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Winchester's Sanborn House History: Featuring The Winchester Historical Society

By Kristen Bosse

The world may be moving faster than ever with modernization initiatives, but there are still benefits to preserving historical sites and keeping things as they were many years ago. Historical sites add character to the town, and help keep its identity in tact. The buildings themselves bring a certain charm to a neighborhood that new buildings don't. Like many other old buildings created in the earlier 20th century, the Sanborn House in Winchester, MA is simply beautiful. Apart from its astounding size and towering pillars, the new landscaping compliments the Colonial style of the house perfectly. Nowadays, the house is going through major renovations for use as a place for town events, private parties, and a permanent home for the Winchester Historical Society.

Originally built in 1907, the Sanborn House was home to Oren Sanborn, his wife Lorena, and their four children. The gleaming exterior of the home set the stage for their role as prominent Winchester citizens. Oren was a member of the Winchester Country Club, while Rena helped found the Winchester Hospital and led fundraising efforts. The house itself cost about 250,000 dollars and took over three years to build. As you can imagine, a quarter of a million dollars was worth a lot more back then. So how could they afford this huge estate? Oren Sanborn was actually the son of James Solomon Sanborn, Co-Founder of Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company. James made a fortune from his company and left all of his earnings to his children. This made it possible for them to settle down in Winchester, in the Sanborn House (which they named Aigremont), with their four children.

Unfortunately, Oren Sanborn was a bit irresponsible in nature, and spent most of his money on foolish items: horses, cars, yachts, etc. By early 1920's, his fortune was gone. The Sanborn family inevitably had to move out, making room for the Downes family. The Downes family got their money by starting a company called Downes Lumber in Boston. Mr. and Mrs. Downes and their five children would reside in the house for the next twenty years.

The house was then sold to the Religious of Christian Education right after World War II, aiding in its preservation during the years after the war. An all-girls Catholic School named Marycliffe Academy was built on site, and the nuns who worked there lived in the Sanborn House. It remained this way until 1969, when the town of Winchester took possession of the Sanborn house and the academy. The academy is now the Ambrose Elementary School, while the Sanborn House remains on the same ground and was used as office space until it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Sanborn House is now in the hands of the town of Winchester, with the Winchester Historical Society acting as the primary caretakers. They have recently finished multiple renovation projects on the house, including the restoration of a stain glass window, repair of the exterior, landscaping, kitchen renovation, etc. Projects coming soon include restoring the verandah, the balustrade, and installing new exterior lighting. All of these projects are made possible by private fundraising efforts, grants, and through fees charged for events at the house.

The Winchester residents are the number one reason the Sanborn House is able to stay preserved throughout the years of its existence. Local nonprofit groups use it for meetings, while residents use it for private parties, wedding receptions, birthday celebrations, and much more. Any revenue goes to its continued restoration and renovations. With the support of the town, the house has become one of the true gems of Winchester, and a way for future generations to step back into time.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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