The Wellesley Inn ~ The Original

The Wellesley Inn, in all its former glory (Wellesley, MA)

The Wellesley Inn, in all its former glory (photo credit: Jennifer Emmer)

WELLESLEY, MASSACHUSETTS:  Little did I know when I snapped this picture in 2005, it would be the last one I ever took of the Wellesley Inn.

This is a little like reminiscing about the horses, after the barn door has been opened…..but I feel I must, for my own peace of mind, blog about this. Maybe it’s because I’m 3,000 miles away, so I didn’t get to hear any grass-roots rumblings, but it seems like The Wellesley Inn was torn down with nary a whimper from any of her gentle townsfolk. In researching this debacle, however, I now discover that the Wellesley Country Clubhouse/Original Town Hall/Poor Farm building has gone the way of the buffalo too?

Good Lord, people! Wake up!

Wellesley Inn History: Built by Boston lawyer Henry Fowle Durant, the stately white Colonial inn has overlooked downtown Wellesley since 1860. Durant used it as a summer home for his wife and 5 year old son.  After his son died of diptheria a few years later, a devastated Durant left his law practice to become an evangelist. He ultimately founded Wellesley Female Seminary in 1870, which later become Wellesley College.

Durant also founded the literary society of Phi Sigma, designed to promote social and academic development. Tea parties were a favorite social event of the society, and students rented part of the inn for their gatherings.

The Wellesley Inn, in an old postcard (Wellesley, MA)

The Wellesley Inn, in an old postcard

Activities in the Tea Toom eventually become an “informal club” of sorts. Tea Room manager, Mary Esther Chase said the “college girls flocked for ‘afternoon tea’, ‘ice cream and spreads’ of various kinds. When out-of-town friends came to visit, they were taken to ‘The Tea Room’ for their meals.”

Chase and her business partner, Clara Hathorne Shaw, put together a design plan for “The Wellesley Tea Room Corporation” and by selling shares of stock for $5,  they had enough money to purchase the house itself in 1901. That same year they began taking in lodgers.

The public side included a “cozy reception room, hall, toilet room, and dining room” where they served “luscious griddle cakes and fudge ice cream”.

By the way, many stories claim that fudge was invented at either Vassar, Smith or Wellesley. Here is an original 1886 Fudge Recipe from Emelyn B. Hartridge of Vassar College.

The student half of the inn, on the right, included a reception hall, living room and dining room with Flemish oak paneling, arts and crafts tables, and ”big palms”. In 1914, the inn was sold to Jeremiah Bransfield, whose family managed it for 50 years. They also added the distinctive pillars along the front porch, according to the Wellesley Historical Society.

My friend Danielle, inside the Wellesley Inn, 2005

My friend Danielle, inside the Wellesley Inn, 2005

In 1960, the Bransfields sold the inn to William W. White, who refurbished the building, added a motel wing, and opened a tavern near the back. On a personal note, I spent many a happy evening with my high school chums in that old tavern. It was dark as a tomb, and the wooden paneling and low ceilings made it feel like you had just stepped into a pub in England.

The Treadway Corp. managed the property for years, before White sold it in 2005. Unbeknownst to me (until it was too late), 146 years of history went up in the puff of smoke in 2006.

I could rant on about this, but the damage is done. It seems some other folks are just as bent out of shape as I am about this:

Buffum: How and why we need to preserve for the generations to come

Letter: Where’s the outcry? Where’s the protection?

Oh, and next on the chopping block? My old alma mater, Wellesley High School. Art Deco. Built in 1938. “Perfectly good” as my dad would say.

Have at it:

Save Wellesley High School

If you know of any historic buildings in imminent danger, please let me know by email at preservation@usa.com or on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/preservation.

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27 thoughts on “The Wellesley Inn ~ The Original

  1. I just read about this in The Swellesley Report, where nothing but joy was conveyed that some
    McSomethings were on their way to add to the new modern ambiance of the town.
    What a loss. The future would have been economically kinder to that beautiful
    creaky floored haunted landmark.
    Maybe they should move on to the Concord Colonial Inn. Starbucks and ice
    cream shops might fit well.

