Sanborn House History – For Kids!
by Lucy Yang
The House is Built
The Sanborn House was built in 1906-1907 and cost a quarter of a million dollars ($250,000) to construct. The nine and a half acres of land was bought by Oren Sanborn and his wife Lorena (nicknamed Rena) in 1904.
Back then, a quarter of a million dollars was a lot more money than it is today. So how did Oren Sanborn get all that money? Oren was the son of James Solomon Sanborn, who helped start the Chase & Sanborn Coffee Company (which is still around today!). James Sanborn made a fortune from his coffee company, and when he died, a lot of the money went to his son, Oren Sanborn.
Oren and Rena lived in the Sanborn House (which they called Aigremont) with their four children and were important citizens of Winchester. Rena Sanborn was especially active in town service. Before long, Aigremont was a known setting for grand social events. Rena helped organize fundraisers around town. In fact, she even helped found the Winchester Hospital. The Sanborn House itself was opened to hospital benefits. One of the most notable charity events held at the House was the annual horse show that became a social highlight for many years. It was one of the biggest and most important events in town!
The Sanborn Children
Oren and Rena Sanborn had four children. The oldest child was James Sanborn, and was 16 years old when the Sanborn family moved into their new house. Helen Sanborn was 11 years old when they moved into the House and often worked with her mother, Rena, in charities. She especially liked being a part of the horse shows, where she would ride in the ring. Helen became a noted horsewoman. Caleb Sanborn was 8 years old when the family moved into the House, and he attended the Winchester Public Schools. The youngest child was John Sanborn, who was only 6 years old when the family moved in. He also went to the Winchester Public Schools. In school, he was a very talented singer, and had many solos in the boy choir of the Parish of the Epiphany.
A New Family Moves In
Oren Sanborn had a lot of money, but he was not very smart with the money. He spent it all on himself, buying horses, cars, and yachts. By the early 1920’s, the family fortune was gone and the Sanborn family had to move out. The next family to move in was the Downes family. The Downes family got its money by starting a company called Downes Lumber in Boston. The Downes family used the House as a family home for the next twenty years. The Downes family had five kids, who all grew up in the Sanborn House. They all went to private schools in the area, like the Buckingham School and St. Mary’s. Can you imagine what it would be like to grow up in a house like the Sanborn House? Back then, Winchester did not have as many buildings and houses as it does today. In fact, Rose Downes, one of the Downes children, has said that one of her only complaints about living in the Sanborn House was that it was hard to find other kids in the neighborhood to play with because the nearest neighbor was a quarter of a mile or half a mile.
The House Gets Sold Again
In the early 1940’s right at the start of World War II, the Downes family sold the House and surrounding land to the Religious of Christian Education. This helped preserve the House during World War II, when many large homes like the Sanborn were destro yed. The House was run by nuns who lived there. They set up an all-girls Catholic school called Marycliff Academy right where Ambrose Elementary School is today.
The Town Buys the House
In 1969, the town of Winchester bought the Sanborn House and Marycliff Academy. Marycliff Academy became Ambrose Elementary School and the Sanborn House became the offices to many town departments, like the Recreation Department. In 2006, the Winchester Historical Society took charge of the House, and they are now working on restoring and preserving it.
The Future of the House
So what will happen to the Sanborn House after it is renovated? The Winchester Historical Society will remain in charge of maintaining the House. The House will be a community center for the people of Winchester. It will also be a gallery and a meeting place. Once the Sanborn House is restored, it will be a great place in Winchester for anyone to visit! It preserves our town history for everyone to see!