FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — After granting a six-month reprieve to two historic South Street homes late last month, the historic commission has unanimously voted to delay demolition of another property on the street.
“South Street is in danger,” declared Rev. Edward Cardoza of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church who is a resident of Foxborough. “We are a charming New England town. Do not remove that charm.”
Along with his partner, Cardoza had wanted to buy the home at 85 South St., built in 1803, and restore it to its former glory after it had been repossessed from a former owner. The historic commission had supported the couple’s efforts.
However, Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association, repeatedly told Cardoza it was unknown when the house would go up for sale, he said.
“All we got all the time was, ‘We don’t know when it’s coming up for sale. That’s a complicated thing. We don’t know when it’s going on sale,'” he said. “That is not disclosure. It’s not what I expect from a federal agency. It prevents knowledge and information and it’s not transparent.”
Thirteen months after it was first repossessed, it was sold to Mark Carroll, a Foxborough resident and owner of Carroll Construction, who said he bought it with the sole intention of demolishing it.
“That’s what I do,” Carroll said. “I buy un-repairable buildings, tear them down and build new ones. I wouldn’t have bought it if it wasn’t un-repairable.”
Carroll intends to build a single-family home on the property, and is unsure of what it will look like yet. He presented a preliminary plan at the meeting, but said it is subject to change.
Before the building was in Fannie Mae’s care, Cardoza said it was in “pretty good condition, considering what was happening.”
However, the company neglected the building, he said, and failed to perform repairs or winterize it.
Jack Authelet, town historian, said the historical commission has reached out to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office about Fannie Mae’s conduct.
“It was a difficult experience,” he said of Fannie Mae interactions. “Here in our own country, our own government became the biggest detriment to any restoration plan.”
He said they couldn’t get in contact with Fannie Mae for months, and were unable to notify them of the repairs that were needed on the house.
“The deterioration was accelerating, the frustration was high and Fannie Mae was just a non-entity really,” he said.
Warren’s office is collecting information about Fannie Mae, and its interactions with communities.
Authelet said they are extremely interested in the 85 South St. case.
The home, also known as the Squire Elias Nason House, was built in 1803 for Elias Nason, a town selectman, and is one of the oldest homes in Foxborough.
Cardoza encouraged Carroll to build something different if he demolishes the historic home.
“I drive down that street all the time. Demolishing that building and putting that (single-family home) in there does not seem at all in keeping with the history of this town at all,” he said.
Nancy Tucker-Witt, granddaughter of the former owner, Robert Estes, said while she understands it’s difficult to renovate old homes, every effort should be made to save the dwelling.
Tucker-Witt grew up in the home, and owns neighboring property 83 South St., which she rents to a family friend.
“I have a lot of fond memories of that house,” she said, adding she is grateful there are people who would like to restore it.
“Because of its historic value and connection to the town of Foxborough, I believe every effort should be made to restore it as much as possible,” she said.
Mark Demaesschalck, a Foxborough resident who has experience restoring homes, said if the owner goes through with the demolition, he would be interested in recycling parts of the home and if possible, even moving the whole front part of the house.
Information from: The (Attleboro, Mass.) Sun Chronicle, http://www.thesunchronicle.com