Historic Lynnfield Dwelling Remains at a Crossroads
Lynnfield's historic Danforth House will eventually need some serious assistance if it's to be restored. EIther way, the land on which it sits could be used for several town needs in the coming years.
Lynnfield selectmen have declined to support an effort to place the Danforth House on the National Register of Historic Places, pending a review by town counsel. Specifically, town officials want to be certain that the historic designation will not limit future uses for the land or changes to the structure.
As noted in this previous article on Lynnfield Patch, town resident Shelly Lynch has been doing much of the work toward getting the 17th Century house on the national register.
The house, located next to Reedy Meadow Golf Course, was home to one of Lynnfield's earliest settlers and also to a captain of the town's Minutemen at the start of the Revolutionary War. Another previous local history article on this website focused more on the role the house itself has played in Lynnfield's history. For example, a meeting took place on the property some 300 years ago where it was decided to petition for the right to build a meeting house and essentially establish a town separate from Lynn.
The house has been boarded up and is awaiting resolution one way or the other at some point. At Monday night's selectmen's meeting, members of the historical commission maintained that getting the house on the National Register of Historic Places would do nothing more than provide an honorary distinction and also make the building eligible for certain federal restoration grants. Commission member Linda Gillon also cited a 2009 assessment of the building that found it to be structurally sound. However, she also maintained that since then, the house has also suffered some noticable damage in place. Gillon also pointed out that she currently owns a house on the national historic register and would have the right to knock it down tomorrow if she so desired.
However, Town Administrator Bill Gustus noted that despite the architectural and historical significance of the building, parts of it are dilapidated and were added on at various times. One possibility he raised was that a future restoration effort could see some less historically significant or more damaged parts of the building simply removed - or, the most historically significant parts of the house could be incorporated into some other structure, he suggested.
Selectman Bob MacKendrick said that the town had not even set out to acquire the Danforth House in the first place because it has been showing signs of decay for decades. Apparently, the Danforth House simply got passed along to the town with the Reedy Meadow Golf Course land in the 1950s or '60s. MacKendrick also warned that a restoration project would involve spending "a million plus for a building I don't see any use for."
The structure was a private residence from the 1700s until about the mid 1900s, when it became a nursing home. A past structure on the property was apparently occupied by the original Danforth settler in the mid-1600s and parts of it may or may not be incorporated into the current house.
At the meeting, Gustus also pointed out that town's facilities committee is likely to begin working at some point soon on an inventory of town buildings, and would therefore have a role to play in any renovation of the Danforth House. The Town Administrator also offered to have the building inspector check the structure and he also reminded historic commission members that "you need a pretty good idea what you're going to do" when applying for federal grants. Nan Hockenbury, chair of the Historical Commission, reported that restoration grants for the Danforth House would require some sort of commercially viable enterprise to go in there.
The primary reason cited by town officials in not endorsing the effort to get on the historic register was the possibility that it could tie their hands in some future development project nearby. Gustus noted that "many interests in the community are interested in the land around that building." For example, police and fire officials have cited the need for a new public safety building in recent months. There has also been talk of a new library somewhere in town in the future, and others have cited the Danforth property's potential to be the home of a community center.
Editor's Note: Do you have any thoughts on what should be done with the Danforth House? Share your thoughts in the comments box below!