It’s right there at 140 Mill St., on the corner of Mill and Coes. It’s large by comparison, but does not look out of place.
It’s surrounded by fence and retains visible scars from its most recent ordeal.
In a few years time, when the Stearns Tavern is the centerpiece of a city park, we suspect and fear the details of how the historic building was saved from destruction may become just a footnote. This would be a shame.
While the continued development of downtown Worcester has garnered much well-deserved recognition this year, we believe the effort to save Stearns Tavern merits more attention, truly showcasing community at its best.
A good starting point to understanding how Stearns Tavern came to avoid the dump can be read in Jennifer B. Doherty’s blog. Opened by Charles Stearns in 1812 at 1030 Main St., the tavern was extensively renovated and moved to 651 Park Ave. in 1974. It became listed in the National Historic Register in 1980.
In June 2014, a year after its last tenant vacated, the owner applied to the Worcester Historical Commission for a demolition waiver. At the same time an offer was made: the building could avoid destruction if someone would be willing to move it to another site.
Thus began an odyssey the likes of which have been referred to as unprecedented.
The story’s protagonists are Preservation Worcester executive director Deborah Packard and Phil Niddrie, special project coordinator for the office of City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. Augustus supported the project from the beginning and tapped Niddrie to lead the city’s efforts.
In October 2015, City Council allowed the project to proceed and accept “any and all gifts … to the preservation of the historic Stearns Tavern and relocation.”
As of earlier this month, according to Niddrie, the efforts to move and save Stearns Tavern have included 48 private business, six nonprofits, three unions and three levels of government.
“Deb and I really believed in this right from the beginning,” Niddrie told the Sun recently. “As we’ve brought people along we’ve said, ‘Look at the end product.’ We thought we would be there. But what we didn’t see is the number of people stepping up to the plate to get this done.
“It’s unprecedented, in my opinion, that 48 firms and foundations and unions and all those people, and three levels of government, would all be contributing,” Niddrie said.
So far those involved have donated, by Niddrie’s calculation, $620,229.93, all but roughly $52,000 in cash being donated time, labor and materials. This is in addition to the $150,000 of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds committed by the city to pay for the actual move.
“Collectively, this has enabled us to engineer and design the location of the building, test the soils, remove environmentally sensitive material from the structure, separate and selectively demolish sections of the building and construct the new foundations for those same areas, move is ¼ mile to its new site and begin the process to structurally secure the facility in site,” Niddrie wrote in an update to the City Council.
The move was the critical first step, but much works remains. Shoring up the building for the winter, renovating it to bring it up to current code standards and making it compliant with the Americans with Disability Act are among the largest tasks remaining.
The end result will be a preserved building in which the Seven Hills Foundation will provide workforce training in hospitality, landscaping and maintenance.
“The intended use is fantastic,” Packard said.
“It will fit well with the intent,” Niddrie said. “It’s a tremendous program.”
The state kicked in $100,000 last month and the City Council approved $100,000 at the Dec. 13 meeting. However, once again, as Niddrie notes, “We have identified firms and organizations that may be able to assist us as in-kind partners and we are reviewing these opportunities.”
None of this happens in a vacuum. At the same time this project progresses, battles are joined over the fates of two historic churches, Notre Dame des Canadiens at Salem Square and Our Lady of Mount Carmel on Mulberry Street.
Time has shown the some buildings cannot, and perhaps should not, be saved. That should make us appreciate all the more when the community can rally to save one.
“It’s amazing how many people have joined together and are excited about this, including the city manager, the City Council, everyone. It really shows to me what a great place Worcester is,” Packard said.
STEARNS TAVERN PARTNERS
Courtesy of the city of Worcester; updated Dec. 6
- C.D.R. Maguire — Matt Amorello
- C.D.R. Maguire — Chris Lawson
- Lamoureux-Pagano — Robert Para
- NITSCH Engineering — Matt Brassard
- Nover-Armstrong Associates, Inc. — Marylou Armstrong
- ESS Laboratory — Laurel Stoddard
- DRILEX Environmental — Brad Brock
- DRILEX Environmental — Joe Hamilton
- Preservation Worcester — Deb Packard
- Seven Hills Foundation — Bill Stock
- Seven Hills Foundation — Kate Myshrall
- Seven Hills Foundation — Joe Realbuto
- Coghlin Electrical Contractors — Sue Mailman
- Coghlin Electrical Contractors — Chris Kelly
- Coghlin Electrical Contractors — Lenny Chuiffredo
- The Granite Group — Kevin Condron
- EVERSOURCE — Dave Allain
- Group 7 Design — David Sorgman
- Group 7 Design — Luanne Perry
- Carpenters Union — Jack Donahue
- Peter Amorello Construction and Demolition — Peter Amorello
- F.W. Webb Company — Rich Chown
- CONSIGLI — William O’Rourke, Jr.
- CONSIGLI — John Flynn
- Botany Bay Construction Co. — Carl Foley
- Botany Bay Construction — Mark Allen
- Ricciardi Bros. Contracting — Jim Ricciardi
- Roofers and Waterproofers Local Union No. 33 — Mark “Brian” Brousseu
- Cogswell Sprinkler Co. Inc. — John M. Cogswell, President
- Cogswell Sprinkler Co. Inc. — Jeff Cogswell, Vice President
- Roy’s Landscaping Construction Co. — Bruce Roy
- Massad Movers/ Storage — Philip Massad
- Auburn Winwater Co. — Charlie Smith
- William F. Lynch Co., Inc. — William (Mac) J. Lynch
- Finlay Engineering — Jay Finlay
- Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce — Tim Murray, President
- Pho Hein Buddhist Temple — Hung Nguyen, Coordinator
- Central Steel Supply Co. — John DeVries, President
- Central Steel Supply Co. — Kristina Iovine, Sales Manager
- MEG LLC Karthik — Detailing Manager
- SONCO Event and Construction Rentals — Anne Mohrmann
- John Turner Consulting, Inc. — John Turner, President
- Sylvester Building Movers — Gary Sylvester, Owner
- Ronald A. Marini, Corp. — Ronald A. Marini, Owner
- Stoddard Charitable Trust — Warner S. Fletcher, Chair
- Fletcher Foundation — Allen Fletcher, Chair
- FLexcon — David F. Lachapelle
- Chase/Harris Portable Toilets — Kalee McGuirk
- National Grid — Elizabeth Coleman, Andrea Maris/ Gossage- Customer Relations –Corporate
- F.W. Madigan Co. Inc. — Fran Madigan, President
- F.W. Madigan Co. Inc. — Andrew Madigan
- Superior Waste and Recycling — Dennis O’Connor
- Barrows Hardware — Brian Barrows
- BSC Group — Dana Stanley
- BSC Group — Jeff Fasser
- All Steel Fabrication — Kevin Magill
- Raymond James Restoration — Raymond Simoncini
- Busy Bee Nursery & Landscaping Construction — Michael Lovely, Owner
- Wachusett Pre-cast — David Dugan, President
- Cutler Associates — Fred Mulligan
- Plywood Plus — Paul Toohey, Owner
- Worcester Business Development Corp. — Craig Blais
- Camosse Masonry Supply — Henry Camosse, President
- Laborer’s International Union of North America — Paul White
- Fontaine Brothers General Contractors — Mark Abdella
- Fontaine Brothers General Contractors — Danial Fontaine Jr.
- Dunkin’ Donuts – Rob Branca – President
- City Welding — Paul Curci, President
- Watermark — Chris Lawson
- Mountain Dearborn LLP — Jim O’Brien, Partner
- Seaman Engineering Corp. – Kevin Seaman, President