The Mary E. Wells School was originally designed by the renowned architectural firm Peabody and Sterns and built in two phases between 1916 and 1923, with a modest addition to the rear of the building in the 1980s. As the first public high school in Southbridge, Massachusetts, it functioned continuously as an educational building for nearly a century until it was vacated in 2012. The firm adapted the 117,655 square foot structure into the award-winning Residences at Wells School, a residential community comprised of 62 light-filled one-and two-bedroom units for seniors 55 and older.
This $25.3M mixed-income community features a fitness and yoga studio, activity room, movie theater, game room, wellness suite, a library with private work pods, and in-house laundry facilities. The innovative program includes a grandchildren’s play area, a generous interior landscaped courtyard, and the adaptation of the existing school hallway into a circulation corridor for residents. Sustainable design strategies improved the building’s thermal structure, envelop density, and air infiltration system resulting in its certification as an Enterprise Green Community.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the school’s historic character has been thoughtfully preserved and restored with creative nods back to its original use, including exposed brick walls, original school lockers, a repurposed gymnasium floor in the tenant lounge and fitness spaces, and the reuse of the sports scoreboard as an ornamental fixture. The interior design approach incorporates rich tones of blue and gray throughout accented by black metal finishes and mid-century modern furnishings with bold colors and patterns. Batten wall millwork is featured in the lobby and resident lounge with a combination of light and darker wood tones for added warmth. The nostalgic artwork is a collection of local historic photography, original images of the former school, and yearbook memorabilia.
The development provides much-needed housing for local seniors at all income levels. The community includes four units designated for clients of the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, four units for physically disabled residents, and another three units for those with sensory impairments.