White Cliffs – Life after the Wessons

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Submitted by Normand Corbin, Chair, Northborough Historic District Commission

Northboro Manor Main Entrance 1940s. Photo/courtesy Northborough Historical Society

Northborough – This is the concluding article in my series on the Wesson Summer Mansion in Northborough. This article is about the property owners after Daniel and Cynthia Wesson.

Mr. Alfred Thomas acquired the property from the Wesson family in 1910. Mr. Thomas was born in England and was a street railway vice president in Worcester. He was quoted as saying “The place appealed to me because of its English style. An Englishman is brought up to like trees and flowers about him, and that’s just what appeals to me most on this property.” The estate was used as a summer home until 1926.

Mr. George Rousell owned the property from 1928 to 1942. I have been unable to find any information regarding his use of the property. If anyone has some information please contact me.

The property was owned by the Panepirotic Federation of America in the early 1940’s. This society was founded in Worcester, Mass. in 1942. It was created to improve the economic situation and quality of life for the people living in Epirus. Epirus is a historical region now shared between Greece and Albania along the Adriatic coastline. From their website, panepirotic.org, Epirotes from all over the East Coast of the United States met for several days at an estate in Northboro, Mass. (White Cliffs  Property?) and forged the first national organization in July of 1942.

Felician Rojcewicz owned it from 1945 and his son Albert from 1949 until the property was sold in 1953. The Rojcewicz family changed their name to Rogers in 1953. I was fortunate to track down Albert Rogers with the assistance of Mrs. Claire Swan. Mr. Rogers served as an Army Flyer in WWII serving three and a half years in China. Starting in May 1946, the property operated as a restaurant called the “Northboro Manor”. Mr. Rogers mentioned how challenging running the restaurant was and that he needed a second job to make ends meet. A dinner of baked lobster thermidor with French fries, dessert and coffee was $2.50.  A tenderloin steak sandwich went for 60 cents with a 40 cent Pabst beer. They had bands for live music. In 1953 they incorporated “The Cliffs” and were planning a 2 million dollar renovation of the 28 acre property. It was to open as a private club. The alterations were to include a motel, swimming pool, year round ice rink, tennis courts, golf course, bowling alley and stables. Sadly the project never obtained the funding it needed and the property was sold.

Five Tomaiolo brothers purchased the property in 1953 and ran it as the White Cliffs Restaurant and Function Facility until 1985. I was able to contact Mr. Frank Tomaiolo, a nephew to the owners, for some history. In 1969 a large kitchen and the large Leonardo Room addition was added. The function room was named after the family patriarch Leonardo Tomaiolo. The expansion increased the capacity of the facility by another 325 guests. This establishment was well known for the quality of their Italian food and was a major function facility in the local area. Many of Northborough’s current residents have fond memories of the Tomaiolo years, especially those who worked there. A descendant is still in the restaurant business today and runs A.J. Tomaiolo’s in Northborough.

From 1985 to 2017 the property was owned by the LaCava family as part of their holdings under their Realty Trust businesses. They focused their operations on providing a facility for functions and stopped the daily restaurant business. White Cliffs was a great venue for many memorable events over the years including private functions, weddings and Northborough’s annual Winter Ball. During their ownership, much of the original acreage associated with the property was sold for residential and commercial development. In particular, properties along Stratton Way were once part of the White Cliffs Estate.

After more than 70 years serving the public as a combination restaurant and/or function facility, the property was put up for sale in January 2014. Due to the lack of a buyer, demolition was scheduled to start in 2016 to make room for residential house lots. At the April 2016 Northborough Town Meeting town members voted to have the town purchase the property and save it from demolition. The purchase was finalized in September 2017.  A town committee has been formed to address the future reuse of the property. The goal of the committee is to work with the community and identify a long term opportunity that will keep this historic landmark as a key resource for Northborough.

To read other stories in this series, visit www.communityadvocate.com and put in “Normand Corbin” in the search bar on the top right hand of the page.

Albert Rojcewicz and his father Felician. Photo/courtesy Northborough Historical Society