The newly formed Jewel Cobb Action Coalition envisions the former National Academy of Sciences building on Quissett Harbor as a center for science and education. Specifically, the group would like it to be used as a home base for PAIR-UP, a program that encourages networking of African American scientists.

It is a wildly ambitious plan, at least at face value. The property is on sale for $27.5 million and, based on another recent big sale, will likely go for $20 million. How could a little group that formed with the modest goal of changing the name of Agassiz Road in Woods Hole get in on a mega-sale?

It is indeed a beautiful building, described by the realtor as “a magnificent house with all sorts of beautiful architectural detail, the rooms are well-proportioned with high ceilings, detailed moldings, porches, windows with views in all directions.”

It was built around the turn of the 19th century as a summer home. High ceilings and waterfront breezes would have made it comfortable in an age before air conditioning. And certainly the National Academy of Sciences, which owned it for close to 50 years, kept it in excellent condition.

But will it appeal to 21st-century tastes? Perhaps not.

In response to our query about why the academy is selling the house, a spokesperson wrote: “…use of the center was in decline even before COVID, and as a result, the facility has struggled in recent years to generate steady revenue, while costs for upkeep and maintenance of the historic buildings have continued to rise. In the post-COVID era, we also anticipate that our need for meeting space will continue to evolve in ways that will be difficult for the Jonsson Center to support.”

The academy has not been generating enough revenue to pay the bills. It is possible, we suppose, that stemming the drain on the academy’s finances is more important than getting top dollar for the property and it would be willing to sell low for a good cause.

That would be great for the Jewel Cobb Action Coalition. But the group would then be taking on the white elephant.

We wish the coalition luck; it would be wonderful to see the Jonsson Center continue in a role of scientific collaboration, and better yet to see it as an instrument in diversifying scientific endeavor.

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