Why would the Town of Southborough contemplate demolishing its Police Station at 19 Main Street, a handsome, two-story brick building constructed in 1930 in the Colonial Revival-style ?
According to the Southborough Cultural Resources Survey (2000), the former Peters High School Annex has “survived the conversion to the town police headquarters with remarkably little exterior alteration.” The Survey lists the former Peters High School Annex as eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
Architect Charles M. Baker designed Peters High School Annex as an elementary/primary school, to relieve the already overcrowded Peters High School. Built 1900, demolished 1959, the High School was a grand edifice that stood south west of the Annex, on the site of the current Fire Station. The former Peters High School Annex is all that survives of the Peters High School complex.
Both the Police Chief, the Fire Chief and the Municipal Facilities Committee want to build a new state-of-the-art, single-story police facility connected to the current Fire Station, and level the current police station to create a parking lot. While I can appreciate the Town’s need for an up-to-date police facility, I believe that the historic building can be renovated providing more square footage for much the same cost. A solution needs to be found to rehabilitate the old structure and build a new addition without compromising public safety.
Southborough’s Town House and Library are the only other municipal brick buildings that are comparable in terms of architectural significance. It is in the Town’s interests to maintain downtown Main Street’s historical ambiance.
Who is Charles M. Baker (1873 – 1942) and why is he so significant ?
Charles Baker designed two other important buildings on Main Street in the historic center of Southborough, the Fire Station (1927) now the Southborough House of Pizza, and the much-loved Southborough Community House (1921 ) at 28 Main Street. A few years earlier in 1919-20, Baker had designed the Fayville Baptist Church, at 54 Central Street, now a commercial office building.
Born in Framingham, after 1908 Charles Baker ran his architectural practice from Boston. But he lived in Framingham and was responsible for at least 8 buildings in the Town. The most well-known today is probably the Danforth Museum ( c. 1909), built as a school and a community center. He also designed the Marlborough High School and the Natick High School. More information on his designs is stored at the Massachusetts Archives and the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and can be accessed online.
What is the Colonial Revival and why we should preserve it for future generations?
This important and far reaching style was the reuse of Colonial and Georgian style in America, from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. Colonial Revival architecture was based on prototypes in the English colonies in America. The former school is a hybrid structure, not uncommon in colonial revival buildings. For example, the Annex also displays some Federal Revival motifs, including the shallow-hipped roof, the blind arches, and the keystoned round-arched multipane windows on the north and south elevations. Architects chose from a variety of classical forms to create a pleasing symmetrical and well-proportioned design. Colonial Revival-style was based on an idealized colonial pas and was a favorite architectural style for schools, admired as a ‘truly American Style.’
A few residents in the Town of Southborough attended this school and have told me they do not want the building demolished. Public meetings will be held to allow residents to air their opinions. One of the best reasons for the adaptive reuse of historic buildings is to preserve a sense of place and community.
Photos that highlight the Colonial Revival details of the Police Station
This is a great example of architectural design with classical symmetry and proportion
The recessed south entrance with a decorative wooden quoined surround. The large single Palladian window over the south entry — a popular federal revival detail rare in Southborough
Square wooden cupola with a copper leafed dome, in the center of the hipped roof.
Interior view of one of two large windows that dominate the end walls
Charles Baker’s other buildings on Main Street