By Alyssa Borelli, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Since the approval of a $970,000 preservation restriction on the Burnett-Garfield House in April 2016, crews have been working on the 84 Main St. estate, preserving it to its original 19th-century splendor. Owner Jon Delli Priscoli plans to transform the main house into a boutique bed and breakfast and restore the original St. Mark’s chapel, which he hopes to use for weddings and other services in the future.
Local historian Allan Bezanson, an avid photographer and one of the founding members of the Friends of the Burnett-Garfield House, envisions it to be “a high-end bed and breakfast – nothing like it between Worcester and Boston.”
Under the preservation restriction, Priscoli has up to four years to restore the property; he said progress is ahead of schedule. He anticipates exterior work on the property to be completed by winter. Extensive stonework is being done to preserve the exterior, where new grout has been placed and acid washed, due to discoloration over the years.
Last winter, crews started working on the inside of the house, stripping paint, fixing the woodwork, and rebuilding fireplaces. Interior finishes, such as electrical wiring and plumbing, will take place this winter, and hopefully be completed by April of next year. Priscoli hopes to start decorating the inside by next summer.
Last year, work started on the original St. Mark’s chapel, which Priscoli recalled was on the “verge of collapse after years of neglect.” Currently, crews are working on the framing for the floor. The chapel will have exposed beams and offer period decor of which Priscoli has collected from dismantled churches around the state.
“It will be an experience just to walk through,” he promised.
In August, the clearing of damaged and diseased trees took place; new trees will be planted this fall to allow for new growth. The main driveway will be lined with trees similar to those in original photographs of the Burnett homestead.
The Burnett-Garfield House will be renamed “Deerfoot” after the best known and most influential Southborough citizen in the town’s history, Joseph Burnett (1820-1894), founder of St. Mark’s School, St. Mark’s Church, Deerfoot Farm and the commercial enterprise of the nationally known Burnett’s Flavor Extracts. Deerfoot Farm was renowned for importing purebred Jersey and Guernsey cattle, quality milk and sausage.
At one point, Deerfoot Farm was the largest employer in Southborough. Burnett, a descendant of one of the town’s first settlers, was also a principal benefactor of the Southborough Town House and the Public Library by donating the land and providing partial funding.
“The Burnett family did more for Southborough than anybody did,” said Bezanson.
In 1947, Burnett descendants sold the property to Irvin Garfield, a grandson of President James Garfield. In 2010, Priscoli purchased the property and, four years later, in 2014, sought to sell the property to developer Robert Moss, who planned to demolish the home and build four English-style cottages.
Priscoli realized that the necessary work to repair the house would be an arduous undertaking among other business projects he had going on at the time, especially at the Edaville USA, a railroad theme park that he owns.
When Southborough’s then-14-year-old Bridget Brady found out about the possible demolition of the historic estate, she and others started a movement in town to save the house. The Friends of the Burnett-Garfield House was formed, which led grassroots public relations efforts to educate the town on the Burnett family.
A series of discussions with Priscoli and the town of the Southborough ensued, which led to the town approving Community Preservation funds for Priscoli to restore the property.
“[Priscoli] has the experience in construction, passion for preserving the history, and the know-how to do it,” said Bezanson, “In the end, people are going to be happy and proud to be here.”
For ongoing updates on the preservation and history of the Burnett-Garfield House, visit the Friends of the Burnett-Garfield House Facebook page.