Part two of a two part series on the historic 156 Pleasant St., Northborough home
By Normand D. Corbin, Contributing Writer
Northborough – By 1890, Walter Allen had acquired the entire property from the heirs. It appears he never married. An atlas of Worcester County reviews Walter’s farm. It was called “Maple Farm” and contained 30 acres. It produced milk, small fruit and vegetables. The property contained a farmhouse, three barns, and a good source for water. Walter was also an assessor for the town. Upon his death, the property was left to his sister, Harriet, who owned it until her death. Upon the death of Harriet, the land became the property of another brother’s son. Their brother George Allen (who was a Civil War Veteran) had married and moved to Kansas. Upon the early death of his wife, George moved back to Northborough with his young family in 1899. Eventually, George’s son, Harry, bought the farm. Harry Allen graduated from the Massachusetts Agricultural College with a BS degree in 1897, so was well educated regarding agriculture. He was also involved with town committees, including acting as the secretary of the public safety Committee during WWI and was Town Clerk for 35 years. It is well known that he conducted much of his Town Clerk business in the front room of the house. As a farmer he grew asparagus and strawberries. He passed away in 1955. The farm was divided and left to his surviving brothers and sisters. His sister Mary Allen was left the house and 17 acres of land. She had several large barns torn down. It was said that some of the large beams were used by Henry Ford during restoration of the Wayside Inn in Sudbury. Mary was known to be a wonderful woman and a friend to many. The property including a house, barn and some 23 acres of land was sold to Sandy and Betty Russell in 1967. This ended the roughly 250 years of the property being used for farming and associated with the Fay family name.
When Sandy and Betty Russell moved in, the property had had very little restoration work done for many years except for some painting. Although they wanted to preserve as much of the antique as possible, it was clear that a new kitchen, bathrooms and a heating system were required. Betty was a long standing member of the Historical Society. Sandy was a charter president of the Northborough Rotary Club. He was also a founding member of Northcourt Swim and Tennis Club in Northborough. He served in the Navy and Naval Reserve from 1953 to 1986. Sandy passed away in 2017. Betty sold the now 4 acre property for $575,000 in the spring of 2018. She passed away in 2019.
The new owners saw an opportunity to divide the property into four single family house lots that required the demolition of the original 1738 house and barn. Demolition occurred in December of 2019.
It is important to know that only property owners can save antique homes from demolition. The key is to educate owners of antiques about the value of long term protection for their home. The challenge today is that many home buyers are uninterested in purchasing properties needing restoration and upgrades, they desire move-in conditions. This makes old properties with significant acreage attractive to property developers. Although not considered in this situation, there are many examples throughout Northborough where new construction is built around an antique. Hopefully we will see more of this approach in the future.
Part one of this article was in the Feb. 28, 2020 issue of the Community Advocate.