History

Keeping History Above Water: Historic Flooding on Nantucket Part 2

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“You’ve got to practically row to my front door as it is.” That’s what one resident on Brant Point said in 1996. This week, we continue our two-part series on historic flooding on Nantucket.

What do these flooding events mean for our historic structures? What can we do today, and how can we plan for the future?

This June 26-28, we hope you’ll join the University of Florida: Preservation Institute Nantucket, Nantucket Preservation Trust, and Town of Nantucket for a two-day symposium entitled Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket, in collaboration with the Newport Restoration Foundation and ReMain Nantucket.

We combed through the archives of The Inquirer and Mirror to see how flooding has affected Nantucket from the 1940s to the present. Click here to read Part One, from 1890 to 1930.

 

1940

February: The most spectacular happening occurred when the high waves smashed the piles at Straight Wharf which supported Yerxa’s boat shop. The mishap took place Thursday morning, after the wharf had been battered all night. The beating waves did considerable damage to the south wall of the wharf and the bulkheads, and the gale blew in part of a wood shed. William Thomson, manager of Killen Bros., Inc., estimated the damage in excess of $1,000.

The steamer made her trip from the island Wednesday morning, but the down trip could not be made neither could airplane service—so the island was completely isolated. There was no boat service on Thursday, but Dave Raub made a trip over in his Nobadeer plane, bringing back Wednesday’s papers. Thursday morning the town truly presented an Arctic appearance.”

1952

March: “An extreme high tide which occurred Wednesday night added to the discomfort of many residents living near the harbor. Easton Street and serval other roads on Brant Point were badly flooded, the water reaching a height of 20 inches or more in the cellars of some homes in the Point area.

1956

March: “The severe flooding of the Brant Point and Washington Street areas last weekend has been the main topic of discussion in Town this week, and, unfortunately, a great deal of criticism of both the local Police Department and the Coast Guard has been heard.

This criticism has stemmed mainly from the fact that many people believe, and rightly, that advance notice should have been given of the rising waters so that families could have evacuated before the storm reached its peak. Actually, advance warning was almost impossible, due to the rapidity with which the water rose.

However, there are several things which must be considered. How many times have the reports have advancing hurricanes been cried down here on Nantucket because “they never hit here?” Perhaps more important, how many times have request by the Town Departments for emergency equipment been turned down by the Town meetings for the same reason or for economy’s sake?”

April: …There are many storms, remarked Secretary Glidden, in which the tide is exceptionally high but there is no danger to the people in the low areas. He felt many people would not leave their homes unless they believed there was a good chance there would be water in their living rooms.”

1959

April 3rd:Another Sewer Break! A major break in the low level sewer main on Union Street, at Consue, occurred Tuesday afternoon and that section has been closed to all traffic for the balance of the week while the Sewer Department workers were making repairs. The men worked under difficulties having to cope with water continually flooding the trench as a result of recent heavy rains.

Because of the recent heavy rains that have flooded the Brant Point area it was decided to open the sewer line to help carry the flood waters water. The main was opened at about 1:20 PM and at 3 PM the sewer broke at Consue.”

April 10th: “Former Selectman Robert B. Blair told of the flooding of Brant Point by recent rains and said he understood it was caused by sending sewage through the Brant Point main which prohibited surface drains from operating. He expressed concern the sewer situation might become a health problem…”

 

1961

October: “Mr. Charles Flanagan, Disaster Committee, reported that in January there was an evacuation of families from the Brant Point section due to flooding conditions.”

1962

March: “The raising of the height of the bulkheads along the waterfront on Easton Street from Brant Point Coast Guard Station to the White Elephant Hotel and the installation of bulkheads at the end of several town-owned rights of way along the channel side of Hulbert Avenue would assist in preventing flooding of the Brant Point area during severe easterly storms such as the island experienced Tuesday and Wednesday, in the opinion of Selectman John F. Meilbye.”

