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An eighteenth-century house and farm is currently for sale in Massachusetts, but its historical significance will remain intact thanks to a Historic New England preservation easement.
In July 2014 Phil and Beth Wilson contacted Historic New England to help ensure the long-term preservation of their property in Still River, a hamlet located in Harvard, Massachusetts. Pollard-Marshall House was constructed in 1782 by Captain Thaddeus Pollard, a patriot in the Continental Army, and is a well-preserved and rare example of a double, late-Georgian style house enlarged in the 1830s, when its hipped roof was replaced with an end-gable roof.
This single-family home retains many exterior and interior features original to its date of construction, including its entry, central staircase, door and window hardware, plaster, and woodwork. Of special note: a swinging partition wall on the second story, an interior well with original counterweight, and two unfinished fireboxes in the attic. The site comprises two parcels of rich agricultural land totaling 16.41 acres with an eighteenth-century bank barn, pond, and a registered American Sycamore tree believed to be 400 years old (the third oldest in the state).
Since purchasing the property in 1994 the Wilsons have carefully restored and cared for the house and site, but now plan to sell the property to move on to another restoration project. “When we alerted our friends that we were interested in selling our farm after reaching our twentieth-year restoration milestone, we were a little shocked by some of the comments that we heard,” Beth Wilson said recently. “Common questions were, ‘how many linear feet of road frontage do you have?’ and ‘how many buildable lots do you have on your 16.4 acres?’”
Phil added, “We had visions of a developer coming in and giving us our asking price and then, later, announcing that the house had to go because the developer wanted to maximize the lot and achieve a maximum of building lots in the development plan. That kept us up at night, for sure!”
The Wilsons explained how challenging it has been to find a way to protect their farm from development in spite of the many preservation programs that exist through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ farming community grapevine. “If you’re an advocate for the small-farm preservation movement, you often hear about a number of well-known preservation programs, but once you dig into the fine details of these programs,” said Phil Wilson, “the difficulties of protecting and preserving a small farm become evident.”
He continued, “It’s just amazing how tough the process can be. Beth and I were at the end of our rope. It was only then that we realized that we had not yet spoken to Historic New England, which we’ve known about for over thirty years.”
Now, the Wilsons plan to ensure the long-term preservation of their property through a preservation easement that they will donate to Historic New England prior to the sale. The easement protects the property from future subdivision and development while also protecting site features, the exterior of the house, and important interior features, such as the woodwork, mantelpieces, door hardware and flooring, and the barn.
Learn more about working with Historic New England’s Preservation Easement Program to protect significant features of your home.