FRAMINGHAM – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, May 16, toured the Sarah Clayes House, a 322-year-old historic home in Framingham with ties to the Salem Witch Trials that was rehabilitated after years of neglect with the help of the Attorney General’s Abandoned Housing Initiative.
Healey, joined with Framingham Mayor Yvonne Spicer, other City officials, gham officials, members of the Sarah Clayes House Trust, a nonprofit formed to preserve the house, and community members to celebrate the completion of the home’s renovation in an event at the house, located at 657 Salem End Road.
“The rehabilitation of the Sarah Clayes House shows what a strong community partnership can make possible,” said Healey. “We are proud to have partnered with the City of Framingham and the Sarah Clayes House Trust through our office’s Abandoned Housing Initiative to help transform this stunning home and preserve this piece of Massachusetts history.”
“The Sarah Clayes House is truly a part of our history as it was built before Framingham was even incorporated as a town,” said Mayor Yvonne Spicer. “With the partnership of the AG’s Abandoned Housing Initiative, we can honor our past and look to a future as signified by how this property has been rehabilitated.”
“This house had been abandoned for over 20 years with scores of local residents trying to identify the mortgage holder,” said Annie Murphy, member of the Sarah Clayes House Trust. “It had been securitized after the 2008 mortgage crisis when few mortgage companies were picking up the phone. With the help of the Attorney General’s Office, we were able to identify the owner, which eventually resulted in the donation of the property to the Land Conservation Advocacy Trust. Members of the Sarah Clayes Trust made a significant investment in the property and hired a master builder to complete the restoration of the property.”
In 2014, Framingham officials referred the Sarah Clayes House Trust to the AG’s AHI program after the property sat vacant for several years and was falling into severe disrepair. At the time, the property was overgrown with vegetation, had holes in its walls and floors, was defaced with graffiti, and was full of debris. Through AHI, the AG’s Office was able to work with the bank to foreclose on the house and turn it over to the Sarah Clayes House Trust for rehabilitation. The Trust engaged a contractor and raised funds to restore the home, which is now listed for sale at nearly $900,000.
Today, many of the five-bedroom home’s historic elements are preserved, including plaster stenciling that dates to the 1820s, claw-foot bathtubs, and hardwood floors.
The Sarah Clayes House dates to 1693 when Sarah and Peter Clayes moved to the property after fleeing Salem, where Sarah was convicted of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. Sarah was jailed during the trials, which claimed the lives of her two sisters, but was freed in 1693. The house as it stands today was built in 1776 on the foundation of Sarah Clayes’ house.
AHI was created in 1995 to address abandoned properties in Boston and Springfield and expanded in 2009 after the foreclosure crisis led to a dramatic increase in the number of abandoned properties statewide.
Through AHI, the AG’s Office uses its enforcement authority and works closely with municipal governments to identify and turn around blighted, vacant, and abandoned homes. AHI attorneys encourage abandoned property owners to repair their homes and make them habitable once again. If owners cannot make the necessary repairs or refuse, AHI attorneys can ask a court to appoint a receiver—a person or organization—to bring the property back up to code. The receiver pays for the costs of the repairs, which can be recovered at the end of the receivership either from the property owner or through a public auction of the house.
In April, the AG’s Office issued a report on AHI outlining its achievements over the past several years.
According to the report, AHI has expanded to 140 cities and towns across the state, adding 88 partnerships with cities and towns since 2014, a 150 percent increase in the number of municipalities engaged with the program.
Between 2017 and 2018, AHI’s efforts led to 364 successful results, including properties repaired through receivership or by property owners. Those efforts also returned nearly $1 million in unpaid property taxes to Massachusetts cities and towns.
For more information about AHI helps communities or to learn how to get involved with the program, contact us at email@example.com or call 617-727-2200.