Demo delay pauses Glover property development

The Glover’s Marblehead Regiment and Swampscott Historical Commission have joined forces to save a historically-significant building on a Vinnin Square property that is being developed into a 140-unit condo complex.

The property at 299 Salem Road spans three towns: Marblehead, Swampscott and Salem, and possesses a colorful past dating back to before the American Revolution.

General John Glover’s main house was built in the late 18th century. COURTESY PHOTOS / SWAMPSCOTT PUBLIC LIBRARY

Initially, the property was the William Browne family farm, managed by Thomas Vining. It later became the residence of Gen. John Glover, a famed Revolutionary War figure, from approximately 1781 until his death in 1797. Glover was the brains behind the Crossing of the Delaware, a surprise attack led by General George Washington during the American Revolution on Christmas night 1776.

“The most recent usage of the property was as a restaurant owned by Anthony Athanas called the General Glover House,” Larry Sands, a member of Glover’s Regiment, told the Marblehead Current. “The restaurant closed about 25 years ago, and there have been rumors of planned development of the site several times over that period but none that came to fruition.”

Sands said the historic house has been abandoned for approximately 25 years and is in disrepair.

A Swampscott Historical Commission-sponsored review by architectural historian Frederic C. Detwiller has identified several features from the 18th-century house that remain intact and, it says, merit preservation efforts.

For this reason, Nancy Schultz, chair of the Swampscott Historical Commission, said her commission has invoked a nine-month demolition delay.

“We voted on April 20,” she said. “That starts the clock ticking.” She said the commission favors the housing development, especially because “there is going to be some affordable-housing units.”  

General John Glover’s main house centers this photo of his farm property with open fields.

“So, this is not about trying to stop a project,” she said.  “The nine-month delay was simply to buy us time to figure out a solution.”

Schultz revealed that the commission is now considering a range of solutions to retain the building, from leaving it alone to possibly converting it into a Glover Museum. However, Schultz said, “The best possible option is to preserve in place.”

The latter proposed plans would involve adjusting the planned residential development to accommodate the preservation of the Glover House on-site.

This would require what Schultz called a minor modification of the existing plans by approximately 70 feet, which she believes could potentially add tremendous value to the development site and align with the town’s revitalization plan for Vinnin Square.

Sands and Schultz said four primary options under consideration are:

— Keep the house on its existing foundation and complete a restoration on-site (this will necessitate modifications to the development plans for the property that have already been approved).

— Move the house to a new location (options are being explored).

— Dismantle the house and store the elements until a suitable new location is identified.

— Continue with the current plan (which calls for the demolition of all structures on the site).

The site’s developer, Leggat McCall Properties LLC, was not reachable as of press time. The Boston-based real estate development and project management services firm operates primarily in the Greater Boston area.

“We’ve worked well with Legatt McCall; they’ve been good partners,” said Schultz. “We’re hoping to meet with them soon to discuss whether they can help honor the history of the three communities where they’re building their projects.”

With the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution on the horizon in 2026, the historical commission and regiment hope that preserving this piece of history will prove useful during celebrations.

“We couldn’t do this without the general public’s support either,” said Schultz. “We’re in this timeframe where the public’s interest in history is amplified. This is the perfect Revolutionary 250 project for all of these communities.”

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