Individual historic districts could protect Northborough landmark
By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer
Northborough — Marie and Richard Nieber have lived at their Colonial-era home for about 30 years. They said they have painstakingly restored their home–popularly known as The Whitney House back–to its former glory. The Niebers are thinking of selling their property to live somewhere a little more manageable, but were shocked when a retailer suggested selling the property to a developer who could tear down the house and build a condominium complex on the three-acre plot.
The Niebers said they want the historic house to stand, even if they don’t own it. So, the couple are supporting a concept brought before selectmen Nov. 4: Forming small, local historic districts comprising of individual historic plots, and a new commission to oversee the districts.
The town of Northborough does have a Historical Commission with limited powers to protect historic properties. A Historic District Commission could have the authority to permanently protect a building such as the Colonial-era Whitney house on 62 Whitney St.
The nice thing about individual lots is they don’t necessarily encompass neighboring properties, said Bryan Smith, chairman of the current Historical Commission.
The Whitney House is named for Peter Whitney, the second minister of Northborough and a patriot during the Revolutionary War. It was constructed in 1780 on a foundation dating back to the 1690s, according to Marie Nieber.
“It would be a shame if something happened to it,” said Smith. “Peter Whitney was one of our most famous citizens. He was very outspoken during the Revolution. He wrote a history of Worcester County. He was a big historical figure.”
Any District Commission would have to be approved by citizens at Town Meeting, and Town Administrator John Coderre said forming a commission is more complicated than meets the eye.
“You’re talking about creating a new regulatory body,” Coderre said.
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