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Selectmen Challenge Residents to Create Plan for Sawin House

Mass Audobon Society does not want to renovate Natick's most historic home and relocating it would be expensive.

Sawin House in South Natick. Staff photo by Robert Fucci
Sawin House in South Natick. Staff photo by Robert Fucci
Board of Selectmen Chair Carol Gloff is putting the fate of Natick's historic Sawin House in the hands of town residents.

After hearing arguments from numerous residents on Dec. 2 about the pros and cons of keeping the home on its South Street location in Mass Audubon’s Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary or moving it to Shaw Park in South Natick on Eliot Street, Gloff said she would like to hear of possible third options from the public before the Board takes a vote.

"I throw it back out to everyone who is here, or watching at home … get creative," she said. "I don’t have solutions for you. Come up with one or two or three plan Cs. It’s a challenge I’m putting out, to work together for what’s best for the community."

According to George Sawin, a descendant of the builders of the home who spoke at the Selectmen meeting, the Sawins were the first European settlers in Natick. Despite the battles between with the natives and European colonists, the Sawins were invited to settle in the South Natick location.

"This is not just an old house," Sawin said. "It’s a house that lives among ancient woods and water. It’s a symbol of cooperation that existed between European settlers and native people."

The home is currently in disrepair and needs extensive work for it to be considered habitable, said Historical Commission Chairman Steve Evers. But the Audobon Society is not interested is spending the seven figures it would take to renovate the home. 

"This is deplorable," Selectman Charles Hughes said. "It's unspeakable this organization in town ... I don’t get it. They get all this land and they'll let the oldest house in town just go? It’s awful."

Resident Ken Van Blarcom said the town should continue to pressure Mass Audubon to maintain the home so it stays in its historic site. A plan to relocate the home to Shaw Park would benefit only the Historical Society, he said.

But a relocation plan would be costly ($750,000) and need to go through multiple town boards and Town Meeting.

The Natick Historical Society is working with the Historical Commission to move a one-story section of the Sawin House, possibly from the early 1700s, from South Street to Eliot Street.
 
But Sawin said relocating the home would be the same as letting it crumble at its current location.

"I'm outraged at the Audobon Society, who received this property for free over 50 years ago, rent free," he said. "I think they have a moral obligation to preserve this house that services such great importance to this town. It’s a symbol of spirit of cooperation between European settlers and the native people."

The Board unanimously voted to table the discussion until Dec. 16.

"I’d like to think everyone could work together," Selectman Rick Jennett said. "It can be done. It can be worked out. I would like to preserve the history of this community as best as possible. If it has to be done by moving it board-by-board down the street, than I’d hope we can do that."

Matthew R. Lindsey December 04, 2013 at 07:06 AM
A picture of the house in its current state would be a nice addition to this article. And what is the source for a 'seven figure' estimate for renovation?
Mike Linehan December 04, 2013 at 01:21 PM
How do YOU spell eminent domain?

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