Mailing List:2003-12-09 02, Jonas P. Whitney, by Bev Hanner

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Mailing List Archives > 2003-12-09 02, Jonas P. Whitney, by Bev Hanner

From: BumbB -at- aol.com Subject: [WHITNEY-L] Jonas P. Whitney Date: Tue, 9 Dec 2003 10:20:50 EST I am sorry for posting this incorrectly the first time. I went back and edited out the photo. Fitchburg Historical Society to buy buildings FITCHBURG- When Fitchburg Mutual Insurance Co. turns over all three of its buildings on Main Street to the Fitchburg Historical Society, it will be with an eye to the future and with a wistful eye to the past. "It's been a good place to do business," said Ronald Leblanc, senior vice president. The reality of modern business is the reason the company is selling its home of 156 years. Although the buildings are solid and spacious, the modern computerized insurance business needs a large single-floor building rather than three buildings of five, three and two stories. The company's decision is the historical society's opportunity to significantly expand the space for its collections and to move into a group of historic buildings with more than ample parking space. "We are very happy, but happy does not begin to explain how we feel about this," said Betsy Hannula, director of the Fitchburg Historical Society. Mrs. Hannula said the historical society building at 50 Grove St. is extremely crowded and in an area with very little parking. "We are literally elbow to elbow," she said. "Our collections are squeezed in tight into every space." What will happen to the old historical society building is still undecided. Mrs. Hannula said a decision will be made sometime after the sale is completed. Mr. Leblanc said the agreement between the historical society and Fitchburg Mutual Insurance Co. is expected to be finalized in January. The sale price has not been announced but the agreement is expected to include a lease to allow the insurance company to remain in the offices it now occupies for at least a year and a half and possibly longer. Where the company will move is undecided, but Mr. Leblanc said the company has been looking locally for the right property. Fitchburg Mutual Insurance Co. was founded in 1847 and has always been in Fitchburg. In April 2001, the company's directors voted to affiliate with the Norfolk & Dedham Group located in Dedham, joining three other insurance companies. Although affiliated with the other companies, the Fitchburg insurance company operated independently, and the intent is to remain in the Fitchburg area if possible. The company has been in negotiations with the historical society since March 7, a day Mrs. Hannula said changed her life. "This hasn't been a hurried decision," Mr. Leblanc said. In deciding to sell the building, Mr. Leblanc said the company wanted to find a suitable buyer. "We have been good citizens of Fitchburg for 150 years and it was very important to us that someone who takes this on also is a good citizen," he said, adding that the historical society is the type of good citizen they were looking for. The main building, at 781 Main St., is known as the Phoenix Building. It is an Italian Renaissance-style building designed by architect H.M. Francis and built in 1893 to house what was then known as the Fitchburg Mutual Fire Insurance Co., which had been founded in the city 46 years before. The building contains many beautiful marble, limestone and granite features, including a large marble staircase in the entryway. The other two buildings, 791-799 and 805 Main St., were built in the 1840s and 1853 as two buildings that were attached. The westerly building was originally built as offices for Crocker Burbank Co. It has exterior trim similar to City Hall and was for many years home to the Finnish Drug Co. The center building that was connected to the westerly building was originally used by Jonas P. Whitney to build organs. It also housed a tailor and dry goods businesses.


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