1991

December: “Before the October noreaster, the shoreline along Hulbert Avenue was lined with bulkheads that were built by homeowners to prevent erosion. Gale force winds and raging tides ravaged the bolted wooden structures, leaving them in splintered disarray.

When a bulkhead breaks, as the Hulbert Avenue structures did during the storm, it sends chunks of wood into the water that act as battering rams and can add to damage of other structures.”

December: “Wiring work permits related to the October 30 storm are being issued at five times the rate of nonstorm permits, and Wiring Inspector Tom Cassano says this is only the beginning.

Since the storm flooded Brant Point and much of the downtown area, 403 wiring permits have been issued — 340 of them for storm-related work. Of the 129 building permits issued since the storm, 21 have been to repair damage.

1992

December: “The nor’easter that washed six ‘Sconset houses into the sea, flooded Brant Point and sections of downtown last weekend left in its wake almost $9 million in damage to Nantucket. Damage from the storm totaled about $7 million dollars to private residences, $2.5 million to island business and approximately $400,000 to town and public property, according to Selectmen’s Executive Secretary Suzanne Kennedy.

…Downtown, flood waters breached the seawall and covered Easy Street. The sea flooded and crept all the way down to the Peter Foulger Museum on Broad Street. Almost two feet of water filled the A & P parking lot, and several buildings on North Wharf were flooded. On Straight Wharf, buildings suffered wind and . water damage, and bricks covering the wharf were washed away. The Coast Guard Station at Brant Point was evacuated Friday as flood waters began to rise, with Coast Guard personel moving their command station to the Angler’s Club on Swain’s Wharf ; The pier at the Marine Lab suffered about $60,000 of damage. Up to four feet of Water covered the area to the Folger Hotel on Chester Street and to the corner of South Beach and Broad streets at high tide Saturday. Almost all of the houses on Hulbert Avenue were damaged when flood waters surged over the road. As much as five feet of water covered Winthrop’s White Elephant property, according to some reports.”

1996

November: Carol and Hugo Pagliccia live on a sponge. Their house sits on what used to be a cranberry bog just off North Beach Street. With the prodigious amount of rainfall this year, that bog has begun to recharge itself. The crawl space beneath their house has been filled with water for months: For a few weeks, they needed waders to get. to their front door. The Pagliccias say they have been pumping water and digging trenches to no avail.

“The water has nowhere to go around here,” Carol Pagliccia said. “It just sits there and it smells. We have never dried up since the spring.” The worry of the Pagliccias, and their neighbors behind the Stone Barn Inn, is that the Jetties/Brant Point area cannot tolerate any more building. “You hear about, all these buildings going up on lots that are already covered with water,” said Sonya Murphy, who lives three doors down from the Pagliccias. Tm just worried about the combination of all these things. Where is the water going to go?” North Beach Street is one answer.

…”Brant Point never dried out after the No Name Storm,” said ConCom member Diane McColl, referring to the storm of 1991. “We’ve had flooding problems, storm drain runoffs problems and we’re filling up the places for the water to go.” Yet Perry and ConCom members say they are largely powerless to stop further building.

…”It’s like walking through an algae pit,” Carol Pagliccia said. “I came here (three years ago) because I thought this was one place that would be protected. I thought Nantucket wouldn’t allow something like this to happen. What am I going to do if they put more buildings up around me? You’ve got to practically row to my front door as it is.”

2015

October: Many homes in the flood plain are on the move and on the rise. The action is a result of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s updated flood maps published last July 2014. The unpredictable floodplains are impacting insurance costs, forcing some residents to raise their homes and others to get creative.

“People are starting to build moats around their electrical equipment or hanging their hot water heater from the ceiling of the basement,” Nantucket Insurance president Charlie Kilvert said.”

December: “The blizzard called Juno by the Weather Channel lashed the island with an icy vengeance Jan. 26 and 27, raging for more than 16 hours, flooding much of the downtown waterfront and significantly damaging the town pier.

