By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor
Northborough – When news broke that the historic White Cliffs estate was up for sale, murmurs and rumors reverberated throughout the community. Fans of the iconic property hoped someone would step forward and continue to run the popular restaurant which has served as the scene for numerous weddings and other special events for last 40 years. A Facebook page, “Save the White Cliffs” quickly garnered over 2,000 friends. Others hoped that possibly the town itself could become the new owner while others (incorrectly) said the property was already doomed to soon come under the wrecking ball in order to make way for new homes.
But there are only two things for certain as of this time, according to Michael L. Durkin, a Realtor with LAER Realty Partners, who is representing the current owners, the LaCava family.
While there has been a great deal of interest, there are currently no significant offers for the property, Durkin said. And after White Cliffs hosts its last function Monday, Dec. 15, its doors under the current owners will close for good.
Northborough resident Carol Chione recalled that her “earliest childhood memory of the White Cliffs was when I made my first communion and we went out to eat in the ‘castle.’”
“We did not have a lot of money so going there was a huge treat. To this day I remember how much I loved it. I was in awe,” she recalled.
Many on the Facebook page, like Chione, are hoping that White Cliffs will be purchased and either continue on as a function hall or be turned into a bed and breakfast or museum.
But finding the right buyer for the 18,000-square-foot facility, which sits on 6.5 acres, will not be easy, Durkin acknowledged. The property, which is listed for $2 million, will also require at least another $2 million for upgrades, maintenance and to make it ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant.
White Cliffs was built in 1886 as a “summer home” for Daniel Wesson, one half of one of the most successful firearms companies in the world, Smith and Wesson, and his wife, Cynthia, who was a native of Northborough. The 18,865-square-foot mansion was estimated to cost $300,000 at the time.
The main building 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.
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.
On the evening of Nov. 16 the Northborough Historical Society hosted an event that allowed guests to wander the mansion one last time and marvel at the spectacular, woodwork, chandeliers and flooring.
“I’ve been here many times,” Marlborough resident Al Broz said. “The workmanship here is just exquisite. You don’t see examples such as this that much anymore.”
“It’s really a very special place,” Normand Corbin, a member of the Historical Society’s board who attended with his wife, Linda. “But it’s going to take a really motivated buyer to purchase it and retain it as it is.”
Possible options such as preservation restrictions on the property were cumbersome and expensive, he noted, as was utilizing Community Preservation Acts funds.
“Because not only do you have to think about the price, you have to think about maintenance costs,” he said.