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Valentine property public forum discusses reuse options for historic property

Image key for the Valentine property in Ashland. Green: will be open with walking paths and an undisturbed wildlife corridor with a possibility for agricultural use. Blue: historic house (built in 1800s) and barn (built 1700s), both areas will have multiple functions and purposes. Red: dedicated for parking, approximately 50 parking spots. Image source:

By Theresa Knapp 

On Jan. 29, the Ashland Select Board held a public forum regarding the future reuse of the Valentine Estate property at 125-139 West Union Street. 

In 2018, the town purchased the historic 7.67-acre property for $3.5 million from a developer who had proposed a 120-unit housing development on the property. 

“This has the possibility to be basically a gem, I think, of Metrowest, not just Ashland but the region,” said Ashland Town Manager Michael Herbert, who began the forum with a 45-minute presentation. 

Herbert described the state of the 2018 property as “a barn that’s falling apart, and a house that’s not in the greatest shape, [and] property that’s a little bit overgrown.” Since the 2018 purchase, the timber-framed barn has been “95% restored” and the January public forum was meant to discuss future uses of the property and its buildings, including the 18th century barn and the 19th century house. 

Herbert described the Colonial style house as “a really, really unique mish-mash of different styles and different centuries and different generations…This house is chopped up prettygood.” 

There are numerous restrictions on the property that limit its reuse. In addition, any reuse must be self-sustaining and have a tourism aspect. Herbert noted parking is limited on the property but there is a one-third acre portion that could accommodate parking for 50 cars. 

“There’s a lot of different ways we can utilize these spaces, they don’t just have to be for one particular thing,” said Herbert, suggesting uses such as a historic museum, wedding venue, performance center, farmer’s market, and satellite Parks & Recreation department. “This property is going to need a multitude of uses to make it feasible, it can’t just lean on one particular thing.” 

He noted “one final curveball” which is that the property is currently under quarantine by the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources due to the invasive spotted lanternfly. “This invasive insect has the ability to really deforest and devegetate [sic] practically anything it gets on…Hopefully that won’t set us back too far and do too much damage.” The town is working with the state on treatment options. 

Community members suggested a center for nature-based and environmental education as a complementary use, and the pros and cons related to that option; residents asked about utilities in the barn and house; maintenance of the property, and one suggestion was to hire one person or family as caretaker(s) and include onsite housing as part of a compensation package. 

Another suggestion was to create a nonprofit 501(c)(3) ‘Friends’ organization to support the property. 

At the end of the forum, Select Board member Yolanda Greaves said, speaking for herself, “My request as a Select Board member, but again this was not discussed [in advance with the full board], is that, if you have thoughts or ideas on what was presented, on what was not presented, please reach out to the Select Board, reach out to Michael [Herbert], give us your thoughts because we’ve only heard from a handful of people as to what you think about these ideas…To really get community involvement, we need to hear from the community.” 

Comments can be sent to [email protected]. For more information on the property, visit