…Newly-elected Gov. Charlie Baker arrived by helicopter and toured the island when the blizzard finally subsided, meeting with emergency-management officials at the Fairgrounds Road public-safety building and visiting the damaged town pier, which officials estimated would cost nearly $1 million to fix.

He also took an aerial tour of a flooded Brant Point and the Sheep Pond area, and later issued a disaster declaration that helped the town secure federal aid to make repairs.”

 

2018

January:  “The winter storm that brought a good chunk of the Northeast to a standstill today due to near blizzard-like conditions pummeled Nantucket with just rain and wind, and there was plenty of both, along with significant downtown flooding.”

Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket | Historic Flooding on Nantucket Part 1

Postcard image of the Easy Street boat basin full of fishing fleet boats gathered for protection escaping the storm on 1917. NHA archives.

Winter on Nantucket means punishing winds, high tides, and storm surges. Many of the low-lying areas of Nantucket town experience flooding during storm events. What do these flooding events mean for our historic structures? What can we do today, and how can we plan for the future?

This June 27-28, we hope you’ll join Preservation Institute Nantucket, Nantucket Preservation Trust, and the Town of Nantucket for a two-day symposium entitled Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket, in collaboration with the Newport Restoration Foundation. We’re building on the important foundational work started in Newport. Click here to read more about Newport Restoration Foundation and past Keeping History Above Water events. 

In the months leading up to the symposium, we’ll feature different topics related to sea level rise and historic preservation. Since we’re in the middle of winter and severe weather concerns are on the mind, we thought we’d kick off this series by looking at flooding on Nantucket throughout history.

We combed through the archives of the Inquirer and Mirror to see how flooding has affected Nantucket since the 1890s. Read on to learn more…

1890

February: “On the petition of the Nantucket Railroad for leave to move its track back 1,000 feet from the beach, to better protect it from damage by ocean storms, the committee on railroads were addressed by SK Hamilton, Esq. for the Railroad Co. There was no objection to the prayers of the petitioners, and a bill will be reported.”

1896

October: “The harbor was lashed into seething foam, and at flood tide in the afternoon the waves were breaking savagely across the wharves. Small boats in the docks and vessels moored at the piers tugged and strained at heir fastenings, and in one or two instances prompt work was necessary to save some of the small craft from damage. Many ladies braved the blast to view the wild turmoil of the waters. Brant Point was flooded, and was passable to pedestrians only as far down as the corner of Easton and Beach streets, the street below being completely submerged…”

December: “The partially complete bulkhead, belonging to Captain John Killen, connecting the Straight Wharf with Old North Wharf, was torn up and drive in alongside the wharf.

1898

December: “To particularize in detail the damage wrought by the storm would be impossible…”

The railroad bed across the Steamboat dock and on the marsh, likewise the car house on South Beach, are damaged by the waves.”

“All along the southern and eastern seaboard a tremendous surf rolled in, one of the highest ever known. It broke into all the ponds along the shore and swept across the beach at Wauwinet and into the inner harbor, surrounding at times and threatening to engulf the chapel and several summer cottages.”

 1910      

January: “…it experienced a phenomenal high tide, which submerged the wharves, flooded the streets and property near the water front, and made things somewhat lively for a while.”

“The tide rose to a height not known for many years, and shortly before noon on Sunday the sight witnessed along the water front called many of our citizens from their homes to view the unusual conditions.”

Brant Point was completely submerged.”

“The view of the point, covered with water all the way from the cliff beach bath-houses to the inner shore of the harbor, was a sight that has not been witnessed before for many years.”

1915

February: “A large crowd of skaters were in evidence Sunday afternoon, on the meadows at Brant Point, which had been flooded with water since the high tide of the 13th [of January] and were frozen over by the cold snap of Friday and Saturday.”

1922

September: “The Brant Point meadows were flooded; the bathing beach road was transformed into a river; residents had to wade in order to reach their cottage; all of the low sections were under water.”

