The Joseph Burnett House (1850)

Joseph Burnett (1820-1894) was born in Southborough and studied chemistry in Worcester. In 1837, he moved to Boston, working for, and eventually partnering (in 1845) with, Theodore Metcalf. They had a chemist shop on Tremont Row (now Tremont Street). A woman’s request for vanilla in 1847 led him to develop a premium vanilla extract, which previously had to be imported from France. He eventually established his own business as a manufacturing chemist, Joseph Burnett and Company. Back in Southborough, Burnett purchased land and established the Deerfoot Farms Company, originally a dairy farm, which later also became known for its sausages. Burnett also established an estate, off Main Street in Southborough, where he built a stone mansion. Here he lived with his wife, Josephine Cutter Burnett, and twelve children. Constructed in 1849-1850, the house was updated in 1860. The house was sold out of the family in 1947.

16 Responses to The Joseph Burnett House (1850)

  1. Susan says:

    Great series on Southborough buildings. Thanks for featuring the town I love.

    It might interest you to know the Burnett mansion is going up for auction on August 17. The house and it’s four acres were most recently assessed at nearly $1.7M. The lot is big enough that it could be subdivided into two additional residential lots. I for one hope that never happens!

    You can read more here:

  2. Donna McDaniel says:

    Great idea to inform about these buildings and people like Burnett!
    I’ll add about the Joseph Burnett house: It’s been knwn more recently as the Garfield House because that family bought it in the 1840s (without looking at my notes for exact date) and the last occupant was Elinor Garfield who, as I mentioned before, I had a chance to interview about family memories before she died. There are more details in my Villager column of last week, including the relationship to the president and the historic significance of the outbuildings. See it at the library or even buy it! Beyond that, you can e-mail me and I’ll send you a copy of the column. Write

  3. Elizabeth Garfield says:

    For the record, The Garfields bought the house in 1947. They moved in with 4 children. In the 62 years they owned it ,their family grew to 7 children, 14 grandchildren, and 16 great grand children all of whom have unforgettable memories of the Stone House. I am the youngest of the 7 children.

  4. jennider D says:

    I just wanted to say that my husband and I are the new owners of this wonderful home.We are starting a full restoration/new kitchen with sun conservatory addition ,modern bathrooms . ( I would just like to add this house will never be sub-divided. ) This house is really in remarkable shape!! The house has a lot of light due to the position and very high 18 foot c. heights. The original facade will be recreated for the front, it will have beautiful columns as it once had. We are very excited and recently sold our horse farm in Sudbury and are looking forward to the project as we have restored a summer house of similar era on the south shore.

  5. Judith says:

    I was so happy with the post from the current owner. I grew up in Southboro, very close to the house and have wonderful memories of walking along the resevoir and enjoying the views as a child. I have been following the saga of the home since Mrs. Garfield died and have been praying for a happy future for such a beautiful house. It is such an important part of the history of Southboro and all the institutions supported by the Burnett family which have contributed to so many lives.
    I hope the restoration goes well and the house is filled with light and laughter again.

  6. Paul A. Doucette says:

    Dear Jennifer D; I am very happy to hear of your plans to restore the wonderful Burnett/Garfield Stone House. Your message was brought to my attention from who alerted me of your plans. I very much hope your plans will include the restoration of the other buildings on the property; the old stone shop/chapel (perhaps the most historic of the buildings), carriage house/stables, and my personal favorite, the summer home or what I call the bungalow. It was moved many years ago from its location along the reservoir behind the stone house to behind the carriage house. Fortunately, it is on a concrete foundation saving its sills from rotting.

    If you would like photos and history of the estate and Deerfoot Farms, please email me at my personal address or through the Southborough Historical Society at

    As an aside, President Garfield never visited the home, but Grover Cleveland visited with Edward Burnett at his home which was located across the reservoir. He even used it as his campaign headquarters in the part of Massachusetts. He very likely visited Joseph & Josephine Burnett at the stone house as well. The Garfield’s, as mentioned in a previous reply, purchased the property in 1947 long after James Garfield’s untimely death by an assassin in July of 1881, just 4 months after his inauguration.

  7. Barbara Burnett Kantner says:

    I’m thrilled to hear that the current owners are proceeding with their plans for restoration of the grand old house! As current president of the Proprietors of the Burnett Burial Park, I can speak for the “Burnett Family” to say how very happy we are that this house (built by my great-grandfather) has been saved and will continue to be lived in and loved — as the Garfield family certainly did, too. We’ll be hosting our biennial family reunion in Southboro tomorrow, June 15. Though we’re a large and far-flung group, many of us feel deeply connected to the stone house. I’ll pass the good news along and hope someday soon to meet the new owners!

  8. John Callaway says:

    My mother “Madge” Callaway, was a Burnett, daughter of George Hall Burnett and Georgia Burnett. She was raised in this house and lived there, on and off, until her mid-20s. I have early memories in my own life of this place, the kitchen, the carriage house, the abilliard parlor, my grandmother’s “women’s cave” on the top of the house, and the stone steps where i feel and cut my jaw so badly that i had to be taken to St. Marks to get stitches. I moved away from Southborough when i was about 5 and never went in the house again, even though i attended St. Mark’s from the first through sixth forms.

    When I return to Southborough, I always stop by the house, park, and look it over and then drive on. I hope some day, I can go inside it again.

    Mac Callaway
    Copenhagen, DK

  9. Ryan Newfell says:

    Great job “Jennider D” on selling the beautiful house you wanted to renovate to someone who is planning on demolishing it. Hope you never come back to Southboro!

  10. Glenn Jones says:

    Unfortunately it’s all about the money. Imagine the house sitting in the centre of the remaining property (as per Fox News story). It will be a sad day if this historic home isn’t preserved.

  11. Shaun M says:

    Buildings like this need to be preserved. Once they’re gone, they’re gone forever.

  12. The time has come for the residents of Southborough to step up to the plate and protect our town and its history from marauding developers. Over the next week other concerned citizens and I plan to prepare plans to battle this out, by legal means if necessary, in order to preserve our shared heritage and save the Burnett House. Feel free to contact me to join our effort! Michael

  13. Linda Hubley says:

    people lie, it is a shame this house was sold after we were all told it would be renovated to its former glory and to say that it is in good shape and two years later we are being told it isn’t and it will be torn down. such shame, there is no need to tear down, – renovate is the way to go. I am so surprised no one picked this up for a bed and breakfast place with all the influential parents that have kids attending Fay and St. Mark’s boarding schools there is no nice place to stay in town except for the icky red roof inn.

  14. Erik says:

    Burnett / Garfield house could be demolished July 2014

    Without a demolition delay bylaw or a local historic district, there are no options to prevent the home from being torn down.

  15. John MacIntosh Callaway, Jr. says:

    I lived there with my mother and grandparents, from the time of my birth (1943) until they moved to St. Croix, some time just after WWII.

  16. Lewis Clark says:

    The land on which the Joseph Burnett mansion stands was acquired from Jackson Arnold, the town blacksmith, who was my 3x maternal great-grandfather. His house and shop were moved to another site nearby, although its location has yet to be determined. Jackson Arnold’s paternal grandmother was Lydia {Fay} Arnold of the prominent Southborough family. I was a 1955 graduate of the old Peters High School, with fond memories of the town.

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