect part of a building that could otherwise continue to deteriorate.
The plan to move the house would alter the use of Shaw Park and alter the historic structure from how it exists today, and those changes would require approval from various levels of government. That’s unlikely to happen unless the community reaches a consensus on what it wants. But it doesn’t appear to be an easy question.


Joe Bauman said...

It's a terrible and surprising disappointment that a conservation group would be so callous about the need to conserve our history too. Surely the small space that the house occupies doesn't impact wildlife to any measurable extent. As much as I support protecting habitat and wildlife -- and I am a true environmentalist -- I will never support the Audubon Society after this outrageous proposal.

J. L. Bell said...

I must note that MassAudubon, or the Massachusetts Audubon Society, is governed separately from the National Audubon Society.

MassAudubon owns the land that the Sawin House stands on, designated as a nature sanctuary. Its mission is to conserve the natural land, not that structure. It’s willing to let the house be dismantled and moved, but right now that plan can’t go forward because there’s no agreement about where to rebuild the house.