During a recent getaway to Newport, R.I., and visits to a couple of the mansions there (Marble House, The Elms), we came across a “Lost Newport” display on the many mansions that were demolished. We couldn’t help but think of the ongoing housing transition in Wellesley, where sort of the opposite is happening: Older and typically smaller homes are being wiped out to make way for bigger ones, sometimes of the McMansion variety.
Newport still has a select few mansions to show off, including some — like The Elms — that were barely saved thanks to the efforts of the Preservation Society of Newport County. Others, like the Astors’ Beechwood “cottage,” have been gobbled up by the new rich and may or may not allow public access (in Beechwood’s case, Oracle founder and gazillionaire Larry Ellison bought the property and is said to be turning at least part of it into a museum to contain some of his art collection).
As the Townsman recently noted, Wellesley’s Historical Commission has limited power to save the town’s older houses, though it is possible the town could consider instituting more historic districts or reworking zoning rules in an effort to save some of Wellesley’s old look and feel.
If so, maybe someday visitors to Wellesley will be taking tours of the Hunnewell mansion and others built more recently.