But the memory of man is fickle, for it happened that August in the year 1889 knocked this year’s record all to smithereens, for that month showed a total of 11.05 inches, 5.00 inches of which fell in twenty-four hours. If you keep a diary, just look back to August 1889, and you will see that August in that summer was far ahead of this one in rainfall.”

1927

August: A number of cars were stalled in the water which flooded Brant Point Road in places; and all over town car owners were having trouble in getting their machines to percolate properly, as the water found its way under the hoods and caused trouble regardless of the make.”

 Next week, we’ll look at 1930 to the present. Do you have memories of flooding on Brant Point or other areas of town? Please email us at info@nantucketpreservation.org and let us know if we can use your recollections for our blog and archives. 

 

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care…

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there…

The official start of winter is still a week away, but it’s cold here on Nantucket. There’s nothing that transports you back in time more than walking along our historic streets and seeing smoke curling out of chimneys, the smell of woodsmoke filling the crisp air.

In a place where the sun sets at 4:15 in the afternoon, winter means long, cold nights perfect for crackling fires. Today, most of our homes are heated by electricity or gas, and while a roaring fire brings a certain glow to winter nights, we are no longer reliant on fireplaces for heat.

Fireplace chimneys are also central to one of America’s most iconic winter tales: Saint Nicholas (Santa, St. Nick, Father Christmas…) slipping down the chimney to deliver toys to children on Christmas Eve.

We wanted to look a little more into the history of fireplaces and find out just when Santa started shimmying down them.

Colonial fireplaces were quite wide and deep to allow for multiple cooking pots and multiple fires for cooking and baking. These large fireplaces lost a lot of heat, but their huge central chimney masses of stone or brick helped to keep houses warmer overall.

Two men sitting in a Siasconset cottage, Joe Clapp with beard, and George C.Gardner. Gardner House, 5 Broadway. Ca. 1882. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

Up until about 1800, homes were primary heated by wood burning fireplaces. In the mid 1700s, Benjamin Franklin invented the Franklin Stove, a metal insert for fireplaces. Through a series of baffles, Franklin’s stove intended to direct the flow of air and help retain heat longer.

In 1795, Benjamin Thompson, also called Count Rumford, invented the Rumford fireplace design. Rumford tested firebox designs until he found one that worked best. The Rumford fireplace is shallow, taller than it is wide, with sharply angled walls on either side to reflect heat.

East parlor chamber fireplace in 1800 House. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

A Rumford fireplace draws air into the fireplace more efficiently, which allows the flame to burn strongly and clearly. Thomas Jefferson was a fan of the ingenious design, and when he remodeled Monticello in the 1790s, Jefferson had eight Rumford fireplaces installed.

When coal, steam, and gas became the preferred methods of home heating, efficient fireplaces were no longer needed. More modern fireplaces have a larger firebox so that a crackling fire is set further away from people.

Man in front of a stove, ca. 1900s. Nantucket. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

Homes heated by wood needed large chimneys to support multiple fireplaces, but houses built in the later part of the 19th century needed only enough space for a stove pipe, which means smaller chimneys.

So how does Santa Claus fit into all this?

In Washington Irving’s 1809 story Knickerbocker’s History of New York, there is a reference to Saint Nicholas flying over the rooftops of houses, pausing to drop “magnificent presents” down the chimneys of his favorite boys and girls.

Another New York writer, Clement C. Moore, helped cement the popular image of Santa clambering down chimneys with gifts in an 1822 poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, 
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot; 
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack. 

If the story of Santa coming down the chimney didn’t enter into our popular imagination until the 1820s, what happened if you didn’t live in a house with a massive chimney? As coal stoves grew in popularity, Santa, legend has it, was also known to shimmy down a stove pipe.

Fireplace at Greater Light, ca. 1930. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

As the years progressed, there were even some traditionalists who worried that modern inventions like steam radiators would put an end to the Santa story.  Yet in 2018, more than 200 years after Irving’s story first appeared, when most homes are heated by electric or gas heat with no fireplace to be seen, children still hang their stockings and wait.

