Our history

Much of this building's history is far from glamorous.

Content warning: the below is triggering and contains homophobia, and sexual & clergy abuse.


We have no intention to obscure or downplay the horrific things that mark this building's past. We believe strongly that acknowledging the horrors that happened here is necessary, so as to not erase the stories of the victims and survivors. Through dialogue, discussion, and the dissemination of this information, we hope to raise awareness and activism to help prevent unforgivable tragedies like these from happening again. Additionally, a portion of our resources, actions, and offers are designed to help begin to making amends for these horrific wrongdoings. 

Oakhurst Manor (the Whitin-Lasell Estate)

(1890 - ?)

Built by Chester Whitin-Lasell, grandson of John Crane Whitin for whom Whitinsville is named, as a home for himself, his wife Jessie Maud Keeler Lasell, and their daughters Hildegarde Lasell Watson and Marion Murray Lasell.

House of Affirmation (1973 - 1990)

(1973 - 1990)

A treatment center for priests with psychological and psychosexual problems, founded by Worcester priest Rev. Thomas A. Kane. Significant negative history related to child abuse. More info and links available here: https://www.bishop-accountability.org/treatment/HoA/

Amending Actions:

We offer use of the facility free of charge, as availability permits, to any of the victims of the clergy abuse that occured here. Whether for personal healing, or to raise awareness and activism regarding clergy abuse.

Oakhurst Retreat and Conference Center

(2004? - ?)

“Home to the Office for Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Worcester, the retreat center rests on a 31 acre estate in Whitinsville, Massachusetts. The grounds provide walking trails, Stations of the Cross, a prayer garden, an outdoor fire-pit, settings for peaceful reflection and prayer and areas for reading and relaxation. Beautiful gardens adorn the property and volleyball and basketball courts always await activity.”

James Knott Sr

(2012 - 2018)

A gay couple attempted to purchase the property, but was turned away.

Avid preservationist James Knott (Sr) purchased the property from the church [after promising to hold no gay weddings] and began restoration of the historic decorative elements and removal of unsightly additions. He hosted some events for the Chamber of Commerce and Women’s Club among others. He passed away in 2018, leaving his estate in the control of James Knott Jr and others, who chose to sell the property.

Amending Actions: 

We offer use of the facility free of charge, as availability permits, to queer couples who would like to host weddings on our property. We also fly an LGBTQ+ Pride flag over Oakhurst Manor.

Estate of Mind

(2021 - present)

Sparr Risher and Victoria Dobbs, power couple and serial intentional-community co-creators, purchase the property on Halloween weekend 2021, to create a residential and event space for artists.

On March 1, 2024, there was a tragic fire that significantly damaged Oakhurst Manor. More details are available here.