On Springfield

City Loses a Piece of History

Efforts to save the historic Allis Mansion at Mercy Medical Center have come to naught. Last week, the Sisters of Providence Health System announced that it was proceeding with plans to demolish the Victorian home to make way for parking at a $20 million medical office complex planned for the site.

After that plan was first announced last year, historic preservationists appealed to the SPHS to make one last effort to save the building, the one-time home of Haitsill Hastings Allis, who owned a brick works business in the city. It was later bought by the Catholic diocese, serving as the bishop’s home before becoming part of the hospital now known as Mercy Medical Center. In 2010, the home was named to a list of “most endangered historic resources” by PreservationMass, a statewide preservation group. (For more on the mansion, check out Jim Boone’s Springfield History blog.)

The SPHS agreed to seek proposals for reuse and received one bid, from Peter Picknelly’s Opal Real Estate Group. Last week, the hospital announced that the two parties decided rehabbing the building wasn’t feasible and that it would proceed with its original plan.

Bob McCarroll, a member of the city’s Historical Commission who was instrumental in the campaign to save the mansion, said the sad news underscores the need to rethink the process by which historic buildings can be knocked down. “The Allis Mansion was one of the largest and oldest mansions left in the city and has been an icon of Mercy Hospital (now Mercy Medical Center) for more than one hundred years,” he wrote me in an email. “Putting together a multimillion dollar renovation project would take more time than the few months Mercy was willing to allow. Razing of the Allis Mansion is one of the biggest losses to Springfield's heritage in years and points out the need for the city government to adopt a demolition delay ordinance.”

© 2014 The Valley Advocate