Whatever you celebrate, and however you heat your house, we hope you stay warm this winter!

 

 

Let’s Talk Turkey (& Pumpkins & Potatoes & Squash)

Thanksgiving is all about coming home and spending time with your family and friends, and there’s no better place to come home to than Nantucket. The Nantucket Preservation Trust works to preserve that sense of place you feel as soon as you arrive on the island—that you have come home to a very special place.

This week, we’re digging into our records and serving up a heaping helping of history about two Nantucket farms. After all, Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the harvest.

Hinckley Lane c.1900. All historic photos courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

Hinckley Lane Farm
c.1844

The farm at “Watercomet,” containing more than 26 acres, was purchased by Captain Ebenezer (Eben) M. Hinckley in 1844. The house was in existence when he bought the property from Henry Coffin. Henry and his brother Charles G. Coffin were wealthy whale oil merchants, sons of Zenas Coffin, and both of them had homes in town on Main Street. The occupant of the house at the farm prior to 1844 is unknown.

Eben Hinckley (1805-1885) and Nancy Chase Hinckley (1810-1892) lived at Hinckley Farm. They had one child, Caroline S. Hinckley [Cook] (1830-1865).

Eben Hinckley

Reading through the archives of The Inquirer & Mirror, one thing is clear about Hinckley Farm—Captain Hinckley was well known for his berries:

Our kind friend, Captain Eben Hinckley, sent as a bouncing dish of Blackberries, round and plump, not a bruised or scraggy one in the lot… Capt. H. raised a fine lot of them on his farm, which a friend assures us is well worthy of a visit to see.
August 12, 1857

In addition to berries, Captain Hinckley grew pumpkins, sweet corn, field corn, turnip beets, squashes, mottled cranberry beans, and potatoes on his farm. Everything you need for a Thanksgiving feast—except the turkey!

Walter Burgess Farmhouse c.1912

To find turkeys on Nantucket, you’d have to go to the other end of the island at Quaise, where Walter H. Burgess (1856-1934) raised turkeys from the 1890s to the 1910s.

The Inquirer and Mirror visited Burgess in December of 1898:

We visited Burgess’ Poultry Farm at Quaise a few days since, and were impressed with the sight of the twenty-four houses sheltering as fine flocks of barred Plymouth Rock fowl as one could wish to see. They have 500 pullets, many of them now laying, and 100 fowl saved from last year’s stock. Their big brooding house is ready for the next season’s hatchings, and everything about the place indicated successful poultry culture. As we have before remarked, Nantucket offers the field for poultry raising on a large scale. The Messrs. Burgess have gradually increased this branch of their business, until they have become known to the outside poultry and egg markets, and are having frequent applications from commission house for handling their trade. They have been exporting eggs for several months at very remunerative figures.

Walter Burgess Farmhouse c.1996

In 1915, Burgess’ was even filling orders for turkeys from the mainland, and the flock of turkeys on the Burgess farm were said to be the second largest in the state.

Wherever you are enjoying your Thanksgiving this year, we hope it’s a happy one!

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Nantucket Preservation Trust.

House Histories: 86 Main Street

Walk a little ways up past the Pacific National Bank on Main Street, and you’ll find some of the island’s grandest homes.

86 Main Street, which recently underwent a careful restoration, is one Main Street’s most unique designs–in that it doesn’t adhere to one particular architectural style.

Built in 1834, 86 Main Street has been described as “Revival-Eclectic” by architectural historian Clay Lancaster. With elements of Federal (as seen in the end chimneys), Greek Revival (cupola, pilasters, and doorway), and Gothic Revival (lancet window in pediment) styles of architecture, 86 Main Street is indeed an eclectic house. So were the people who lived there.

Here’s the story of the first two families who lived in 86 Main.

