Endangered Resources of 2020
Official Statement: Since 1993, Preservation Massachusetts’ Most Endangered Historic Resources program had endeavored to identify and aid in the preservation of endangered historic resources across the Commonwealth. Due to the impact of COVID-19 on daily lives, work and schedules, Preservation Massachusetts has been required to make changes and accommodations to this year’s program.
Though we cannot administer the program as we have over the past 27 years, we have an opportunity to assist and support those endangered resources that were nominated this year. Therefore, all nominations received for this year’s most endangered program will be listed as “Endangered Resources of 2020”. We will use our statewide visibility, professional staff, network and resources to support the efforts of the local nominators. Our goal, as it is every day, is to work collaboratively with key stakeholders to find a positive outcome for these preservation challenges.
The program may look different but our response and support for community based historic preservation and endangered resources has not changed nor is it diminished by the adjustments we have had to make. We thank you all for your understanding and are grateful for the opportunity to continue this program with a slightly different perspective.
We invite you to learn more about the Endangered Resources for 2020 below. Over the next few months we will be sharing more information (and hopefully positive updates) about them, so be sure to check back here often.
The Wheeler Mansion, Orange
The Wheeler Mansion was constructed in 1903 for John and Almira Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler’s fortune was made in sewing machines and his company, New Home Sewing Machine Company, was the second largest sewing machine company in the United States at the time. The Wheelers had a strong connection to the town, including donating the town its library. The grand two and a half story, 27 room home sits prominently on the corner of North Main Street and its grandeur is still evident, both inside and outside. After the Wheelers, ownership transferred to the Order of the Eastern Star, as a retirement home for women. The Eastern Stars kept a connection between the mansion and the surrounding community, something that many in town feel strongly about retaining. At the time of the nomination, the property was bank owned, suffering from neglect and deferred maintenance and many in the community were concerned for the future of this local landmark. Just this past summer it was sold to a new owner and though plans for the property are unknown at this time, there is considerable hope that the new owner appreciates the history and significance of the Wheeler Mansion to the town of Orange. There are also opportunities for education, collaboration and partnership to revitalize and restore this important local resource.
The Briggs House, Dighton
The Briggs House is a two-story simple Cape Cod style house with a central chimney, located in the area of Dighton known as Segreganset and standing along the Old Bristol Path between Plymouth, Massachusetts and Bristol, Rhode Island. The Briggs Family, beginning with Capt. James Briggs, who served in Col. Bailey’s famed Second Massachusetts Regiment during the American Revolution, inhabited the land and the house for generations. For more than 200 years, the various occupants of the house took pride in and maintained the property, even being featured in a 1992 Early American Life magazine article. Most recently the property was foreclosed upon, after suffering from disrepair and neglect and a serious black mold issue. After three years of vacancy in 2019 the town of Dighton purchased the property, which abuts property occupied by Town Hall. A demolition permit was issued and expired in August. The property has been deemed surplus by the down and has a deadline of September 30 to be removed for the site, or face demolition. Local advocates and historical commission wish to see the house preferably preserved and hope the town will allow additional time to find someone to relocate the property due to the impact of COVID-19.
US Army Bunker/Battery/Pillbox Sites in Gosnold, Cuttyhunk Island
Cuttyhunk Island was a part of the Harbor Defenses of New Bedford and the Harbor Defenses of Narragansett Bay during World War II. As the southernmost island in the Elizabeth Island chain, the US Government established the Elizabeth Islands Military Reservation on Cuttyhunk Island. Cuttyhunk's coastal defense site, consisting of several pillboxes, a concrete dug-in guard post, was constructed in 1943 with the intention to defend passage to New Bedford through Buzzards Bay. The locations of the pillboxes provided critical visuals to the south, east, and west across the ocean, and today offer some of the most compelling views of the island's landscape. Cuttyhunk Island was disarmed in 1946 but the pillboxes remain. The area overlooks what is referred to as the West End, a historically significant place which saw the landing of English explorer, Bartholomew Gosnold, and the first settlement in New England in 1604 by the Europeans. One of the challenges in particular to the pillboxes and the site is that it is overrun with plant growth in, on, and around the batteries. With the change in ownership of the land, the Town has an opportunity to develop a plan to make repairs and to provide for ongoing maintenance to the pillboxes. The town is hoping for an opportunity to access funding for their restoration, care and maintenance, as well as the placement of historical signage.