372 Union Ave

372 Union Avenue
Circa 1898-1899

Does 372 Union Avenue remind you of 1899 or 2009? It depends on whether you are looking at the 19th-century front façade from Union Avenue or at the 21st-century-style entrance in the back at Newton Place. Now a law office, 372 Union Avenue first was a home. Christopher Petrini, the Framingham Town Counsel and current owner of 372 Union Avenue, says he is pleased to have been able to restore one of the “grand dames of Union Avenue.”

He did so with the help of architect Chris Walsh, who says they opened up what was a rabbit warren of dark small rooms on the first floor (that included an apartment) to create an edgy contemporary area with a clear and light-filled sight line from front to back. The contractor who performed the renovation work was Patrick Schmidt of SDG, LLC of Westboro. The restoration also aimed to maintain the historic nature of the building as much as possible. For example, a small back staircase remains to give a sense that you are in an older home. The white brick chimney in the reception area, banister, and solid granite foundation are unchanged. Similarly, the fireplace in the main office on the first floor was preserved and updated with the addition of a gas fireplace. The built-in wood bookshelves and bay windows in the main office also were preserved. Note the interesting dormers on the third floor, which used to be an attic. Some work on the front, such as the addition of a balustrade over the porch, fits the home into the historic neighborhood and more closely reflects the house in its earlier design.

In an effort to fully accommodate all its visitors and to locate the main entrance closer to the parking lot, the main entrance of the building was reoriented from Union Avenue to Newton Place. This change enables all visitors—handicapped and non-handicapped—to enter the building from the same entrance. The sloped walkway to the new front of the building on Newton Place is actually a handicap-accessible and compliant ramp. Because of the slope, it does not need to have handrails and does not have the appearance of a ramp.

An example of adaptive reuse of historic buildings, 372 Union Avenue started its life as a home for the Rev. William George Puddefoot, who is believed to be the first resident. In “Leaves From the Log of a Sky Pilot,” published in 1915, the Rev. Puddefoot wrote that he considered Framingham to be “in the very heart of God’s country.” He was field secretary for many years for the Congregational Home Missionary Society and was said to have a “rare facility for choosing language for the expression of his thoughts and ideas.”

Chris Walsh noted that Union Avenue once attracted “captains of industry” who wanted to live near downtown when the building of the railroad shifted the emphasis from the centre to downtown. In 1965 the building became vacant and no longer served as a home. Indications in the basement – phone lines with labels for a number of companies including a jewelry store – are that it once housed an answering service. Subsequent uses included a law firm for a solo practitioner and an office for an investment adviser.

Echoing the thoughts of the Rev. Puddefoot about the attractions of Framingham, the current owner says he is pleased to contribute to the growth and revitalization of downtown by locating his law practice on one of Framingham’s oldest and most historic streets.

From the 2009 Framingham House Tour Brochure
Authored by Andrea Haynes and reprinted with
permission of Ms. Haynes and the Framingham History Center

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