Burnett House preserved as part of Southborough’s history


Photo Jen Fox

The Burnett House, built in 1847, stands at 85 Main Street, Southborough. It was able to avoid demolition after countless supporters fought to conserve the historic building.

Shannon Youngberg, Assistant News Editor

All buildings on the property of the Burnett-Garfield House were legally declared historically preserved at the Southborough Town Meeting on April 11.

After receiving over 2/3 of the necessary vote from Southborough town residents, Article 13 was passed. Sophomore Bridget Brady, one of the first members of the community to fight the demolition of the house, described her nervousness preceding the vote.

“Coming down to the vote was very nerve-racking because it was like a now or never type of thing,” Brady said. “I can’t even describe the feeling when most people raised their hands.”

The house was built in 1847 by original owner Joseph Burnett, who contributed greatly to the town of Southborough. Burnett proposed the founding of St. Mark’s Church, founded St. Mark’s preparatory school and established Deerfoot Farms Company which went on to become Southborough’s leading employer for 20 years.

After Burnett’s death in 1894, the descendants of president James Garfield purchased the home. This historical significance is what inspired so many community members to get involved.

Barbara Burnett, great-granddaughter of Joseph Burnett, stressed the concern she and her family experienced when they discovered the possibility of the house’s demolition.

“We had always maintained that sense of closeness to the house, and so when we heard that the house might be torn down, I, many of my cousins, and my sisters just felt terrible,” Burnett said.

Though the preservation was made possible by countless supporters, sophomores Brady, Kayleigh Travins, Maggie Shoemaker and junior Jen Fox stood by the Burnett House throughout the entire process. When they initially heard about the possibility of the property’s demolition two years ago, they began to protest.

“That whole protest was because Delli Priscoli was going to sell this house to his developer named Robert Moss,” Brady said. “The protest initially was to stop that developer from getting the house because that would’ve had the house knocked down and subdivided into four English cottages.”

Everyone involved in the protests dedicated countless hours to advocating for the preservation of the house.

“The first week we found out, we were all outside from like seven or eight in the morning until it was dark outside and they couldn’t even see us anymore,” Travins said.

Brady’s mother Christa Brady founded the group Friends of the Burnett-Garfield House in hopes of continuing the efforts of the students as they became busy with schoolwork.

We just picked up where the teens left off at the protest, though they also continued to stay involved as much as they could given they were all heading back to school,” Christa Brady said.

The community believed that the town of Southborough would be lacking a sense of its identity if the Burnett-Garfield house were to be torn down.

“I feel like our town would not be the same without the house there,” Brady said. “I think it would drastically change the way we look at our town, and change the way our town looks.”

According to Shoemaker, something that had the possibility of dividing the town ultimately brought it together.

“With [the Burnett-Garfield House], there are so many people that want to get involved, and the town was really just coming together,” Shoemaker said. “We’ve met a ton of great people that really care about preserving history and we just want to make the town the best it can be.”

Burnett expressed her satisfaction with the fact that the efforts to save her great-grandfather’s home were successful.

“It is such a central point for Southborough in terms of its history, and to have it restored is wonderfully happy for us Burnetts, but also for the town of Southborough,” Burnett said.