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Merrimack Valley

December 27, 2011

Illegal apartments found in Robert Frost homestead

LAWRENCE — It's the home where poet Robert Frost was married and where his first child was born, but a Woburn church is now in trouble for using it for illegal apartments.

City Inspector Gregory Arvanitis found the building at 173-175 Haverhill St. had four apartments, but no building, plumbing, electrical or gas permits were on record. He also found the building had no exit door, a situation that posed a potential danger if there were ever a fire.

The former Frost homestead is now owned by Anchor Baptist Church of Woburn. Lawrence Building Commissioner Peter Blanchette said the church evacuated the three residents, put one person up in a hotel and found housing for the two others.

In Arvanitis' report, church treasurer David Ryan was ordered to get a licensed construction supervisor, plumber, gas fitter and electrician to get permits to remove all wall partitions, plumbing, gas and electrical fixtures that were installed illegally. The repairs were to be done immediately, Blanchette said.

"He was ordered to restore the unit to its original condition," Blanchette said.

Ryan did not respond to several telephone calls.

City records show that the building has been zoned for business since the 1960s. For many years, it was home to McIntosh Business School, which coincidentally is where Blanchette's parents met.

The home is highlighted on the Robert Frost Trail, a walking tour of 10 sites where Frost lived in Lawrence.

"It's an important building for the community because of its connection to Frost," said Mark Schorr, of the Robert Frost Foundation.

Schorr said Frost's mother ran a school in the front room of the house. He said Frost and his wife Elinor both taught there.

"It is a sign landmark: it makes me sad that the church can't maintain it," Shore said.

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