  2. Tragic.

    Americans love visiting Europe b/c they are wise enough to PRESERVE THEIR LANDMARKS. What a great loss. I was making the Wellesley Inn Fudge Cake and thought it would be fun to see where it originated. At least the recipes live on!

    • My family owned the Inn from 1960 to 2004 when sold. We protected the Inn from tear down with the town but neglected the state. Do you have the REAL WELLESLEY INN FUDGE CAKE recipe? If not, I am happy to share it with you and its history. I retain many of the historic pieces from the Inn I grew up with when the new owners (before raizing) let me come with a moving van and men to take whatever I wanted. Happy day to still have a part of the Inn still with me.

  3. My Aunt Sandy (Santa Salvetti) worked at the Wellesley Inn for over 30 years- I have so many wonderful memories of that Inn… I used to help her set up for the weddings and functions in the back room and my favorite part of visitng the inn was the cat (I wish I could remember his name) but he sat in the fireplace area on the main floor in one of the rocking chairs….And do I remember that fudge cake…wow- have never tasted anything like it since. My Aunt has since moved out of Natick to North Carolina but I was so sad to hear that that beautiful landmark is no longer in the center of town…..At least of I memories….

    • John … what year did you work at our Inn? I too was horrified to say good-by to the Inn. Where do you work in Ireland? I will visit Wales this year and would love to show you my collection of Inn Post Cards or a copy of the famous Wellesley Inn Fudge Cake. (the only TRUE original recipe) Wish you well for your future business. You may take the girl out of the Inn, but you can’t take the Inn out of the girl! My kitchen is always full and busy.

      Shirley

      • Shirley Where are you ???
        Stuart and Georgette Swan.
        Working on an article for the Wellesley Weston Magazine and I need your input photos articles etc.
        I have challenged Gig Babson on the mistakes that were made dealing with to Wellesley Inn .
        We are looking forward to hearing from you.
        Kind regards,
        Stuart and Georgette Swan

  4. My first hotel job in America was at the Wellesely Inn, now I’m back in Ireland running a hotel and am happy to say that it would be compeletely illegal over here to knock down a building of that age and character. I’m shocked this was allowed to happen!

  5. I used to bartend there in 2001-2003. What a fun place it used to… Sandy, Annie, whole bunch of underaged waitresses working the floor, Melissa as a manager. Four studges always in the bar (Bob and the rest, I lost there names, but the faces will always haunt me). The cellar walls were still original brick from last century. What a loss for the town and Shirley’s family.
    Good luck to everyone who worked and ate there!!!!

  6. The Wellesley Inn or where it used to be sits dormant, unbuilt, and empty. The town could use another Inn or perhaps Wellesley College will build a gathering center for their students. Please do not build any more buildings lacking character.

    Wellesley is looking for short term gain but it is only sustaining long term loss in the process.

  7. I am doing an article for Wellesley- Weston Magazine on the Wellesley Inn.What do you have that you can share with me? Photos articles etc.
    I am attempting to locate Shirley White Cooney ,the former owner.
    Can you shed any light on that ?
    Go to stuartswanfurniture.com.
    My wife Georgette and I own the only remaining period building in Wellesley Square at the Gates of Wellesley College.
    I am looking forward to hearing from you.
    Stuart Swan

    • Hello Stuart,

      Thanks for writing. Of course I know your building, which used to be Hathaway House many moons ago. Your website is gorgeous!
      I grew up in Wellesley, and I share your pain about all the “improvements”. By the way, I am also a Feng Shui consultant and Interior Designer, and I think you might enjoy my website too. [Just click on my handle "preservation" to go to my site].
      I live in an 1895 Victorian, with plenty of antiques!

      As for finding Shirley, let’s hope she responds to your comment. After writing that post about the Wellesley Inn, I noticed that a number of interesting people came out of the woodwork with comments. Unfortunately, I don’t have a secret treasure trove of photos or mementoes, but I think posting on my blog is a good way to find Wellesley Inn fans. I wish you all the best and I would be happy to alert you of anything that turns up here.