In May of 1833, Captain Joseph Allen (1773-1856) purchased “a certain lot of land in said Nantucket with the building thereon standing…”  from Edward Hussey (1794-1878), whose in-laws, Peregrine Folger (1754-1831) and Rachel Hussey (1760-1829), purchased a portion of the house from Peregrine’s father, Jonathan (1727-1812), in 1797.

But the house that Captain Allen purchased in May of 1833 was not the same house that stands at the 86 Main Street today. By October 9, 1833, Captain Allen had placed an advertisement in the Inquirer for an “Old House for Sale”:

“To be sold at public auction on the premises, at 2 o’clock P.M. on the 17th of the present month, if not previously disposed of, the house, late the property of Jonathan and Peregrine Folger, deceased; with all the Bricks and Stones thereto belonging, exclusive of the stones in the cellar. Also, a woodhouse belonging to the same. Both to be removed from the land by the 25th…”

Somehow or another, the house originally on the property was removed, and Captain Allen built the present structure, a large house that the Allen family occupied by late 1834 or early 1835.

Captain Allen was one of Nantucket’s most prominent mariners. In 1798, he was master of the ship Leo at only twenty-five years old. Between 1798 and 1830, Allen captained seven ships on thirteen whaling voyages. Allen was married to Abigail Coffin (1775-1862) and had six children. Now retired, Captain Allen built a grand home near homes of ship owners and whale oil merchants.

Captain Allen’s fortunes would soon change. In June of 1835, he mortgaged the property to the Nantucket Institution for Savings for$3,500. Shortly after the panic of 1837, Allen was forced to give up his rights to the house.

In December of 1838, Ann Crosby (1818-1904), a single woman, purchased the property from the bank for four thousand eight hundred $4,874. Ann’s mother, Lydia Coffin (193-1823), died when Ann was just five years old, and was the daughter of Zenas Coffin, one of the wealthiest whale oil merchants in the state. Zenas appears to have left Ann a sizable inheritance, which was likely used to purchased the grand captain’s mansion. Ann’s father, Matthew Crosby (1791-1878) was also a wealthy island merchant and owned much of the land between Pine Street and Traders lane. Two months after she purchased the property, Ann and George C. Macy (1814-1895) announced their marriage intentions.

If you want to know more about 86 Main Street, and see photos and maps, click here to read our Brief History.

Are you interested in the history of your house? Call us at 508.228.1387 to learn more about our house history programs.

This blog post adapted and excerpted from 86 Main Street: A Brief History by Christine Harding for the Nantucket Preservation Trust.

Two New House Markers!

House marker design proof before it is fabricated by the sign maker.

One of our most visible program at the Nantucket Preservation Trust is our house markers. Chances are, you’ve noticed these wooden tablets on historic homes around town. They tell you the date of construction, who built the house, the original resident (if known), and sometimes the house’s original name or function. We’ve marked over 200 house since the program began.

We’ve recently completed work on two new house markers. Researching and documenting the history of Nantucket’s historic homes–and the people who built them and lived in them–is important work. House markers make a great gift and help us improve Nantucket’s historical record.  Click here for more information about our house marker program, or give us a call at the office, 508.228.1387, to discuss a marker for your house.

Behind each marker is quite a bit of information–read on to learn about two of our newest marked houses.

Fort Sumter

Crosby Family

c. 1870

The house at 23 Ocean Ave to was constructed c. 1870 for the Crosby Family. Matthew Crosby was a wealth whale-oil merchant who owned many properties on Nantucket. His in-town house was 90 Main Street, and his summer estate was on 28 Main Street, ’Sconset. Crosby purchased the lot on Ocean Ave in May of 1894, one month after it was advertised for sale in The Inquirer and Mirror.

The lot was formerly known as the “Elkins Lot” and was owned by Captain Edward W. Gardner before Crosby. After Gardner’s death, Crosby purchased the lot from his son-in-law William G. Gardner, and William’s wife (and Crosby’s daughter), Elizabeth B. Crosby Gardner.

