By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Southborough – A group of Southborough teens are learning an important lesson during summer break. They organized a grassroots effort to save the historic Burnett/Garfield stone mansion at 84 Main Street from possible demolition.
The house was built in 1850 by Joseph Burnett, founder of several town landmarks including St. Mark's School and Deerfoot Farms. It was sold to the Garfield family in 1947. The building was slated to be purchased by Westborough-based developer Robert Moss for $1.5 million from Jon Delli Priscoli, who bought it in 2012.
Moss met July 14 with the Planning Board and explained his plan to demolish the house, then build three cottages as residences for him and two friends. Southborough doesn's have an historic district or demolition delay bylaw to prevent the building from being torn down. Since July 15, the teens have been protesting at the site with the hope of persuading Moss to change his plans.
Co-leading the protest are Bridget Brady and Jen Fox, both age 14.
Bridget said, “The most valuable lesson I's learning is to never give up. Always believe there's something you can do and never be afraid to show your belief.”
Other dedicated protesters are Maggie Shoemaker and Kayleigh Travins, also both 14. Each of the young advocates is entering freshman year at Algonquin Regional High School after attending Trottier Middle School, the former property of what was known as Big Deerfoot Farms.
“Our teachers at Trottier have definitely been a really big inspiration,” Bridget noted.
Among their former teachers who have actively joined the protest are Jamie Clark, Shannon Souaibou and Pamela Lunder, who brought along cookies for them.
Jen, a member of the Southborough Historical Society, began an online petition to be delivered to Moss. It has over 1,400 signatures and counting.
One of the petition's signers is Barbara Kantner, great-granddaughter of Burnett. Her online comment reads in part, “My great-grandfather built this house for his large, well-loved family, many of whom made significant contributions to the town of Southborough and beyond It is a gem with years of usefulness ahead of it. To tear it down would be extraordinarily shortsighted, and a slap in the face to a town with such a legacy of historic preservation and strong community mindedness.”
Bridget invites townspeople of all ages to join them. The invitation is also extended to Moss, who has expressed his intention to live at that well-known property on the corner of Main and Deerfoot streets.
“We have nothing against Mr. Moss; we'se just puzzled why he's want to hurt such a big part of our history,” she said. “He hasn's responded to us yet, but if he does, we really want to find some solution that will save the house and make him happy.”
The petition and other information about this grassroots effort are posted online at historicalgood.org.