What’s Next for the Drabbington Lodge? Part 2: The Once and Future…

And now, the continuing story of the Drabbington Lodge…in which we learn about the today and the tomorrow of this historic lodge (circa 1899)–make sure you read Part I so you are up to date on history, horses and firemen.

Earlier this week, I got a tour of the temporarily-named Weston Manor with the Weston resident/developer Robert (Bob) Parsekian who bought the place in July 2022. This was not a visit to establish whether or not there was office space for the Owl at the Lodge, but rather to hear what Mr. Parsekian had in mind for it. Are you ready?

I sort of feel like I should make up something really really scary – but it’s not April Fool’s Day and no one needs an additional fright these next couple of weeks. Not currently in the plans: demolition to make pickleball courts, large whiskey distilling enterprise, haunted house, or college housing (for which it was used in the past if anyone recalls my prior post).

Tour Highlights

The front room of the Lodge is exactly how I remembered–the common space of living room and library. The furniture is gone now, as is all the art from the walls–some of the miscellaneous doo-dads are at the front door waiting for a ride to the Transfer Station’s Swap Shed. The carpet bears testament to years as an assisted living facility. It will go. Overall, it should surprise no one that the Lodge will need LOTS of love and refurbishment. Whatever happens next will involve some serious work.

Dining room and door to kitchen (left)

What still wows is the dining rooms and the windows along the front side–hopefully looking out on a new baby sugar maple really soon (hint, hint). Maybe a sycamore. We can discuss. I am also partial to tupelos. Back inside: there’s a commercial kitchen as well which will need some updating–and of course that depends on the future use of the place.

We then went upstairs to look at some of the 29 rooms. I think we looked in about 25 of them–I just cannot resist a full tour. One room had extensive water damage, one room was a “sibling room” with a connecting swinging door that made me laugh. As if my twins would ever survive that–one would always be trying to whack the other with the door passing through. The rooms have nice space (though some a bit odd with gabled windows and slight rises) and. beautiful light even on an overcast day. All have bathrooms and all had those motel-y type “not-kitchen” spaces where you could put a Keurig and a microwave. Or a lava lamp. Who knows what happens in assisted living? Not me. Yet.

Where’s the Keurig?

Now, at this point, I must admit that I was trying to suss out what Mr. Parsekian is thinking about doing with this Drabbington Lodge. And I must also admit he took me by surprise by asking “what about a Bed & Breakfast?” and I was like “whaaaaat? those still exist?” I haven’t stayed in a B&B in this century at least–we are VRBO people or make-our-friends-put-us-up people.

And this is when I realized that Mr. Parsekian was genuinely asking “what do you think I should do with this place?” And he hasn’t only asked me of course (though clearly I am an expert on historic building use from my comments about the JST) but others from Affordable Housing Trust, Elderly Housing, Brook School, Council on Aging, Planning Board and I’m missing someone but other folks have visited too. Did all of them get the special basement tour like I did? I think not. Basement does make me think a bit about Edgar Allen Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado and what might be in those walls but never mind. Halloween just gets me.

So here in no particular order are some of the ideas I gave Mr. Parsekian and what he thought of them:

  1. Tavern/restaurant. Yah, he had already thought of that one. Turns out there’s zoning issues. Oh well, the other tavern/restaurant is not working out so well so forget it.
  2. Dog boarding/grooming facility. Okay, this one was my favorite and I totally tried to sell it. Think about how many doodles and goldens we have in this town? Zillions. They go to Cat Rock and get muddy, burr-y, mussy and then what does one do? Stop by the Dog Lodge at Drabbington, and get them cleaned up. Could have a day care camp for them in the living room, grooming in the library. Upstairs/downstairs are 29 boarding rooms complete with lava lamps. It’s perfect. That got a nope. Sigh.
  3. Council on Aging Satellite/Elderly Housing. Okay, this was not my idea but totally riffed off of it. Council on Aging is outgrowing its home at the Community Center, right? So let’s have COA-North. Programs and social stuff on the main floor during the day, then a specialized kitchen/dining club in the non-specialized kitchen/restaurant that currently exists. COA members could invite family and friends to the COA Club Dining Room, but it would not be public. Upstairs/downstairs there would be studio living for hip elderly. Some kitchenettes. Dance floor in the basement. There is still a hair salon downstairs too–I’m telling you, I just love COA North. Also, we could re-do Sarah Thurston’s awesome garden with the help of the Country Garden Club or the Weston Garden Club. We can unbury tools from the Cask of Amontillado room. Idea not immediately kiboshed so I’m hopeful.
  4. Elderly housing. Again, not my idea but could so see it. Brook School has a ten-year waiting list for non-Westonians/Westonites. Maybe some of them would like a smaller apartment (but not assisted living) where they could live large. Maybe more units could be put in where common spaces are–except for the restaurant and kitchen. I would so keep those as an option for those who don’t want to cook (note Brook School does not have a dining option). Idea may be financially nonviable but let’s see.

There were lots of ideas flying as well about medium-term corporate housing for those working in Waltham or nearby. Remember, the Kendal Green train station is less than a half mile away. Affordable housing for town employees? Cat boarding? Oh, fine, I give that one up.

Another room. Nice windows

Next up is more conversations, more ideas, probably a few architect moments of seeing if 29 rooms can be converted to kitchenette studios, or if combining rooms to make 1-bedrooms is even feasible financially. Or should the living room and common areas be converted to more resident spaces? What about the parking lot, the septic, the laundry, the old elevator (teeny-tiny), fire department requirements? Lots to be discussed and thought about.

The developer is hoping to have a charette (French for “meeting”) with residents and neighbors and interested parties and commitees where everyone can throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks. Because not only does it need to be a great idea but it needs to make financial sense. Also I need to be involved in all naming issues because Manor is out, and so is Drabbington. The Lodge at Cat Rock. The Dodge (Dog-Lodge). COA-Coveted Northside.

Make sure you suggest the dog boarding idea again–I totally think it could work.

If you have any questions or if you want to know when the next tour leaves from the front room, you can contact Bob Parsekian at thewestonmanor@gmail.com.

All photos provided courtesy of Azad Legacy Partners. Owl camera fail.

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