Historic White Cliffs estate is for sale
By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – For years, the elegant White Cliffs facility was the location of choice for many families and businesses looking for a special spot to celebrate important events. But now, with news that the facility at 167 Main St. (Route 20) is for sale, many fans of the property are wondering what will happen next to this iconic landmark.
White Cliffs was built in 1886 as a “summer home” for Daniel Wesson and his wife, Cynthia, who was a native of Northborough. The 18,865-square-foot mansion was estimated to cost $300,000, a figure that Wesson had no trouble paying at the time. That’s because he was one half of one of the most successful firearms companies in the world, Smith and Wesson.
The Wessons owned White Cliffs until 1906, when they died within two weeks of each other. The mansion was left to their children who owned it until 1910. The estate had several other owners until being bought by the LaCava family in 1985. Since that time it has been a popular choice for not only private occasions such as weddings but also for nonprofit groups such as Rotary and Lions clubs, and businesses who sought an elegant setting for their holiday parties. For years, it was also where the annual Northborough Winter Ball was held.
But now the family wishes to sell the property, according to Michael L. Durkin, a Realtor with LAER Realty Partners.
“It’s just time,” he said. “They want to focus on other [business] options,” Durkin said.
Finding the right buyer for the 18,000-square-foot facility, which sits on 6.5 acres, will not be easy, he acknowledged. The $2 million price tag is certainly daunting. But this is no ordinary “old house,” Durkin noted. Rather it is an exquisite example of Victorian-era grandeur in the style of the great Newport-era “cottages.”
Durkin, who grew up in Northborough, said he has many wonderful memories of working at White Cliffs as a young dishwasher.
“The workmanship is phenomenal, as is the architectural integrity,” he said. “The quality of the woodwork is outstanding and represents the best of many different countries. And everything is up to code.”
“I also remember the old tunnels that went to the outlying parts of the property,” he added.
The mansion has 32 rooms, 17 of which have fireplaces. Throughout the facility there are hand-painted ceiling panels, crystal chandeliers, dark mahogany woodwork and stained glass windows. Photos of the different rooms, including the Grand and Wesson ballrooms, the Gold Room and the Tiffany Room can be viewed on the website, www.whitecliffs.com.
Durkin said the LaCava family plans to keep the facility open until the end of 2014. They are also hoping that someone with a “bent toward historical preservation” will buy it.
Amanda Millette, a native of Northborough, is also trying to generate interest in the mansion. The Facebook page she started, “Save the White Cliffs,” has already generated over 1,500 “friends.”
“It’s such a part of Northborough,” she said. “Growing up here, we always thought of it as the ‘castle on the hill.’ It would be great if we could find someone to buy it and keep it as a function facility.”
“I’m just afraid six months down the road, someone will buy it and tear it down,” she added.
On the Facebook page, residents, as well as those who grew up in the town but have since moved away, have shared their memories. Some noted that they had their wedding reception there while others, like Durkin, had worked there at one time. Others are hoping that the facility will be saved because of its historical past, although it is not on the National Register of Historic Places. Still others are hoping that a member of the Wesson family will step forward and save the property.
To watch a virtual tour of the property visit http://tours.bestpics360.com/public/vtour/display/180265.
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