      ~Jennifer

      • Jennifer:
        I have been in contact with Stuart. I will share my collection of postcards and pictures with him. I can’t revisit too much … one door closed & another opens. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about the history of the Town’s Inn.
        What is your web site address?

        Stay well,
        Shirley

  8. Regrettably, I wasn’t aware that the Wellesley Inn is no more.
    I hope the Wellesley College Alumnae Magazine will print a retrospective article about the Inn, its demise and the loss of an historic landmark which was an important meeting place and inn to generations of Wellesley students and their parents.
    Also, would you be willing to share the Wellesley Inn Fudge Cake recipe with me?
    Many thanks,
    Carol

  9. My first job that required a social security card was as a chambermaid at the Wellesley Inn. As a Wellesley College senior I was a waitress in the Wheelock Tavern. Myself and my co-worker another Wellesley College student were hired by the hostess. The owners of the Inn came to the Tavern to eat one night and were not happy to be served by a person of color ( my co-worker). My co-worker announced in October that she was going to be out the night week due to wisdom teeth surgery. I worked the next week and we had plenty of coverage. The following week when my co-worker should up to work the hostess said “where were you last week?” and claimed she hadn’t given proper notice of her impending absence and things were bad without her and then FIRED HER! This was fall of 1981 and prejudice still rained supreme at the Treadway Wellesley Inn. By the way the owners were the “White” family . You can’t make this stuff up. I was outraged but decided there was only one way to make them understand what they did was wrong. I stayed at the Treadway Wellesley Inn long enough to sign up for the MAIN Dining room upstairs on THANKSGIVING DAY. Then I went to my high school football game instead. I showed up at 4pm with my union on my arm ready to be fired. I was! I had taken matters into my own hands . I figured the best way to get them back was to teach them a lesson about missing waitresses. If Wellesley College plans any kind of REMINDER of this bastion of prejudice this is the story I want recorded.

  10. I was feeling nostalgic for the Christmas Eve dinners my parents and I had at the Wellesley Inn back in the early 1980s and came across your blog.
    How sad to read it’s gone. Despite the fact that it happened years ago, I am just learning of it and it’s hard to accept.

    • Our hearts were all broken. It was protected with town but not the State. If you send a mailing address…I will send you some special with Inn heart!
      Shirley

  11. I grew up in Wellesley in the ’50s. Tearing down this wonderful, historic inn is not the only thing that is ruining this lovely town. Of course, indifference and gentrification are not to blame for the loss of the magnificent elm trees on Cliff Road, but the contstant tearing down of
    fine, classic homes and putting up architectural monstrosities in the Cliff-Abbott estates area is tragic. Now, with great fanfare, a new high school has opened. The handsome Gamaliel Bradford high school was only 70 years old and could have served beautifully for many more years with some changes and additions. But, unfortunately, the Phillistines are in control, so the destruction will continue and we will have more bland, generic architecture blotting out any memory of former times. Oh, well, at least the town hall/old library is still there!

    • Hi Debby! WOW! Long time, yes the front desk with the old key rack system and a genuine registration book! I was there when the new computer system was installed in about ’94? Even that seemed out of place. Always hoped I’d go back there and bring my family to see it, shame that’ll never happen now :(

  12. JOHN CAFFREY! We used to work together at the front desk, and my sister worked their as well. I remember Dawn too, and Johnny! miss that place

  13. I worked in the kitchen part time between 1977 and 1981. Cooking Sunday morning breakfast with Dean Louis – we were given RM#3 to stay in if we closed Saturday night. The head chef was Ron? and his wife was the baker. Tony was the Dining Room /Kitchen Manager and his sister Frannie worked there as well. Then there were the Downey boys Brad and Dave. I remember Dave lived in the house next door. He had a pitbull and a parrot that flew out the window as we were playing darts – never came back. Loads of fun and great memories!

  14. I began working at the Wellesley Inn in high school and kept going back to work between other pursuits. I loved that place and feel very lucky to have been able to have such a quality and positive work experience in my teens and twenties. It was great-we were treated so well. K.McKean-anyone who remembers me can reach me at l.coyote@yahoo.com

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