Public gets look at possible Nichewaug future

  • The original Nichewaug Inn structure as seen from the area of Petersham Common. Options for the future of Petersham’s Nichewaug Inn and Academy will be discussed Wednesday night during an informational meeting to be held virtually. Staff Photo/Greg Vine

For The Athol Daily News
Published: 2/22/2021 3:02:32 PM
Modified: 2/22/2021 3:02:29 PM

PETERSHAM — Options for the future of Petersham’s Nichewaug Inn and Academy will be discussed Wednesday night during an informational meeting to be held virtually. The event, which will be held to discuss results of a residents survey, is being hosted by the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission.

An inn has existed in the center of town since the mid-19th century. The current building was constructed in 1899 and the inn remained in operation until 1949. In 1952, it was sold to the Sisters of Maria Assumpta, who ran a girls’ school until 1972. The property served as a retreat for the Sisters until 1985. It has been unoccupied since that time.

The complex was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and, in 2003, PreservationMass named it among the state’s Most Endangered Historic Resources.

The survey was answered by close to 150 people. Nearly three-quarters of respondents were over the age of 55, the rest were between the ages of 18 and 54.

Some 60 percent of those who answered said the town should do what it can to save the original inn building. Seventy-one percent urged saving the original stone features — such as the portico, fireplaces, and front terrace wall of the inn — and about 59 percent want to repurpose the chapel/music room.

Nearly half — 46 percent — said the entire complex should be demolished.

At a meeting of the Nichewaug Inn and Academy Committee in December, committee Chair Ann Lewis said of the seemingly contradictory responses, “I think people are really tired of dealing with this issue. It’s an issue we’ve been dealing with for well over 30 years.

“The town has only owned it since 2007, I believe, but for 20 or 25 years before that we were dealing with the nuns trying to sell it to groups who would come in to work with town boards and committees to come up with something that people thought might work. Then they would make a proposal at town meeting and we would either vote it up or down.”

The campus has been considered as the site for an alcohol rehab facility, an executive training and retreat site, and hotels. Before the town purchased the property, it went through a number of owners who simply allowed the inn and academy to deteriorate.

“So, it doesn’t surprise me we got a lot of ‘tear the whole thing down,’” she said in December. “And that may overlap with people who, if there’s evidence we can do something with part of it, then let’s save part of it. I don’t see that as contradictory.”

According to the survey, using the property as an outdoor recreation area — possibly offering tennis, lawn games, ice skating, and community gardens — garnered the most support: 78 percent.

Nearly as many people, 72 percent, said they want to see a senior or community center on the site, while about 64 percent suggested senior housing as a good use for the property.

Other ideas included creation of a mixed use facility — with housing, health care, a business incubator, and educational facilities — or a performing arts or artists’ maker space.

The log-in for Wednesday’s meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m., is:

https://www.gotomeet.me/MontachusettRPC/petersham-public-information-meeting. You will need to have GoToMeeting installed on your device.

The meeting can also be accessed via phone: Dial: 1 646 558 8656. At the prompt, enter the Meeting ID: 346 247 025. At the next prompt, enter the Passcode: 608697.

Those participating via phone rather than by computer, tablet, or smartphone will be unable to submit questions or comments during the presentation. To send or comments prior to the meeting, contact Jane Lynch at jelynch@umass.edu.

The purpose of the meeting is purely informational. No decisions on Nichewaug’s future will be made or recommended Wednesday night.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com


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