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Vote sought Wednesday on moving historic Sawin House in Natick

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  March 4, 2013 03:07 PM

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Officials from the Natick Historical Society are seeking a vote Wednesday from the town's Historical District Commission on whether the society can move forward with conceptual plans to relocate the historic Sawin House from the Audubon Society's Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary to Shaw Park.

The 18th century home, billed as the first one built in Natick by European settlers, has declined into a state of disrepair at Broadmoor because the Audubon organization lacks the funds necessary for upkeep. The Shaw Park location is a small space about a mile-and-a-half down the road from the sanctuary.

Stephen Evers, a historical society board member, said the society wishes to get conceptual approval from the commission so they can move ahead with gaining the okay from other town boards.and raising the $750,000 needed for the project.

Permission from the commission is necessary because Shaw Park is in a historic district.

Once the society has raised the funds and received necessary approval from other town boards - which could take years, they said - they will circle back to the Historical District Commission to get an official Certificate of Appropriateness, which states that the project is appropriate for the historic district and meets local code standards.

"We want conceptual approval to raise funds and go before other other town boards, and then we'll come back to them with the final product," Evers said.

Historical Society president James Morley told the Globe last week that it would be easiest to take apart the vacant 18th century home and reassemble it at Shaw Park, also restoring it to its original interior and opening it for tours to the public.

"It would be the only historic home in Natick open to the public," Morley had said, noting that the home was built by Thomas Sawin, a miller who was invited into Natick by the Praying Indians tribe.

If the plan goes forward, the society would also use the house as their main headquarters. Their collection of historical Natick artifacts have outgrown the current society offices at the Bacon Free Library, Morley said.

Broadmoor Sanctuary director Elissa Landre said the house was gifted to the Aududon Society in the 1960s with the land that it stands on.

Landre said there are no immediate plans to demolish the house, but noted that the organization is keeping all its options open.

"If it came to a point of needing additional significant expensive work, then I don’t know what we’d do," she said. "We’d have to revisit it."

Landre said that the Audubon Society cannot afford more than the basic structural upkeep and insurance on the home.

"It's hanging in there, but it's in pretty severe shape," she said of the house. "I'm really hoping the commission will decide to approve the use of Shaw Park."

If the society gains town approval for the project, Landre said the sanctuary would mark off the home's original resting place and direct visitors to the house if they so wish.

"We recognize the historic value," she said. "We would work cooperatively to interpret the current location, and we would mark the foundation site, at the very least."

The meeting will take place at 7:45 p.m. this Wednesday, March 6, at Natick Town Hall on East Central Street.

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