Friends of 42 Hoxsey Street, Williamstown, Mass.
March 11, 2018
To the President and Trustees of Williams College, and the Williamstown Historical Commission:
We are shocked, outraged and saddened to hear of the decision of Williams College to tear down the house at 42 Hoxsey Street—a decision representing callous disregard of the town’s history. Dating from 1880, it graces the 1889 Map of Williamstown; it is one of the grandest residences still standing in the heart of town. It is a focal point of the street—a historic district.
Last April 3, when Williams College purchased the property from Wanda Bubriski, whose family had resided on the property since 1954, the College said it intended to use it for construction offices, then faculty housing. Multiple inaccuracies and misrepresentations characterize the College’s description of the condition of the house in the advertisement for its sale. Over $200,000 of improvements were made to the house between 2014 and 2016. Among the improvements are: asbestos removed; new plumbing for two new bathrooms installed; complete house re-wired and converted to gas; new gas furnace and water heater installed; entire interior painted; new windows on second floor installed; tiger oak flooring fully sanded and stained; leaded glass windows preserved and reconstructed. These enhancements augmented the 9-foot ceilings, gracious spatial arrangement, and details like the French doors and Bennington ceramic fireplace surround.
Williams’s advertisement presented a deteriorating construction—an insult to all the tradesmen and women who worked so hard on the house. Most people who have walked through that fan-lighted front door into the capacious central hall respond with a “WOW”—including your own staff. Distortions and lack of accuracy regarding the condition is reprehensible.
To the Historical Commission:
The house and barn at 42 Hoxsey Street embody a rare example of unaltered spatial layout, with its balloon-construction visible in the attic and its wrap around porch can be seen on the 1889 Map. The house carries cultural significance as well contributing to the fabric of the community, its history and values. From 1954 to 2011, it was the home of Dagmar Bubriski, a community leader, a columnist, a radio host, and a widow at 37 who raised a family of four while being the loudest cheerleader and staunchest defender of Williamstown historic and cultural preservation. This history deserves to be preserved. We object to this house being torn down and its history lost.
Sadly, the College’s attitude toward historic preservation is nearly non-existent. When it serves the corporate expansion needs of its ever-increasing bureaucracy, it simply plows down historic structures. (Examples include the Opera House, Harper House—and if Williams had had its way decades ago, we would have lost Van Rensselaer House— fortunately, part of it ended up in the Metropolitan Museum of Art).
We strongly urge Williams reconsider its decision to tear down and throw away this important historical building.
Beverly Willis, FAIA
(each name signed here will be cc’ed on the email which will be sent Monday morning to the President of the College, the Chair of the Board of Trustees and Chair of the Williamstown Historical Commission)