Saving the Sarah and Peter Clayes House
For over ten years, the Sarah Clayes House Trust has worked tirelessly to preserve this enormously important property. The house has been uninhabited since the 1990s, as it was caught up in the previous owners’ divorce, the securitization of failed mortgages, and the housing crisis of the new century. For years we couldn’t even find out which banked owned the property, as the mortgage was passed from bank to bank, a miniscule part of massive bundled securities. But finally, after years of chasing the mortgage, we discovered which financial organization owned the property, and after many more years of negotiating with the bank, we received a donation of the house to our project in December 2015.
Throughout these years, we also accomplished a great deal. We built a website and created an e-newsletter that now reaches close to 300 people, all of whom have asked to be included in our efforts. We created partnerships with the Foundation for Metrowest and then the Land Conservation Advocacy Trust, who agreed to serve as our fiscal sponsors so that we can accept tax-deductible gifts to our project. We have raised over $25,000 in small gifts from hundreds of people, mostly in the $50-100 range. In 2006 we nominated the property for PreservationMASS’ Top Ten Most Endangered Massachusetts Properties, and it was accepted. In 2008 we worked with the local Historic District Commission to name the house a single-property historic district. In 2011 we organized a neighborhood clean-up of the outside of the property, and over forty people helped us clear out invasive brush that was slowly eroding the house foundation. We have also boarded up the windows and installed signage to detract vandals. Our progress has been written about in The Boston Globe and Metrowest Daily News.
Our overall goal is to preserve one of the most historically significant properties in metrowest Boston, thereby protecting and sharing the important stories that the house represents.
We explored many options for the property but the only practical and feasible plan is to restore the property, reserve preservation easements and restrictions and make the house a home again. After entertaining numerous proposals from private parties interested in undertaking the restoration, we were able to secure private financing so that we can now proceed with the restoration ourselves, with the help of a master craftsman and building professional.
In July of 2017, we presented our plan to the Framingham Historic District Commission and gained their approval. We are now applying for building permits and getting underway. We will be posting updates and are hoping that the house will be on the market by next Spring.
The Clayes House has been in such disrepair and uninhabited for so very long that many people have thought it was lost. Hundreds of people have come to us over the past decade, wanting to help but not having the means to make significant financial donations. We could have given up on this project at countless junctures during the years, when we hit yet another wall with another bank, when we couldn’t fundraise in earnest because we didn’t own the property, or when the amount of work required just seemed too daunting. But every time things looked desperate, we remembered Sarah’s story and how imperative it is to save this house from the wrecking ball. We’ve lost too many of our historic structures already, and each time we’ve lost another piece of our past. We were rewarded for our diligence when we learned that the bank won the foreclosure auction in October 2015, freeing the house to donate to us.
For more information about the house’s historic significance, see the Bill Finch report here.