News

Four Centuries Walking Tour on September 11

Join Nantucket Preservation Trust, the Maria Mitchell Association, and the Nantucket Historical Association for a special collaborative tour exploring four centuries of domestic life on Nantucket!

The tour will meet at 10 AM on Saturday, September 11 at the NHA’s Oldest House, on Sunset Hill. Stroll through some of Nantucket’s oldest neighborhoods and learn about how changes in domestic life are reflected in the island’s architecture, neighborhoods, and land use.

The tour will include visits inside the Oldest House and the Mitchell HouseMasks are required. The tour will end on Main Street, around noon.

The price is $10 per person; no preregistration required. In the event of rain, the tour will be cancelled.

New Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines Adapted

On June 11, the Historic District Commission voted to adopt new guidelines for building adaptation, Resilient Nantucket: Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines. In the following article, originally published in Ramblings, Lisa Craig and Phil Thomason, lead consultants on the Resilient Nantucket project, explain its goals.


As one of the oldest and largest National Historic Landmark (NHL) districts in the United States, the island of Nantucket fosters a strong regard for the protection and preservation of historic places. Historic preservation in Nantucket promotes tourism, strengthens the local economy, protects the town and surrounding area’s historic character, and fosters community investment in protecting Nantucket’s historic identity. That identity was clearly articulated in the 2013 update to the NHL designation, which not only extended the NHL’s period of significance to 1975 to encompass the pioneering work of Walter Beinecke, but also recognized the island’s national role in the evolution of land conservation and historic preservation.

It’s therefore no surprise that the Town of Nantucket, through its Nantucket Historical Commission, Historic District Commission, and Department of Planning and Land Use Services has partnered with community organizations to address the 21st century challenge of sea level rise and flooding, which have increased both in frequency and in scope in the last two decades.

The Town’s 2019 Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Community Resilience Building Workshop and Report recognized the need to adapt historic resources to climate impacts as missing from climate change planning. Thus, in both the MVP Workshop Report and the 2019 update to the Hazard Mitigation Plan, the preservation of historic and cultural resources in response to flooding and sea-level rise became a priority for investigation and action.

The following year, the Town and Preservation Institute Nantucket launched a project: Resilient Nantucket: 3D Digital Documentation and Sea Level Rise Visualization. The project used LiDAR scanning to digitally document the core of Nantucket Town, its waterfront, and Brant Point. That work was complemented by a community workshop, Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket, which identified community values and priorities for historic property adaptation and the need for design guidance.

Now developed and presented through numerous public meetings to Nantucket residents and property owners, the Resilient Nantucket: Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines (Resilient Nantucket Design Guidelines) joins a range of other planning and mitigation documents which together provide a unified approach for protecting Nantucket’s resources from natural disasters.

The guidelines were drafted by leading preservation consulting firm, Thomason and Associates, with the assistance of The Craig Group. These design guidelines are likely the first in the nation to fully model the newly issued guidance from the National Park Service whose publication, Guidelines on Flood Adaptation for Rehabilitation Historic Buildings, now provides formal guidance to inform the decisions of historic district commissions when considering flooding adaptation designs.

The Sea Street Pump Station, an example of dry floodproofing.

The Resilient Nantucket Design Guidelines are prepared with photographs and descriptions that document Nantucket’s existing historic character, in particular, building styles, materials, design details and streetscapes, that define Nantucket’s character. They serve as a supplement to the HDC guidebook Building with Nantucket in Mind and provide current thinking on adapting properties to accommodate climate-driven change by elevating and “hardening” historic properties while still retaining overall architectural integrity.In addition, the Guidelines recommend design considerations for new construction within the historic districts that address flood risk, yet do not detract from the character of historic residential and commercial areas. This is done in a “user-friendly” by including photos and illustrations of best practices in flooding adaptation as approved by FEMA and consistent with the NPS guidance. Included are illustrated examples of how Nantucket buildings and sites can be retrofitted to accommodate flood mitigation and adaptation alterations ranging from temporary barriers, nature-based approaches, dry and wet floodproofing strategies, and even elevation and relocation.

Lisa Craig is Principal with The Craig Group, a preservation consulting firm specializing in resilience planning for historic coastal communities. Phil Thomason is Principal with Thomason & Associates, LLC with significant experience in preservation planning and design guideline development, most recently focusing on elevation guidance for historic coastal & riverine communities.

Preservation-Friendly Votes at the 2021 Annual Town Meeting

The large tents set up at the Backus playing fields last Saturday might have been mistaken for a town fair, but instead, they hosted a rather unusual Annual Town Meeting. Though many of the over 900 Nantucketers who turned out at the start of the meeting departed following votes on hotly debated Articles 90 and 97, those who remained through the afternoon voted in favor of a number of preservation-friendly articles.

