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POLL: What Would You Do With The Danforth House?

Once a week, Lynnfield Patch takes a vacant property in town and ask readers what they think should be done with it. Here's a doozy for you.

Last week, this website ran a "?" column that generated some great comments and ideas about small businesses that could potentially go into the spot once occupied by Karen's Bakery.

This week, I'm going to take things in a somewhat different direction, with an eye on another Lynnfield property that has been in a couple of local media outlets in recent weeks - The Danforth House. But first, the whole thing is going to require a little bit of background information dating back several centuries.

To a number of town residents, the Danforth House is otherwise known as that big red abandoned structure right next to the . During a visit this week to the town's History House, I learned just how significant this place is to the history of Lynnfield.

Historical Society and Historical Commission Chair Nan Hockenbury reports that the Danforth House is a First Period structure, with an original portion that dates back to 1692 and other parts added later. A sign remaining on the house states that it was built by Nathaniel Bancroft, captain of the Lynn End Minute Men, in 1744. Bancroft joined fellow Lynnfielder Daniel Townsend at the battle of Menotomy in Arlington, which was basically an extension of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which formally started the Revolutionary War on April 18, 1775. At some point early in the war, muskets were also hidden in the upper level of the Old Meeting House, less than a 10 minute walk from the house. Last Patriot's Day, the talked a bit about Townsend and also featured some videos taken in Lexington of the Patriot's Day re-enactors.

Hockenbury reported that the Danforth House stayed in that family until 1928 - with an added interesting detail being that all of the Danforth men were named John.

In 1953, the building became a nursing home and a few decades later, fell into disuse and eventually, a growing level of disrepair. The structure was recently boarded up to try to prevent additional damage from the elements, and there is apparently some roof damage as well.

Given the red "X" signs that adorn the building (meaning the firefighters are not supposed to enter the building if it catches on fire - not that it's outright condemned), one could reasonably speculate that the historic home's days are winding down rapidly. However, members of the Historical Commission maintain that the structure can indeed be saved and eventually given new life of some sort - although at town hall the feeling may be more that the property is too far gone - especially given the number of small rooms it contains left over from the nursing home days. After all, those small rooms would also undermine the concept a couple of this website's readers have offered in past months about putting a youth center in there.

A restoration effort of this scope would generally depend on federal grants, and government preservation guidelines apparently place certain limits on the kind of commercial enterprises that could go in afterward. The historic structure is also located on town land. So in other words, nobody is going in there just to set up a coffee shop or anything along those lines.

During my conversation with Hockenbury, two ideas that came up for the Danforth House were a restaurant and a bed and breakfast . Personally, I think that either one of those ideas sound like a great addition to that part of town. But either way, I'm more interested in asking you, the people of Lynnfield - what would you like to see done with this property? Share your opinion in the poll or in the comments section below!

Also, if you are interested in getting involved with the Lynnfield Historical Commission as a volunteer or in some other capacity, email lhc@town.lynnfield.ma.us.

Nikki March 13, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Great article. It is shameful to let this house go into such a state of disrepair.
William Laforme (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Thanks Nikki - I'm amazed it took me that long to learn some of these things myself. I did have an opportunity I wish I had had the timne and resources for a couple of months ago to do something with this, but either way. I'd love to actually be able to take a look around inside, although it doesn't seem like that opportunity will be presenting itself to anybody in the near future. As a Revolutionary War buff, the place has a powerful feeling of history to it even in disrepair.
William Laforme (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 01:29 PM
And as I noted on the Lynnfield Patch Facebook page, somebody remind me to stop writing headlines during the small hours of the night. At least unlike one typo I made years ago, this one is fortunately still fit to end up in a family-friendly publication.
Ruth Kendrew March 13, 2012 at 03:28 PM
A building that is so historic should be preserved and used as a museum with the history of Lynnfield. I'm sure you could find enough to display. It's always fun to see how people lived years ago.
Frank Petras March 13, 2012 at 03:38 PM
what needs to be taken down in Lynnfield is Perley Burrells Gas Station, What a disgrace and blight on the town!
William Laforme (Editor) March 13, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Hi Frank, I did try to get a story over there once but didn't get very far. The place has definitely seen better days in several ways it would seem.
Margaret Schenkel March 14, 2012 at 04:25 PM
So grateful to Mrs. Hockenbury for her work with the Historical Society to try to save the Danforth House sharing the plight of this house . It needs to be restored, not demolished. Decisions of this magnitude need to be aired town wide, after all the Danforth House is owned by the town. It's future needs to be determined by town residents. Preserving historic Lynnfield structures are very important for posterity. Diappointed to learn that it has a demolition cross on it and wondering who is responsible for this decision . What is the reason for letting this building deteriorate ?What is the long range plan for this property ? Reading that a local dentist wanted to relocate his office there; his request falling on deaf ears was disturbing. I am one of the Registered Nurses who worked at the Danforth House ; love the house, and its history. It was also home to many elderly residents who received excellent care and comfort during their stay there. Staff was told that financial difficulties was the reason it had to close. The management owned the Arnold House, a private nursing home in Stoneham, Ma. A decision was made to close Danforth House because it was impossible for management to operate both homes . It was with a heavy heart that all the wonderful staff goodbye. Danforth House is a historical home in need of restoration, not a wrecking ball. I am asking the Selectmen to please present a plan to preserve this home for our town
Dorothy March 15, 2012 at 08:53 AM
I would love to see a bed and breakfast there. How wonderful that would be and how great to share the history with like minded individuals. The house needs to be preserved. A comment on Perley Burrell: This is also part of the town's history. William, how about a piece on Perley's?
Kerry Gillon Goodwin March 16, 2012 at 03:01 PM
My friend's mother and her friend were also nurses there!
linda April 17, 2012 at 03:30 PM
With the concerns of the number of historic residences being demolished and the land being used to build either new mega houses or subdivided for multiple homes, it seems to me that this town would be jumping at the chance to save the Danforth House. This town has a very rich history in the fight for our Independence and such properties and tribute to those families who contributed so much to who we are today should be first and foremost. The greatest tribute would be to preserve these historic homes at any and all costs. Why are we always so quick to wipe out the existance of our history in the name of progress or the almighty dollar. I would rather see the money for the proposed multi sports complex be spent on the Danforth house. We already have fields in town and the new middle school. Which by the way, didn't we pay for these fields in our taxes, and also didn't we spend our tax dollars on irrigation to some of these field? So, that being said, SAVE the Danforth house with that money. Restore it to its original glory. There must be civic minded contractors out there and around town willing to help and be proud to claim that they helped save one of our town's most historic residences. PLEASE save our history.

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