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Developer Says He's Trying To Preserve Historic Elements Of Ames Castle

Ginsburg working with Historical Society and Historical Commission.

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 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."

 

 

 

john smith December 12, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I did read the article, pretty much the same thing in my opinion. Was the building being torn down while he admired his view, yes. Personally if it mattered that much and broke his heart why would he be smiling as this demolition is going on? Enjoy the view later when the dust settles. This is SAD for many life long residents and we read in the paper how much he loves the view, doesn't help. General Ames home on the hill is being replaced by General Ginsburgs home on the hill and he's smiling.
Steevo December 12, 2012 at 07:35 PM
John Smith just said more about John Smith than Marc Ginsburg.
Steevo December 12, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Why didn't you start a grassroots effort John Smith to bring more 'meaningful' awareness to the town's residents that the home must be saved? Why didn't you start a fund of donations with your money first in the pot, backing your superior vision? Don't you think enough residents really, really care?
john smith December 12, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Steevo, I did not know this was happening because it was a backdoor deal. There was very little press in regards to the castle. I would have gladly donated to the preservation of this structure. I don't have any type of superior vision just an interest in our history and it is sad to see it hauled away in dump trucks.
Steevo December 12, 2012 at 08:18 PM
But you knew it was in bad shape and would require a lot of money to preserve it? You expect a person with more money than you to buy this home, restore it, and keep it preserved to historical specs? Who is so altruistic with their time and money? What have you given to the town of Tewksbury? I'd say it's worth asking why the town's officials didn't at least ask for a referendum about a tax on residents to pay for it's restoration. Maybe they felt it would be futile? I wonder if the typical resident took the time to see the home more than once. And I kinda doubt it's demolition is a 'sad' day, but for the few.
Scot Sutherland December 12, 2012 at 08:29 PM
The possibility of demolition of Ames castle has been in the news for over a year. If you paid more attention to the local news, you would've seen it.
john smith December 12, 2012 at 09:08 PM
Nine months ago it was discussed at length in the local news, not much since. Ginsburg bought the Castle a month ago and it is leveled a month later. This was not in the news much recently. Steevo, what have you given to the town of Tewksbury since you ask that of me? Charity is not the discussion here, a historic building in town being demolished is. Steevo I have a feeling you don't care about much other than money if the disappearance of history isn't important or sad in your eyes. The building was not in that bad of condition, certainly savable. I can disappointed right? It does not mean I should or could have taken action to stop it. It is what it is and yes there are many people who actually do care about this kind of thing.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 09:22 PM
Say....ummmm....do some of you Internet knuckle heads.that keep posting profanity, realize that your IP address is traceable if it "needed" to be?
Bill Gilman (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 09:24 PM
A comment was deleted from this stream for violation of terms of service.
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 09:31 PM
There was no backdoor deal. I have been speaking with residents from Catamount about this for a couple years. There has been legal action which has been regularly reported in the paper about the Castle and over the last year I have read articles about the Castle. There have been discussions about the Historic commision wanting to save it. There have been meetings posted with meetings with the neighbors. There has been discussion at planning board & zoning board meetings. I spoke to a lot of residents about it and most didn't believe the town should be spending $360K to buy it and then I don't know how much to rehab it. It is certainly sad to see this landmark go, but people should have been concerned a long time ago when it was slowly deteriorating. I walked the Castle when Marc bought the property. For those saying it could be rehabbed, you haven't been in it. Cracks in the foudation, deplorable condition inside, and even if you could gut it and rebuilt it, how good was it going to look. Had I personally had the money to purchase the castle, I would have done the same thing that Marc is doing. I love that everyone knows how Marc is supposed to spend his money. I think it is great that he is as giving and kind as he is.....but I certainly don't think that means he needs to throw away his money. When he purchased the Castle his plans were to gut & rehab it. Once he got in, it was clear that was not a good option.
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 09:34 PM
THis remark should be removed immediately. It is racist, ignorant and wrong.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 09:37 PM
Scott, May I ask who decides if the taxpayers wish to use CPA funds to purchase property? Are the Taxpayers consulted first? Thanks in advance.
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 09:47 PM
I believe Nancy Reed is the chairperson of the CPA fund. There are guidelines which these funds can be used. I have seen requests made by residents, the BOS, other groups in town. If there is a cause that they want to spend those funds on then an article is brought to town meeting for the residents to decide if they will spend the dollars. I know right now money from the CPA funds are earmarked for the Town Hall Annex roof, the Town Hall renovation and the tennis courts at the New HS. Does that help?
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 10:01 PM
CPC page on town website: http://www.tewksbury.net/Pages/TewksburyMA_BComm/CPC/index Mission Statement The mission of the Community Preservation Committee is to fulfill the Community Preservation Act Legislation, evaluate the community preservation needs of the Town of Tewksbury in cooperation with the various Town Boards, committees, commissions and citizens for the maximum benefit to the Town. The CPC will recommend to Town Meeting those projects which it feels will best achieve the purpose of the CPA which includes the preservation of open space and historic sites, and the creation of affordable housing and recreational facilities. Decision making shall include the criteria as set forth by the Committee. Other relevant studies, as they become available, such as the Tewksbury's: Open Space and Recreation Plan, Capital Improvement Plan, Master Plan, Affordable Housing Plan and Historic Commission Documents may also be included.
Steevo December 12, 2012 at 10:07 PM
It is you making judgment John. Why should anyone assume you're more noble-minded so, what have you done for Tewksbury when you're demanding of another? It's a pretty understandable question. Insofar as the mansion, you had time to gather a grassroots attempt and offer some of your own money. And yes you can be disappointed but I'm referring to imputing motive. How easy and in, today, pointing a finger down at someone with more money. You can't allow its historical significance to become a decrepit, dangerous eyesore. If the town's residents weren't paying to have it restored it must be sold. That means... without the burden the town didn't take responsibility imposed onto the buyer otherwise there would be no sale. If he puts a monument up, good. End of story in spite of postmortem righteous indignation.