Matthew Crosby and his heirs owned the property until August 1879, when it was sold to Edward Finch Underhill, who was responsible for much of the development in the Sunset Heights area of ’Sconset. Within six weeks of purchasing the property, Underhill began making improvements to the house.

In our research, we found that the house was given a name at one point (at least by 1879)— “Fort Sumter,” the first battle of the American Civil War. We know that when Crosby bought the land in 1864, there was no dwelling on the lot, but there was one by the time Underhill purchased the property in 1879. We believe the house was constructed a few years after the war and the name likely chosen to honor the Union victory.

Charlotte C. Pearson

Educator and Community Activist

c. 1883

Charlotte Swain was born in 1823. She died January 30, 1899. Charlotte married Enoch Ackley, who died at sea on January 2, 1855 when he was 37 years old. Charlotte and Enoch had one child together, Seth M. Ackley. Charlotte married Luther Pearson, originally from Providence, Rhode Island, in 1863.

Charlotte was a prominent Nantucket figure who was active in charitable and literary organizations on Nantucket. She was a teacher at the Fair Street School. She served as a member or officer of the Nantucket Improvement Society, the Sorosis Club, the Nantucket Relief Society, the Children’s Aid Society, and the Massachusetts Volunteer Aid Association.

Charlotte purchased the land at 8 Nantucket Ave and 6 Grant Ave in 1872. In 1880, Wannacomet Water company installed pipes on the Cliff. In 1882, Eben R. Folger built the house at 6 Grant Ave (known later as Franklin Cottage) for Charlotte, and in 1883, she hired Folger again to build the house at 8 Nantucket Ave (known as Oneonta Cottage starting around 1895). Oneota Cottage was advertised in the Inquirer and Mirror for rent from 1895 to 1920. Charlotte owned a property on Orange Street that was her primary residence.

 

 

 

Back to School…

Academy Hill in 2018.

The weather is still warm here on Nantucket, but many of our island visitors and friends have begun their journeys home as the new school year looms on the horizon.

With that in mind, this week’s post looks at the history of the Academy Hill School building on Nantucket.

Did you know that Academy Lane was not named for the big brick building that sits atop it? Instead, it was named for an earlier private school called The Academy, situated north of the public school. The Academy was in existence by 1800, but by 1818 the building had been sold to the First Congregational Church.

Academy Hill in the 1850s.

In 1856, the first class at Academy Hill had 129 students.  The original Academy Hill building was wood construction and opened on December 2, 1856. The firm of Easton and Thompson constructed the building for a cost of $20,000.

The wooden Academy Hill school underwent modernization and alterations in 1904, totaling $10,700 in improvements. Ten years later, in 1914, further alterations were made, including the addition of a south wing.

But by 1927, there was a need for a new school building. The town was split on what to do about Academy Hill. Some thought the site was too small, others wanted the new building to remain in the same location. The wooden structure was taken down and reconstructed as a three-story brick school building, opening for the school year 1929.

By 1977, the grand brick building was showing its age. It was far too small to keep up with the population on the island. That year, one-third of all Nantucket children went to school in temporary facilities.

In 1979, the Town of Nantucket sought proposals from bidders to transform the old school building into housing for the elderly. In 1986, Academy Hill reopened with 27 apartments for senior citizens on Nantucket, finding new life for the old building.

The Life & Work of Addison Mizner on August 23rd

Addison Mizner

 

We’re thrilled to partner with the Nantucket Historical Association to  present a lecture on The Life and Work of Addison Mizner with author Richard René Silvin. Join us Thursday, August 23  at 6:00 PM at the Nantucket Whaling Museum to learn more about the noted (and elusive) society architect of Palm Beach, Addison Mizner. Tickets available here.

