Tewksbury developer Marc Ginsburg says he is taking measures to make sure as many historic elements of the Ames Castle are being preserved, even as the building is being demolished.
"We removed numerous (historic) pieces, like the big mirror and the railings," said Ginsburg. "And we're going through the (ruble) to find original stones."
Ginsburg said he had explored all possible options and described the final decision to demolish the castle as "heartbreaking."
The home was built around 1900 by Gen. Adelbert Ames, a Civil War hero and former governor of Mississippi. He and his family originally owned 700 acres on and around Catamount Road.
Ginsburg purchased the property from John Sullivan on Nov. 2 for $360,000. Sullivan had been using the 17-room, 12,781-square foot mansion as a multi-unit apartment building in violation of town bylaws. He said it wasn't financially feasible to maintain the building as a single family home and had been working with town officials to try and work out a way to preserve the property.
In March, the Historical Commission voted to declare the property "preferably preserved," putting into effect a nine-month moratorium on any demolition. The hope was buy enough time for a deal to be worked out to preserve the home.
According to Chairman Keith Rauseo, Ginsburg met with the commission and Community Development Director Steve Sadwick on Nov. 7 and Ginsburg expressed his plans to demolish the building.
"Mr. Ginsburg explained his analysis of the building, his estimates of how costly a restoration would be, and how he felt it was infeasible to do that restoration to be left with a single-family house," said Rauseo, in a written statement. "He also reiterated his desire to preserve original material and discussed possibilities for that with the Commission. The entire Commission discussed the situation, and the consensus was that we would have wanted to preserve the building if at all possible, but that if it could not be saved it was good to know that some of it would be preserved and reused."
At the commission's Nov. 19 meeting, it voted to lift the moratorium, which was set to expire on Nov. 24. Rauseo said it was a gesture of "good faith" on the part of the commission.
Rauseo said that while the commission's official role in the process is over, it is anxious to see how Ginsburg chooses to use or display the historic elements salvaged from the home.
"At our November 19 meeting, Mr. David Marcus, President of the Tewksbury Historical Society, asked if Mr. Ginsburg would consider erecting some sort of marker at the site as part of the new development project to note the historical significance of the castle, and Mr. Ginsburg agreed to do so, possibly by using some of the exterior stone from the building," Rauseo wrote. Rauseo's complete statement on Ames Castle is attached to this article as a PDF attachment.
For his part, Marcus expressed disappointment and anger that more had not been done to preserve the castle.
"This is another blow for Tewksbury history," said Marcus, in an email sent to Tewksbury Patch. "Our most famous resident has lost his trophy home. There was nothing wrong with the house and to say that it needed to come down for three house lots is a tragedy."
Marcus also said he believed a second demolition moratorium should have been been put in place by the Historical Commission once the property was sold to Ginsburg.
"This house was unique and should have been put on the open market. This was an inside deal to keep it from going to market," Marcus wrote. "Even our (Historical) Society that I am president (of) failed to muster any public support for saving the Castle and its carriage house. If the town tried to buy this for $350,000 and failed then the politicians who sat on their hands are also to blame."