Remembering a family’s legacy in Northborough

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By Bonnie Adams, Managing Editor

‘The Maynard Home’ to be demolished after 259 years

The home at 222 West Main St. as it currently stands.
photo/Bonnie Adams

Northborough – When an old home is taken down, there is often a mix of emotions, not the least of them sadness. A home of course is not just a structure; rather, it is a place that has offered shelter, comfort, refuge and more, sometimes for generations. That was indeed the case for one Northborough home, located at 222 West Main St.

The home, built in 1760, will soon be no more as it has been sold and eventually razed.

For Beverly French Keigwin, whose family owned the home for generations prior to its sale in 2017, this is especially sad.

Its earliest owners were familiar names in the region, Keigwin said, including Maynard, Ettinger and Knowlton. Formally known by the Mass. Historical Commission as “The Maynard Home,” the house is a brick one and a half story Colonial Cottage with a one story gable roofed, three car garage.

Three generations lived together in the home then owned by her grandfather, Fred Herbert French, Sr. and his wife Linnie [Coddens] French, in the early 1940s, just as WWII was beginning.

“It was a ‘gentleman’s farm,’” she recalled, “which meant is provided just enough for us. We had a team of work horses, a cow, a goat, and many chickens. There was enough land for the hay that the animals needed and the necessary vegetable garden for us.”

As it turns out, Keigwin’s father, Fred Herbert French, Jr. had no interest in farming.

“My dad reasoned that the returning veterans would need starter homes and could use their GI Bills to buy them,” Keigwin said.

So gone was the “gentleman’s Farm,” she said, and in came the Small Homes Company, which later became the F.H. French Company.

“He could build three houses in a good day,” she added. The company later built commercial buildings throughout New England as well.

When not running his business, her father enjoyed rebuilding cars, especially exotic ones, she added, and even raced some of them.

After Keigwin and her husband, Jack, purchased F.H. French Company from her parents when the older couple retired, they focused on building turnkey office parks and medical facilities. Their daughter Jen Cookke now runs the company from its Lincoln, Rhode Island office.

“My dad would be very proud. He was the genius, hands on builder, tall and strong, but the company has a proud history of female influences, starting with my super capable mother,” Marjorie (Burgoyne) French. Keigwin said. “The legacy of the home and the growth and  development of Northboro is forever intertwined.”

As for the former homestead, Keigwin knows that things change and not everything can be saved. Because of its dilapidated condition, the current owner, Abu Construction, applied for a demolition for the property last March, which was granted.

Fred Herbert French, Jr. photo/courtesy Beverly Keigwin

According to Anthony Abu, the house most likely will be demolished in March. Three houses are anticipated to then be built on the property, with two remaining lots still to be determined.

An early brochure for the F.H. French Company photo/courtesy Beverly Keigwin

 

The French family, circa 1950s
photo/courtesy Beverly Keigwin