Amid fears that demolition could be imminent, a group of history-minded citizens are pursuing a last-ditch effort to save the centuries-old Amos Morse House at 77 North St.
Erected in 1803 and accepted into the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 — one of just eight local properties to receive the designation — the now-dilapidated homestead has sat vacant since being purchased in June 2001 by the Kraft Group, which last fall applied for a demolition permit.
At that time, the local historical commission imposed a six-month moratorium allowed under the town’s demolition bylaw, ostensibly to allow time for exploring other options.
But that moratorium has since expired, and Columbia Gas crews were on site late last week to disconnect the residential service — leading to speculation the building’s days may be numbered.
“They could start the bulldozers at any time,” said town historian Jack Authelet, who appeared before selectmen Tuesday night accompanied by historical commission Chairman Mark Ferencik.
Stressing their efforts were strictly unofficial in nature, Authelet and Ferencik announced that a citizen’s petition was being circulated appealing to Kraft Group chairman and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft to spare the familiar landmark.
While expressing an appreciation for all the Kraft Group has done in Foxboro, the petition asks Kraft to develop a plan for restoring “this treasured link to our past.”
Authelet said historical commission members have unsuccessfully pursued numerous avenues for saving and restoring the Morse House since Kraft purchased the property — during which time the unoccupied building continued to decay.
“We have had more meetings than you could count,” he said.
Authelet suggested the Kraft Group had initially contemplated restoring the historic structure, perhaps as a visitor’s center to host dignitaries attending Patriots’ games or other stadium events. But no definitive plans ever materialized.
As recently as two months ago, Authelet said, he personally reached out to Kraft to suggest the Morse house be restored as the future headquarters of the Myra Kraft Charitable Foundation, but received no response.
“I can’t believe he would have read [my] Aug. 9 letter and not responded to it,” Authelet said.
Authelet apologized to selectmen for the last-minute appearance before the board, but stressed that time is of the essence for the issue.
“It’s so important that we get one last opportunity for this one last hope,” he said.
Authelet said copies of the petition will be available at Foxboro Cable Access, the post office and the Orpheum Theater.
In keeping with their policy of not discussing matters unless posted in advance as part of the board’s official agenda, selectmen did not comment on Authelet’s presentation.