This week Latham Centers announced its acquisition of property previously held by the New England Fire and History Museum, located at 1439 Main Street, Route 6A in Brewster. The announcement comes after the real estate transfer was approved by the Massachusetts Attorney General and The Supreme Judicial Court. The fire museum property is located 0.3 miles from Latham’s residential school campus for children with behavioral, developmental and physical special needs, including Prader-Willi Syndrome, located at 1646 Main Street, also in Brewster.
“The transfer has been more than a year in the making,” according to Anne McManus, President & CEO of Latham Centers, Inc. “We are so grateful to the fire museum trustees. They have inspired us to imagine the possibilities this property holds for our residents and staff alike in providing world-class services and innovative treatment and programs right here on Cape Cod. We are also looking at ideas for Brewster residents to use the new facility during off- peak hours as a new community resource.”
Latham acquired the property and six structures for $1.00—a common procedure when one not-for-profit entity is dissolved or divests of holdings to another not-for-profit agency. Today, Latham is respected for its rate of success with individually-tailored programs for children and adults (and their families) facing multiple complex diagnoses. Since the early 1980s, the agency has also specialized in treating individuals with Prader-Willi Syndrome—a genetic disorder with no known cure characterized by severe symptoms including insatiable appetite, slow metabolism and a myriad of other physical and cognitive challenges.
“The trustees have disposed of everything in the fire history collection and the sale marks the end of our 35-year history on Cape Cod as an educational museum,” according to Joan Frederici, President of the New England Fire and History Museum, Inc. “We are delighted that Latham will be able to use the property to advance its own educational mission as a leader in residential care for its unique and deserving population.”
Founded in 1972 by Eugene and Jocelyn Morris, the museum showcased the couple’s firefighting memorabilia collection, while chronicling the history of firefighting. The museum closed in 2005. At the height of its operation, the complex of six buildings featured 35 historic fire engines surrounding a replica of a New England gas-lighted common. Exhibits included the first fire engine shipped over by King George III to Boston in 1767. The museum also offered an antique Schmidt apothecary, a blacksmith shop, formal herb gardens, and a “contemplation garden.”
According to McManus, Latham will commission a master plan study of its space usage with an architectural design firm to develop and ultimately revive the Fire Museum property for optimal use by Latham residents, staff and the greater community. “Our imaginations have been truly captured by this opportunity as we dream of the possibilities and honor the history of the property,” says McManus.
Next steps planned by the agency are to develop a Community Advisory Committee and, ultimately, wage a capital campaign to improve the property once a master plan is completed.