HISTORIC HOUSE; Some say Keep the Property, More Say Sell It

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A task force whose 13 members completed their role more than a year ago has so far failed to trigger action by the select board.

The matter involves a damaged house purchased by the town, a  survey of more than 1,300 respondents, and a shortage of parking spaces and seating in and around Town Hall. In 2018 at special Town Meeting, voters appropriated $700,000 to purchase the land and its buildings.

Task force members were asked to find a use for the property or determine whether to sell it.

The house stands between Town Hall at 55 Main St., and the Roudenbush Children’s Center at 65 Main St. Ellen Harde, who filed the special Town Meeting citizens petition to sell the house and some of its land, said the house is part of the Westford Center National Historic District. 

Former selectman and task force Chair Elizabeth Almeida did not return an email seeking comment.

The building’s attic was destroyed in 2016 by a three-alarm fire.

Harde is a town historian who coauthored the 2004 update of the Old Houses of Westford. She is often credited with maintaining the town Common and ensuring its beauty.

“Passing Article 24 will authorize the selectmen to carry out the sale and keep it a home,” Harde wrote in a Letter to the Editor.

63 Main St. after fire damaged the attic. COURTESY PHOTO

The task force survey, completed in 2018, showed that 54.2 percent of the respondents would like to see the house sold as a single family residence with a historic restriction.

“The selectmen oppose Article 24, wanting to further explore the idea of
renovating the house and possibly adding on to it for administrative office space for
school administration offices or offices for other town departments,” Harde stated.

But among the comments task force members collected was this: “I think what I’m most concerned about is that the historic integrity of the residential home is maintained. I, like many who have grown up in Westford, and have returned to raise our kids, adore this lovely yellow house.”

Another commenter said this: “Before agreeing to any use, I would like a sense of the needs of the town. Where is the greatest need for space – school admin, other dept., meeting space????”

The house and carriage house were built in 1893 on a 3-acre parcel. Harde said the property could be divided to host the two buildings which are visible from Main Street and to provide 32 parking spaces.

Parking and meeting space are recognized by town officials as insufficient for the numbers of residents who show up to select board meetings when a hot topic is on the agenda.

UPDATES

Correction: Ellen Harde was not a member of the 63 Main St. Task force.

Clarification: The land connected to 63 Main St. is located behind the house at 59 Main St.