I am very honored to announce that I have become the proud owner of the Nathan Fisher House on Route 9 in Westborough. And I am beyond excited that we began the restoration of this beautiful federal-style building to its former grandeur last month.
From the very first moment, I walked through the house in May 2015, I knew that it was the perfect habitat for my future wellness endeavor, the Release Well-Being Center, LLC.
Since that day, I have submerged myself into the history of the house and its early neighbors. Some of the records are piecemeal and even contradictory, but I have done my best to reveal its rich and fascinating past. To my surprise, I discovered that in many ways, its past is aligned with its future.
Many local residents know that the NFH was a private estate. However, its owners operated many businesses in and around the NFH during its nearly 200 year history. It has been a retail store, a farm, a school, and strangely enough, even a wellness center!
In approximately 1822, Nathan Fisher built a beautiful home for his wealthy bride, Susanna Taylor Lothrop, along the growing Boston-Worcester Turnpike. The NFH stood in a posh neighborhood, known as Wessonville, named after a local businessman, Silas Wesson, and his famous Wesson Tavern. The old Worcester Turnpike (now Route 9) that traversed Wessonville, was a 21-foot-wide dirt road with a busy intersection at Park Street, which at that time represented the heart of Westborough.
Susanna’s brother, Joseph Lothrop, lived with the Fishers until he built his own manor in 1825 (the 1790 house, now the home of Penta Marketing) just across the Turnpike. In 1826, the brothers-in-law, who had now become business partners, added the first retail store in the area to the western portion of the NFH. Later, they patented a machine used for pegging boots and shoes, and bought and sold real estate along the old Turnpike. Unfortunately, when the Boston to Worcester railway opened in 1834, the center of Westborough moved to its current location on Main Street. The brothers’ business ventures failed and after a few years of law suits and counter-suits, the two men fled their debts and left Worcester County.
The next two owners of the NFH, Otis Brigham and James McCauley, established a thriving 10 acre orchard and poultry farm on the property. During that same period, Dr. John H. Hero acquired the former Wesson Tavern next door to the NFH and opened the Willow Park Water Cure. It was named after a heart-shaped grove of willow trees planted by Dr. Hero in a triangular patch of land at the intersection of Park Street and the Turnpike. The new “wellness center” promoted hydropaths, Swedish movements, oxygenized air, light gymnastics, and Turkish and hot air baths for the treatment of chronic illnesses. Next, Dr. Hero opened the Willow Park Seminary for physical and mental training of young women “of delicate constitution” using similar wellness approaches. Dr. Hero later purchased the Nathan Fisher House and surrounding farm, which included orchards of peach, pear and plum trees, as well as several acres of currant bushes. Together with brothers George and Butler, Dr. Hero ran the farm and lived in the house until 1897.
Henry and Mary Bailey were the next inhabitants of the NFH, and in 1919 they sold the house and property to the Lyman School for $5,500. The house became a residence for younger, special-needs boys to insulate them from the main population of Lyman, a reform school for the education and vocational training of wayward boys. It was named Davitt Cottage, in honor of Rev. William F. Davitt, an Army Chaplain from Westborough who was the last American officer killed during World War I.
In 1938, the house was converted back to a two-family home and used by families of Lyman School employees. The Lyman School closed in 1972, and the Nathan Fisher House has been vacant ever since. The house was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980, and was granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to the Town of Westborough with the expectation that it would be restored to its historic condition. The Westborough-based Friends of the Nathan Fisher House attempted to restore the building for use as a museum of Westborough history. Sadly, it was determined that there were insufficient funds and lack of community interest to complete the nearly $1 million project. The town decided to sell the house and land, with 50 percent of the proceeds returned to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
And now, the Nathan Fisher House, which has been unoccupied and slowly returning to nature for several decades, will come full circle. In December 2016, I will open Release Well-Being Center, a state-of-the-art spa and holistic wellness center. It will incorporate many of the previous lives of the house, including a retail area, vegetable and herb garden, a place of knowledge sharing and many of the same wellness treatments used by Dr. Hero many years ago. It feels like a natural progression to me. Join our wellness community to receive updates and promotional offers by clicking the sign up link here!
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Amy MohnJuly 24, 2016
I love the connection between the past of this special building and property with the future. You are truly honoring the spirit of this place, preserving it while making updates to keep it relevant for generations to come!