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Success Story Sunday: The Southborough Teens and the Burnett House Campaign

In the beginning of this past July, the town departments and committee heads in Southborough, MA were notified of plans to demolish the Burnett House. This Second Empire-style stone home was built in 1847 for Joseph Burnett and his wife; Mr. Burnett is credited for creating the first liquid vanilla extract commercially produced and sold in the United States.

Unfortunately, the town lacked the bylaws or historical district to protect the property, according to Jennifer Burney, Town Planner. Burney met with Robert Moss, the applicant proposing to demolish the Burnette house to build condos on the site, and discussed the possibilities of saving and reusing the house; he had no interest in doing so. Although the applicant stated the stones from the house would be reused and the barn and chapel on the site would be re-purposed as single family structures, there was not guarantee it would happen and the historical significance of the Burnett house could be lost.

That’s when Southborough teens, Bridget Brady and Jennifer Fox stepped in. With the help of their friends, the teens started a small but powerful grassroots campaign under the name Historical Good. In their quest to save the Burnett House, they protested on the street outside the house for about 12 hours a day. They also started a website and online petition to rally support for the house. By July 19th, the petition had surpassed 1,000 signatures. The petition can be found here:

Around July 24th, it became known that the owners of the Burnett house changed their minds and refused to sell the house; members of Historical Good and the Southborough community rejoiced. But Jennifer Burney warned that the preservation of the house is not a done deal. More talks among Southborough city officials need to be conducted before a reasonable plan can be put in place. But thanks to the work that the teens with Historical Good did, people across the state, and even across the country, know a little more about the Burnett House and why this place matters. Also, thanks to the awareness brought on by the potential demolition, the Southborough Historical Commission is getting more attention and hopefully more members joining the current, four-person committee.

We would like to congratulate Jennifer Fox, Bridget Brady, and other members of Historical Good for their successful display of historical preservation advocacy and awareness. Having a passion for preservation, no matter what age, is in part how we’ll protect Massachusetts’ unique heritage.

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