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.
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.
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:
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: