By Grace Mayer
FRAMINGHAM – In the past, the Athenaeum Community Hall in Saxonville operated as a hospital, a jail, it printed the The Saxonville Mirror, hosted lectures and facilitated weddings, and eventually served as a meeting ground for veterans.
Today, the building, erected in the 1840s, that once brought people of Saxonville together for plays, sports events, and religious ceremonies, remains abandoned.
Since 1995, when it first closed its doors to the public, it has awaited much-needed repairs.
Now, the Framingham Historic Commission is preparing to review the plan to designate this section of a Saxonville neighborhood as a historic district while it awaits future renovations.
On Tuesday night, Susan Silva, a representative from Friends of Saxonville, a nonprofit that works to preserve this neighborhood, spoke at the Commission meeting about approving the neighborhood’s athenaeum and the Saxonville firehouse as a historic district.
In August of 1992, the Saxonville neighborhood near Elm, Danforth, Central, Water and Concord were officially included in the National Register of Historic Places.
For the past 20 years, Friends of Saxonville has worked to preserve the athenaeum on its own—repainting the twice through donations and with volunteers, said Silva.
But over the last 20 years, the buildings have continued to deteriorate without city-wide efforts to preserve these buildings, she said.
Before the Commission, chaired by Stephen Greeley and advised by Jennifer Doherty, the City’s Historic Preservation Planner, could proceed with voting on the matter, they advised Friends of Saxonville to meet with Saxonville’s District City Councilor to garner community support for the plan.
The Commission also requested a tour of the two buildings, owned by the City of Framingham, and area surrounding the athenaeum and the no-longer used fire station.
A plan to renovate the community hall with elevators, bathrooms, and other amenities that would qualify it under ADA rules, was proposed in 2014. That proposed renovation would create meeting spaces within the community hall—restoring the building to its original purpose.
While Friends of Saxonville continue to raise donations for this project, Silva said requesting this area surrounding the community hall and firehouse be dubbed a historic district would protect the buildings from demolition while they await renovation.
The next Framingham Historic Commission meeting will be held in July.
Grace Mayer is a senior at Boston College studying marketing and journalism. She is also the head arts editor for Boston College’s newspaper, The Heights, where she’s covered the arts beat for three years. She is excited to report on a variety of beats for Framingham SOURCE this summer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.