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 10:10 PM
CPC Mission Statement The mission of the Community Preservation Committee is to fulfill the Community Preservation Act Legislation, evaluate the community preservation needs of the Town of Tewksbury in cooperation with the various Town Boards, committees, commissions and citizens for the maximum benefit to the Town. The CPC will recommend to Town Meeting those projects which it feels will best achieve the purpose of the CPA which includes the preservation of open space and historic sites, and the creation of affordable housing and recreational facilities. Decision making shall include the criteria as set forth by the Committee. Other relevant studies, as they become available, such as the Tewksbury's: Open Space and Recreation Plan, Capital Improvement Plan, Master Plan, Affordable Housing Plan and Historic Commission Documents may also be included.
Nancy Reed December 12, 2012 at 10:25 PM
Hi all, ( thanks for the calls alerting me to this topic!) Who me, asked,"who decides if the taxpayers wish to use CPA funds to purchase property? " Any person who owns property or the town, who owns property, can submit an application to the Community Preservation Committee to request approval at Town Meeting. If the CPC reviews the submittal, sees that the use fits the Act and that the project meets the criteria- then the CPC will submit an article to town meeting for the voters to approve or disapprove. As for the Ames Castle, an application was never presented by any owner of Ames Castle or the town to the CPC for this item. As discussed and as far as I know, the building was determined to be too far gone upon review by the Historic Commission and whoever else from the 'town' saw it- very unfortunate, but this building's condition should have been addressed probably 20-30 years ago. The building would have been suitable for CPA fund use, in terms of both historic preservation and affordable housing ( 2 of the CPA uses). "Are the taxpayers consulted?" The taxpayers decide at Town Meeting Scott, just to clarify, the town hall anex roof is not a CPA project. Also, the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Appeals had no discussions on the preservation of the Ames Castle topic that I know of.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Thank you Scott and Nancy for your clarifications. I am very disappointed that no open space or historical structures have been preserved in the time that the CPA has been in place. Perhaps the "right" place has not yet become available. Would preservation of the land surrounding the State Hospital be an appropriate use of CPA monies?
Scott Wilson December 12, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Thanks Nancy.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Scott, Additionally I meant to ask if there was some sort of residents meeting that decided the fate of Ames Castle? You mentioned a residents meeting? Was there an official evaluation determining the soundness and feasibility of saving the home.
Nancy Reed December 12, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Who Me, 'Would preservation of the land surrounding the State Hospital be an appropriate use of CPA monies?' Preservation/purchase of Open Space is an allowed use of CPA funds. Please- Keep in mind that there are 900 acres of State property surrounding the hospital. There have been a couple uses for preservation of Open Space- although not purchases ( we have tries to purchase, but the owners were not willing). The preservation of Open Space items are: -Completion of a State certified Open Space and Recreation Plan - the large drainage issue at Livingston Park in the little league field areas and around the pavillion- this is awaiting the deed transfer from the State. - preservation of Long Pond through drainage remedies ( we approved approx. CPA $125K and the State matched it in a Section 319 grant with 250K- total 375K...ongoing project) You are right that the 'right' place has not become available, but also, it hasn't been formally presented or offered to the town, to my knowledge, or the CPC... I and the CPC do the best we can when presented with proposals. We haven't prevented a proposal that met the allowed use of the funds from going before the voters. That is what it is all about, after all. We cannot be everywhere, but I have confidence that town departments, other boards and committees do their due diligence in these matters and want to see the CPA funds used for the 'best for Tewksbury...'
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 11:04 PM
I spoke to 2 State Reps about 2 years ago. Both felt that the CPA would be a great idea to preserve the State land. It may even be possible to make CPA payments to the State over time to gain as much of the open space as possible. I believe that it's very feasible.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 11:09 PM
Scott, Nancy and actually everyone. Should we, as a Town, preserve for eternity, as much of the lands around the State Hospital as we possibly can?
Nancy Reed December 12, 2012 at 11:14 PM
Who Me- The Historic Commission held a public hearing several months ago when they imposed the Demolition Delay, where neighbors attended and voiced their concerns, which varied, but as I recall- did not present too much support for the preservation of the building...just from where I was sitting....
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 11:16 PM
For the record, I never thought the building was savable. It was too late. Let's focus on my question above your response.
Nancy Reed December 12, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Who Me, Regarding the above about the state land, ( sorry... I did not see it until after I posted)... there are 400 acres preserved by legislation, Former Sen. Sue Tucker worked on this with a town committee several years ago. At Livingston Fields there is a map of the land, right in front of the tennis courts. Sorry, I will not be posting again about this...on my way to a meeting.
Who Me? December 12, 2012 at 11:56 PM
Thanks again...understood The 400 acres may or may not be rock solid secure.... Regardless, we won't get what's left for free. Let's use the CPA and get the other 500 acres.
john smith December 13, 2012 at 12:31 AM
Scott no one has said how Marc should spend his money. Some residents myself included are just tired of Tewksbury losing everything open or historical. A few idiots have personally attacked Mr. Ginsburg which was wrong. The reasonable people who are disappointed understand, but we don't have to agree with his decision. It was never placed on the open market so we will never know if it could have been restored which is always a better option for the town when history is there. Scott it was not deplorable, I know people who lived there recently as tenants.
malcolm nichols December 13, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Maybe we should use the money for a football field instead???
Scott Wilson December 13, 2012 at 03:13 PM
If thats what the residents want, then yes. With all the other issues in town it has not been one that we have focused closely on, but it looks like we probably should.

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