It was this time last summer that the Wellesley Historical Society, as part of Phase 1 of a capital campaign, made the big move to pay off its $400k mortgage on the Stanwood House, the Society’s future offices and exhibit spaces located at 323 Washington St. The stately 5,000 sq. ft. historic building, built in 1916, was the home of notable physician Dr. Frederic Stanwood and his family throughout most of the last century. Dr. Stanwood also saw patients in a small examination room at the back of the house, and he served on the Wellesley Board of Health for over 40 years.
So if the building, purchased in 2012 for $1M, is owned free and clear, what’s stopping the Society from pulling up stakes from its current location at the Dadmun-McNamara House in Wellesley Hills and moving down the street? Wellesley Historical Society executive director Taylor Kalloch says Phase 2 of the capital campaign is all about the climate control.
History needs to chill out
“The HVAC system is the next big hurdle as far as overall building safety for the collections,” she said in a Zoom interview. “It’s definitely not collection-friendly at the moment as far as temperature and humidity goes. There’s no air conditioning and therefore also no way to dehumidify the building. For the collections we’re really striving to hit between 40% and 60% humidity in a 50-60 degree temperature range.”
In addition Kalloch says the basement, which will hold the bulk of the collection’s storage, needs significant work. Currently, heavy rains can lead to wetness in the basement, an issue that must be resolved before potentially fragile artifacts such as maps, photographs, art, and textiles can safely exist in the space.
The progress on bringing an old house built for 20th-century family living up to today’s standards as an archive repository has been slow but continual. As part of Phase 2 the first floor of the Stanwood House has been outfitted with overhead lighting. “We have LED track lighting. It’s super-functional for exhibit spaces,” Kalloch said. In addition, a picture rail has been added, the first floor rooms received a fresh coat of paint, an outdated bathroom was brought up to code and made accessible, and ramps have been installed. In addition, two expensive additions—UV blocking film on the windows, and purpose-built storage systems for safekeeping of historical collections— are needed before collections can be displayed.
“We have probably another half a million to $600k worth of construction to tackle in Phase 2,” Kalloch said, estimating that realistically it will take 18 months to two years to raise that kind money.
Until these changes are achieved the collections, including the famed 2,400 entomological specimens that are part of the Denton collection, will remain at the Dadmun-McNamara house.
Dadmun-McNamara, cramped as it is, does hold a couple of important advantages over the Stanwood House—windows that can hold air conditioning units, and a basement that stays dry during heavy rains and can ward off the damp with the aid of three dehumidifiers. It is Kalloch’s Sisyphean task to empty those dehumidifiers. Presumably the Stanwood House will get one of those fancy dehumidifying units that drains the water outside of the structure so as to relieve Society staff and volunteers of the dreaded daily bucket brigade chores.
Despite the challenges, Stanwood House can be used in certain capacities before the completion of Phase 2. “Eventually we’d like to hold some of our smaller educational groups. Book club could meet there, or we could get our board meetings back in person there. We could do small exhibit openings, things like that,” Kalloch said.
Once Phase 2 is complete, Phase 3 will kick in and the Society will work toward laying the groundwork to put together an endowment specifically to help cover the upkeep costs of maintaining a historic building. “Like any house, sometimes it feels like things break faster than you can fix them,” she said.
Are there any old-house dwellers in Wellesley who can relate?
How you can help
The Wellesley Historical Society is actively seeking donations to help with the Stanwood House’s renovations. One way you can donate is to be a part of the Stanwood House Walkway Project. Community members, businesses, and organizations now have the opportunity to personalize an engraved brick that will become part of the classic red brick walkway from the sidewalk on Washington Street to the front steps of the Stanwood House, or of one of the future walkways on the property.
Proceeds from all purchases of personalized bricks will support Phase 2 of the renovations critical to making the Stanwood House a safe place to store and share its collections for generations to come. Bricks are $500 each. More information here.
Giving as part of the mission
The Wellesley Historical Society under the auspices of the Wellesley Scholarship Foundation has given out over 30 scholarships to graduating Wellesley High School seniors. “Our focus is education and connecting people with educational resources, and this is just another extension of that,” Taylor said.
This year’s awardees were Quinn Wayman and Dania Meyers, who each earned $1,000 to put toward their college expenses.
Quinn likes to be busy inside and outside of school. A multi-sport athlete, Quinn has participated in school and town hockey, and on the WHS football and baseball teams. He embraced community service through his role as a Journeys Peer Mentor and Key Club volunteer. History was Quinn’s favorite subject in high school—he is fascinated by how events of the past influence the worlds of today and tomorrow. Quinn will attend Miami University in Ohio and plans to major in business. Self-described as a connector with people, hard worker and not afraid of rejection, he is from a long line of entrepreneurs and sees himself making a career in sales and marketing.
Dania is an industrious student who has worked hard during her time in high school in the classroom, as well as outside the classroom as a sales associate at Target. Dania is a first-generation college student and will be continuing her education at Massachusetts Bay Community College where she plans to major in Automotive with a goal of becoming an automotive technician.
The Society’s scholarship program was originally proposed by former Wellesley Historical Society board member Jim Marcotte (deceased, 2017) and his wife, Kim Dow. Board members Gerry Murphy and Andrea Valente were part of the scholarship committee, which set guidelines for the awards. A generous grant from board member Suzanne Frederick started the Scholarship Fund rolling.
Tollhouse shop summer hours
The Tollhouse Shop is open Wednesdays and Saturdays, 10am- noon, at the Wellesley Historical Society building located at 229 Washington St.
Never heard of the place? Then you should get acquainted with the best spot in town to get cool vintage treasures like Hillborn pottery, Wedgewood demitasse sets, vintage jewelry, and more. Many of the donations come from the fanciest of Wellesley homes when their owners decide a good decluttering is in order.