Addison Mizner (1872-1933) spent his early life in Spain and Central America. His father was US minister to Guatemala, and young Mizner was heavily influenced by Spanish culture and heritage. He spent ten years as an apprentice before unleashing his talent on the architecture scene. Mizer’s first major commission was the Everglades Club, one of the world’s most exclusive golf clubs. Mizner went on to design many buildings in the Palm Beach area and was a driving force in the development of the city of Boca Raton.

Richard Rene Silvin

Richard René Silvin’s fascinating life has taken him all over the world. Born in New York, he grew up attending Swiss boarding schools. He earned a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from Cornell University, after which he spent 25 years in the investor owned hospital industry. He was the head of the International Division of American Medical International, Inc. which owned and operated hospitals in ten countries.

Silvin survived a late-stage cancer and retired from his role at American Medical International, only to begin an exciting second career as an author. Silvan has published five books, including a memoir about his friendship with the late Duchess of Windsor and a history of Palm Beach as seen through the eyes of Mizner. His latest work is about the SS Normandie, the French Lien’s magnificent 1930’s flagship.

Silvin has lectured widely on hospital administration and comparative international care systems. He is currently the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Get your tickets online here or by calling the NHA, 508.228.1894.

Nantucket’s Literary History Part 4

This is the last in our short series highlighting the homes and buildings that inspired a few Nantucket writers. What part of Nantucket inspires you?

5 Quaise Pastures Road: Frank Conroy

Award winning author and director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Frank Conroy lived on Nantucket on and off from 1973 to 2004. Conroy died in 2005, but left behind a beautiful book of essays on his island life, Time and Tide.

Conroy came to Nantucket in 1955 as a college student, living in shared housing arrangements in very much the same way students today do (and one imagines, always will). His acclaimed memoir, Stop-Time was published in 1967.

Conroy moved to Nantucket in the 1970s, where he wrote magazine articles, played jazz piano, and worked as a scalloper. He taught writing at many colleges and universities, served as the director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and was appointed director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1987.

Conroy’s Nantucket home was unique. Architect Jock Gifford (now of Design Associates) completed construction on Conroy’s Polpis barn-style home in 1973. Set back on a secluded parcel of land overlooking Polpis Harbor, it was the perfect spot for a writer and musician.

The outside oak lumber for Conroy’s barn came from a Pennsylvania sawmill, and the inside exposed chestnut beams were taken from a 160-year-old tobacco barn in PA. When the Inquirer & Mirror visited Conroy at home in 1974, he kept a photograph of friend and fellow author Norman Mailer hanging from one of the antique beams.

The Conroy house was sold in 2012. It has since been demolished.

Nantucket’s Literary History Part 3

Gilbreth Family. Courtesy NHA

 

92 Hulbert Ave “The Bug-Lights”: Ernestine Gilbreth Carey & Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.

The twin lighthouses that dot the extension of Hulbert Ave are officially called the Nantucket Cliff Beacons but more often called the bug-lights (1838). These structures were the unlikely summer home of industrial engineers and efficiency experts Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr., Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth, and their 12 children.

Originally located on Cliff Beach, the lights worked in conjunction with the range lights on Brant Point and buoys to guide vessels into the channel. The bug lights were decommissioned in 1908.

Courtesy NHA.

The Gilbreths purchased the property with the keeper’s toolhouse and the smaller light in 1921. By 1952, the keeper’s toolhouse was replaced with a larger cottage. The larger light tower was moved (by horse!) to the Gilbreth property. The towers were converted to dormitories for the many Gilbreth children.

Frank Jr. and Ernestine wrote two books together chronicling their unique family, Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes. Frank Jr. authored other books inspired by his life on the island, including Innside Nantucket and Of Whales and Women. Ernestine wrote Jumping Jupiter and Rings Around Us.

In 1991, Frank Jr. wrote “We have lovingly preserved [the bug lights], but I can’t overstress how well the structures were built and how amazingly sound they are today. In the seventy years we’ve had them, not a single shingle has needed to be replaced on the sides of either structure.” The bug lights and cottage are still in the Gilbreth family today.

Courtesy NHA.