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Woman Working To Add Danforth House To National Historic Register

Historic structure in Lynnfield faces an uncertain future. Property was settled in 1600s by the man with the distinction of having the oldest grave in Wakefield.

A Lynnfield woman has been devoting considerable volunteer time over the past year to trying to preserve one of that town's most historic properties.

Shelley Lynch has been working to try to get the Danforth House, located on Summer Street next to the Reedy Meadow Golf Course, added to the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most important benefits from there would be that the property would then be eligible for certain federal renovation funds.

"It's very worthwhile to save because in Lynnfield we don't have a lot left in the town that captures the past, and you've got pretty significant families that lived in the home," said Lynch in a phone conversation this week with Lynnfield Patch.

Depending on who you ask in Lynnfield, opinions vary considerably on whether the structure is actually sound enough to proceed with a major restoration. Lynch said she has studied a past report on the state of the house which found it to be solidly built and in generally good shape.

Early this year, Lynnfield-based photographer Kerry Goodwin was allowed to gain entry to the house and ran a gallery of photos of the place in the Weekly News. Lynch reports that it was that photo gallery that inspired her to get involved with trying to save the house.

Lynch noted that the stucture on Summer Street has four distinctive architectural styles from various renovations over the years. She added that the Danforth house is not the original home on the property. Instead, what we see there today was built by Captain Nathaniel Bancroft in the 1700s. The original house, built in the mid to late 1600s by Lieutenant Thomas Bancroft, was apparently replaced around that time by Captain Bancroft, who may have been born in the old house. Captain Bancroft's daughter Hannah later married John Danforth, which is how the house acquired its more familiar name.

On a side note, Lieutenant Bancroft, the original family emigrant, now occupies the oldest grave in neighboring Wakefield.

The history of the house has also been discussed at several previous times on this website. Captain Bancroft was the leader of the local Minutemen and his soldiers were among the Lynnfielders who responded to the alarm from Lexington and Concord and fought the British a day later at the Battle of Menotomy in Arlington. A follow-up article took a closer look at the role the actual house has played in town.

Lynch also pointed out that beyond his military service to the fledgling nation, Bancroft was a distinguished local leader for Lynnfield. She became well-versed in the overall history of the house through her volunteer work, noting that back in the 1930s, it was owned by the Cox family - who built the adjoining golf course and later saw it idled for a few years by World War II.

Looking ahead, Lynch said that she has largely completed the requirements for getting the Danforth House added to the National Registry of Historic Places. One remaining need she is working to address is acquiring some historic photographs of the house. She has also written up a summary of the home's history during this process and has researched the title chain for the property back to the point where British Pounds were still being used.

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