Framingham 'Witch House' May Become Bed & Breakfast Oct 23, 2016 20:11:56 GMT -5
Post by Joanna on Oct 23, 2016 20:11:56 GMT -5
Framingham 'Witch House' May Become Bed & Breakfast
FRAMINGHAM, Mass. – After being saved by preservationists last year, Framingham’s historic “witch house” may soon have a new rôle in the hospitality industry. Volunteers working to restore the Sarah Clayes (aka Sarah Cloyce) House at 657 Salem End Road are exploring a new plan to operate portions of the property as a bed and breakfast. Janice Thompson, a member of the Sarah Clayes House Trust, said renting out rooms on the upper floors could help generate the revenue needed to preserve the building as a public resource. "It's my dream,” she said Friday. “I really hope we can do it.”
The group continues to raise money to restore the dilapidated home, which is sited on the homestead established in the late 17th century by Sarah and Peter Clayes. The pair fled persecution in Salem after Sarah Clayes was charged with witchcraft. While two of her sisters – Rebecca Nurse and Mary Easty – were hanged, Clayes, though found guilty, was spared that fate. Members of the family would later help settle the town of Framingham; Peter Clayes signed the charter for Framingham's 1700 incorporation and served on its first board of selectmen.
Taking control of the property was a major triumph for Thompson and members of the trust, who toiled for years to identify the mortgage holder for the site, then convinced banking giant Goldman Sachs to donate the property to be preserved. Since taking over the site in December, Thompson said the trust has installed a new security fence and removed debris and several trees. Working with its fiscal sponsor, the Land Conservation and Advocacy Trust, the group also hired an architect to begin planning restoration work.
Evidence suggests it is unlikely the home standing on the property today is the original constructed in the 1690s by Sarah Clayes and her husband. An expert who studied the building two years ago determined the oldest section – the rectangular portion visible from the street – was likely erected in the mid-1770s. Thompson said the group believes the existing home sits on the foundation of the original structure, which was identified on a map dating back to the 1690s. The group hopes to learn more about the age of the building by testing wood samples and potentially conducting an archaeological dig under the basement.
An early estimate priced the cost of restoring the property at $1.3 million. Thompson said the trust plans to rehabilitate the oldest portion of the building and tear down and rebuild two additions that protrude from the rear. "It would look the same, or similar,” she said, “but the back part would be new from the ground up.”
While the trust has long aimed to convert the property into a museum, Thompson explained it would be challenging to sustain the operation with revenue from ticket sales alone. The group also lacks an endowment to provide regular income. Instead, she said the group is now pursuing two approaches: finding an investor willing to purchase the property and place a historic preservation easement on it; and renting out rooms to guests.
The trust is touting the bed and breakfast approach in its latest fundraising appeal, an online fundraising page* that went live about three weeks ago. The page has been shared more than 2,000 times and has generated close to $4,000 worth of donations, Thompson said, including several from donors who weren’t previously in contact with the trust. In all, the group has raised $45,000 toward an initial goal of $100,000 to begin restorations. It is also pursuing grants and funding from the state. We have a lot of irons in the fire in terms of grants and fundraising, Thompson confirmed.
Source: Jim Haddadin, The MetroWest Daily News, October 22, 2016.
*Donate to the Sarah and Peter Clayes House Trust: www.lcatrust.org/fsp/sarah-and-peter-clayes-house-trust/