Thursday, January 4, 2018

Commander's Mansion in Watertown, Mass. Becomes Site for Social, Corporate Events

Commander's Mansion, Watertown (photo credit:
Commander's Mansion web site
I remember quite well the commander's quarters, now called the Commander's Mansion that today specializes in weddings, special events and meetings, in Watertown, Mass.

The late Col. Donald Kenny, my boss in the late 1980s, lived at this grand installation home while commanding the U.S. Army Materials Technology Lab -- otherwise known as the Watertown Arsenal. After his retirement in 1989, the living quarters became increasingly unoccupied, leaving it open for public and private tours, upon request.

Framed by the Charles River, a grape arbor, tennis courts,  landscaped open space and gardens, and a stately historic brick office building, I, as a civilian employee, always loved giving tours here as the bracketed style mansion with hip roof, Victoria veranda, marble fireplaces and one-of-a-kind moldings created this wonderful, old world charm, and plenty of fascinating architectural nooks and crannies within the 26 rooms. From congressmen and dignitaries to curious local residents and media, they all loved the tour.

Long story short: then Capt. Thomas Rodman (inventor of the Rodman gun at the Watertown Arsenal) commissioned a commander's quarters to be built during the American Civil War. This 12,700 sq. ft. home became one of the largest commander's quarters of any U.S. military installation. Congress expressed displeasure over the wasteful spending ($63,478.65) but, nevertheless, eventually promoted Rodman to brigadier general at Rock Island Arsenal in Illinois. Guess what he did there? Why, he had built an even larger commander's quarters! File this one under, "Do we ever learn from history?"

The commander's quarters was eventually placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in  January 30, 1976, and included in the Watertown Arsenal Historic District in 1989.

After the U.S. Army closed the installation in 1995 from a Base Realignment and Closure mandate -- and during the last stages of an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup project -- commercial entities eventually moved into the with one of the most notable being the Commander's Mansion. Now it is a showpiece for social and corporate events.

I am so happy to see this property put to such good use. The mansion had sadly fallen into disrepair when I was giving tours, and it impeded the innate beauty of this home. On one hand, visitors were awed by the enormity and charm of the home, but somewhat mystified why the commander's quarters wasn't, at least, well-maintained.

Now it is once again a central attraction that retains its glorious origins while staying up to date with what people look for at a wedding, event and meeting site. I strongly encourage any interested parties to check it out -- the building is unique, charming, fully restored, and convenient, too,  within minutes of Boston. This is clearly not your typical cookie cutter venue site and one with such a storied history!

Commander's Mansion is located at 440 Talcott Ave., Watertown MA. Tel.  (617) 926-7755

Related articles:
Seven New England restaurants beyond 100 years old
A wedding and reception at a Newport, R.I., mansion
Dining at the historic Salem Cross Inn, West Brookfield, Mass.
Longfellow's Wayside Inn, Sudbury, Mass.
Clay Hill Farm, Cape Neddick, Maine

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