Commission and The Society

There is a common misconception as to the duties of the Ashland Historical Commission, and the function of the Ashland Historical Society, and it is not unique to Ashland. All the 357 cities and towns in the Commonwealth that possess both have run into the situation where a resident or other inquiring individual has called Town Hall looking for the Historical Society’s office, or conversely calling the Society looking for the Commission. I have to admit; before I joined the Society, I was one of those individuals too.

The Ashland Historical Society is a private non-profit 501(c)(3) charitable organization tasked with preserving and presenting the history of the Town of Ashland. We are located at the head of Main Street (actually on Myrtle Street) occupying the 1748 Ocean House once belonging to Col. John Jones, and arguably one of the oldest homes in town. Membership is open to all, and an application is available on our website or at the Ocean House itself. Typically, there is a member available on Wednesday evenings from 7 to 9 PM. We can be reached at (508) 881-8183, or by the ‘Contact Us’ tab on the website.

The Ashland Historical Commission is authorized under MGL Chapter 40, Sec. 8D 1963. The members are appointed by the Board of Selectmen, and although being a town board, often meet at the Ocean House. They are tasked to generate local input and initiative for the identification and protection of historic properties in Ashland.

It is no surprise that many of the members of the Commission are also members of the Society. From the April, 1989 issue of Ashland Directions, Commission Chairman Cliff Wilson (who is today President of the Society) reached out to Ashland residents to identify and help document historic homes in town. There is a significant benefit to this. Property that is deemed potentially historic is subject to environmental review by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The goal of the Commission was to establish an inventory of properties to be placed in the State’s register. Once identified, according to the 1989 article, communities “which have developed inventories have been able to take part in the National Register program which not only affords protection of the property, but also allows the owners of National Register properties to apply for National Park Service matching grants-in-aid.”

That was 1989, and through the help of the residents, a comprehensive list was established. Recent properties under Purchase and Sale agreements that were deemed historic have come before the Historical Commission. They include the barn on the former Valentine property on West Union Street, as well as the Enslin property right down the street by the Middle School. Recent downturns in the real estate market have probably delayed any changes to these properties, but it brings them to the attention of the public through demolition/alteration delay proceedings. This ensures that every attempt is made to preserve and protect our local treasures.

Again, from the 1989 article, if you feel your property may be historic, help is available to authenticate your claim. On the local level, contact the Ashland Historical Commission at

On the state level, view the Massachusetts Historical Commission’s website at

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions
April 2013