The Historic Lynnfield, Inc. wants to make history fun again

Karen Nascembeni’s face lit up with nostalgia as she looked at the pictures of her house, which was built in 1849 for railroad workers during the Civil War. Back then, it sat on Railroad Avenue and was inhabited by Gen. Benjamin Butler, who went on to become the governor of Massachusetts. In 1960, the house was moved to Phillips Road in three pieces.

Nascembeni holds this treasured piece of history close to her heart.

To preserve the stories behind Lynnfield’s historical places, artifacts, and memorabilia, Historic Lynnfield, Inc. was founded in 2022 with a dedicated set of volunteers led by its president, Nan Hockenbury. Rounding out its Board of Directors are Nascembeni as vice president, Kirk Mansfield as clerk, and Karen Hathaway, Sharon McLaughlin, John Michalski, and Lauri Priestly as directors.

Historic Lynnfield often works with other organizations like the Lynnfield Garden Club, Lynnfield Centre Club, Lynnfield Library, and Lynnfield for Love to cross-pollinate its members and supporters.

“What I love about the makeup of the Historic Lynnfield board is that all the folks on the board are passionate about the town and its history,” Nascembeni said. “Everyone has engaged their extended family members and friends to join in our fun.”

Historic Lynnfield’s mission is simple and endearing. The organization hopes to build conversations with the town’s younger generation, the members of which will carry on its legacy. 

“We want to make the history of the town more vibrant to arouse interest in the younger people,” Nascembeni said. “Not just vibrant, but accessible too.”

The organization’s initial approach is to create awareness among residents about donations of artifacts and memorabilia they can make to the town. 

“As the years pass, we tend to lose people along the way, unfortunately,” Nascembeni said. “They’re a huge part of our town’s history and a lot of their stuff ends up in a dumpster because the later generations might not care as much about it. So ultimately, we’re trying to inform people that there is a group that is passionate about it and they can bring that stuff to us. We will be the stewards and help preserve the town’s history.”

There are plenty of other homes such as Nascembeni’s that are filled with stories of great historical value. Nan Hockenbury’s house, located on Main Street, was originally built for the Orthodox Evangelical Society (now the Congregational Church). 24 ministers have lived in it.

Kirk Mansfield resides in the “Outlook Cottage.” Built in the early 1900s, it is one of the oldest cottages on Pillings Pond, and Mansfield is currently in the process of writing a book about it. 

“There are so many older people in town who are either moving out or passing away,” Mansfield said. “And when they’re gone, their stories are gone, and so we hope to preserve those stories.”

Historic Lynnfield hopes to work closely with the Lynnfield Historical Commission, a five-member board appointed by the Select Board to preserve, promote, and develop the town’s historical assets. Nascembeni’s husband, Steven Richard, was a member of the commission before he died due to COVID-19. 

The Pope Richard Lynnfield Historical Center was named after my late husband, Steven Richard’s family,” Nascembeni said. “Steven’s mother, Edie Pope Richard, a woman in decades-long service to many organizations in town, grew up on the historic Pope Farm, which was located at the site of the Summer Street School. The commission wanted to name the Historical Center on Steven’s behalf.  I felt strongly, given the five generations of the Pope family who have lived in service to the town, that both family names should be included in this generous and heartwarming dedication.”

According to Nascembeni, proceeds raised from all Historic Lynnfield events are being used for the preservation of the 1714 Meeting House and to obtain, catalog, and preserve important town artifacts to be housed in the Pope Richard Lynnfield Historical Center on behalf of Lynnfield. The artifacts will be available for research. 

Historic Lynnfield recently introduced the History Cafe to the town. Held at the Old Meeting House, the meet-up was primarily to engage Lynnfield High School’s students with the town’s history. The event was free to the public and featured musical entertainment, concessions, and raffles.

“We are trying to create fun events that will organically attract new folks in town to get excited about the history of the beautiful place we call home,” Nascembeni said. “We want to make history fun again.”