Rocker Billy Squier helps Wellesley High turn out the lights

Wellesley High School, Wellesley, MA, Built in 1938

Wellesley High School, Wellesley, MA, Built in 1938

When I heard that my beloved Alma Mater was coming down, I was distraught, but this time not really for historic preservation reasons. Although the school was built in 1938, and is technically “Art Deco”, there are undoubtedly more beautiful examples of that style around. It’s a solid, no-nonsense brick building, and certainly serviceable as a high school. [I guess I should add that by West Coast standards, it’s pretty fabulous, and “very New England”.]

But that school gets me on an emotional level that few buildings do, solely from all the amazing memories attached to the place. For example, on “Senior Skip Day”, when I threw a water balloon into a classroom, and it whizzed past the teacher’s head and went straight out an open window, not exploding on anything! In fact, the teacher didn’t even know it happened. But all the students saw it and completely broke out laughing.

Or, the time that someone switched the gas hoses with the water hoses in science class. That was a thrill! Or the time we shellacked Mr. Scafati’s chalk. What a hoot! He wrote on the board, but nothing happened! [These were simpler times, to be sure…]

Apparently quite a few other people felt the same way I did, and Jeanie Goddard, a retired Wellesley High English teacher, decided to put together a “last hurrah” celebration for everyone.

Now as luck would have it, on my last visit to Wellesley, in June, some friends and I decided to take our own little trip down memory lane ~ and thank God we did. Walking through that high school was like a trip back in time. Virtually nothing had changed, except us.

From “The Swellesley Report“, November 27, 2011

Billy Squier

Billy Squier

“Rock singer and guitarist Billy Squier, a 1968 graduate of Wellesley High School, helped the school “turn out the lights” Saturday night, playing old hits like “In the Dark” and “Everybody Wants You” before a packed house at the WHS auditorium. Tickets to the event sold out quickly after The Swellesley Report noted on Nov. 4 that Squier would be appearing and local press tripped over each other in recent weeks to interview the singer.

Squier appeared by himself on stage, first sharing a few stories about his days in Wellesley, including a run in with the law (“an off campus incident”) that nearly put the kibosh on a school play he was starring in.”

My friend Ellen Dixon and I used to walk home from school, right by Billy’s house. This was our “brush with fame”, although we didn’t know it at the time.

[From Boston.com] Turn Out the Lights, a week long celebration of “the old” Wellesley Senior High School, began on November 20th with a presentation in the Wakelin Room at the Wellesley Free Library.

“We wanted to acknowledge what wonderful things happened in this building for 73 years,” said organizer Jeanie Goddard, a retired Wellesley High English teacher, “and all the terrific alumni who have studied there and gone on to glorious adventures, and just this sense of place that we all have. All the haunts have been shared by generations of Wellesley High students.”

The library presentation included a video depicting the architectural history of the school, which was built in 1938. Other events include a panel discussion on US foreign policy with distinguished alumni in the school’s auditorium.

On the 22nd, there was a special acknowledgement of former football players, cheerleaders, band members and twirlers during the traditional Thanksgiving game against Needham High, which started at 10 a.m. Thursday at Hunnewell Field; a dance featuring “music through the decades’’ in the school’s cafeteria on Friday evening; and an open house and yard sale at the school Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. that included old uniforms, locker fronts, pompoms, and banners for sale.

For photos and details on the celebration, visit www.wellesleycelebrateseducation.org.

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.