Launched in 2005, WellesleyWeston Magazine is a quarterly publication tailored to Wellesley and Weston residents and edited to enrich the experience of living in two of Massachusetts' most desirable communities.
Issue link: http://wellesleywestonmagazine.epubxp.com/i/782418
* * * Alice Cheney Baltzell's will stipulated three possible heirs of Elm Bank: first, nephew Arthur Davis, who lived in Dover (his family built the estate that is now Boston College's Connors Center); then, Wellesley College; and finally the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All three rejected it, because they lacked the means to keep it up. Ultimately, the estate was sold to Dartmouth College, which had given Benjamin Cheney an honorary degree, for $40,000. The college held retreats and alumni picnics there before selling the property to Stigmatine Fathers of Waltham in 1941. The Roman Catholic order used the estate as a school and camp until selling it to the state in 1976. The fate of the property was disputed for several decades before it was turned over to Mass Hort on a 100-year lease in 1996. Macdonald envisions many possible uses for the Cheney-Baltzell mansion. Mass Hort already is booked months, if not years in advance for weddings. The house could provide reception areas and lodging for guests, and host corporate retreats as well. She said the house has suffi- cient kitchen and storage space for a restaurant and/or tea room. Several rooms could be set aside as a museum, with exhibits on horti- culture or, in keeping with the house's history. An added feature is what Ganek and Tocci, the architect/builder team, suspect was a basement spa. Classical statues stand at the entrance of what appears to be a small soaking pool. The main challenge, of course, would be the multimillion dollar restoration costs. Among the expenses: bring the building up to code; installing new electrical, plumbing and heating, and air conditioning systems; and hiring artisans with the highly specialized skills to repair century-old plaster, woodwork, and marble. Up to 40 percent of the cost could be reimbursed through state and federal historic tax credit programs. Macdonald plans to seek out potential nonprofit or corporate partners, as managing Mass Hort's gardens is already a mammoth job. Restoration expert Tocci said that if regularly maintained, the reborn mansion could thrive another 50 to 100 years before requiring major work. Macdonald said that under the terms of Mass Hort's lease with the state, the society must prevent the house from further deterioration or pay the estimated $3 million tab to raze it. And that would be no easy task, said Tocci. "It would put up a hell of a fight for anyone who wanted to demolish it—as well it should." 94 W e l l e s l e y W e s t o n M a g a z i n e | s p r i n g 2 0 1 7 A video tour of the manor house can be viewed on the Massachusetts Horticultural Society website, masshort.org.