Article 48, which limits pools in lots zoned R-1, SR-1, R-5, and R-5L to only those lots that are at least 7,500 square feet, passed with the required two-thirds vote in favor. This change will further restrict the construction of swimming pools in areas surrounding Town and in Siasconset. The Article had been positively indorsed by the Planning Board but not recommended by the Finance Committee, but voters on Saturday sided with the Planning Board. The tall hedges and fences required by the Historic District Commission to screen pools from view are often not in keeping with the historic feel of these in-town areas, so limiting swimming pools will help protect Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark status.

Another zoning change was approved to restrict the height of buildings in the CMI, Commercial Mid Island, zone from 40 feet to 30 feet. The article, which had been originally introduced by HDC commissioner Val Oliver and was carried over from the 2020 Town Meeting, was approved by over two-thirds of voters, with an amendment that buildings up to 38 feet may be approved by special permit.

A proposal by Sign Committee chair Kevin Kuester to limit traffic signs to the minimum permitted under state law was approved. This will ensure that the historic feel of our streets and lanes will not be marred by overly large signs. It also will prevent the use of neon colors, lighted signs, and warning signs within 1,000 feet of another sign, with the exception of pedestrian crossing signs and intersection warnings.

Early in the meeting, on the consent agenda, voters approved an appropriation of $2.8 million in spending for the Community Preservation Committee, $730,000 of which will go to historic preservation projects. The money will be split between two projects, with the Nantucket Historical Association to receive $395,000 for repairs to the Hadwen and Barney Candle Factory, and the Landmark House benefiting from $335,000 to restore its exterior trim. The CPC appropriation also included $1.696 million for community housing initiatives, and $284,515 for open space conservation and recreation.  Additionally, Article 81, also passed via consent, simplifies CPC member terms.

In the final article voted on at this year’s Town Meeting, the hearty souls who stayed through to the end of the day passed a resolution 81-49 recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, as opposed to Columbus Day. Article sponsor Emily Osley noted how Nantucket place names are derived from Wampanoag terms, yet the town does little to officially acknowledge the island’s original inhabitants. We applaud the Nantucket community for taking votes that will enhance our island’s National Historic Landmark status and maintain our unique sense of place.

Nantucket Nominated for the World Monuments Fund Watch List

Every two years, the World Monuments Fund selects 25 cultural heritage places from around the globe for its World Monuments Watch. The World Monuments Watch is “a global program that seeks to discover, spotlight, and take action on behalf of heritage places facing challenges or presenting opportunities of direct relevance to our global society.” Nantucket Preservation Trust, in collaboration with the Town of Nantucket, has nominated Nantucket for the 2022 World Monuments Watch.

Sites for the Watch are selected based on their cultural importance, the cause for action in relation to internationally pressing issues, and the ability for the WMF to make a difference. For 2022, the Watch is focused on illuminating sites responding to the challenges of climate change, imbalanced tourism, and the need to amplify underrepresented voices and cultural narratives.

We understand the existential threat that rising sea levels and increased extreme storm events pose to our fragile island thirty miles out to sea. We know how tourism and the island’s thriving second home market fuel both Nantucket’s economy and living conditions and housing prices that make it difficult for the some on island to enter the real estate market. Nantucket’s collection of over 800 pre-Civil War-era buildings provide a tangible link to our past for islanders and visitors alike. However, so much of the research and attention paid to Nantucket history has been focused on the whaling era we do not have a comprehensive survey of 20th century historic structures, nor do we have a good understanding of what sites are important to traditionally underrepresented groups.

Today, Nantucket is home to many different immigrant communities from around the world. Historically, the whaling industry was made up of a variety of diverse people. Nantucket is a place where many progressive social causes were fostered in their infancy. The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, and the temperance movement all were celebrated causes. In the 1950s, a burgeoning LGTBQ scene existed in some of the island’s bars and boarding houses. There are many opportunities to amplify these histories and make Nantucket more meaningful to more members of our community.

If selected to the Watch List for 2022, Nantucket would have the opportunity to work with cultural heritage experts from the World Monuments Fund to engage more people from our diverse island communities. The more people who see themselves reflected in Nantucket’s history, the more they will want to work to protect the island for the future.

NPT Awarded 1772 Foundation Grant

We are excited to announce that Nantucket Preservation Trust has been awarded a historic properties redevelopment planning grant from the 1772 Foundation to conduct a revolving fund feasibility study.

With funding from this grant, NPT will hire leading historic preservation consultant Mary Ruffin Hanbury of Hanbury Preservation Consulting to lead the feasibility study. The study will explore possibilities for NPT to create a revolving fund to purchase distressed historic properties, restore them, and place preservation easements on the properties, with the goal of then using these restored historical properties as affordable workforce housing for Nantucket’s year round community.

The creation of a House Rescue program has long been a goal of NPT, and we are excited to be working with Mary Ruffin Hanbury, who is an expert in historic preservation revolving funds and has worked with dozens of other preservation organizations across the country in realizing similar projects.

The 1772 Foundation, based in Pomfret, Connecticut, plays a leading role in promoting historic properties redevelopment programs, also known as revolving funds. The grant award received by NPT was part of over $1.5 million in grant funding awarded by the 1772 Foundation for the first quarter of 2021, its largest single round of grant funding in the foundation’s thirty-five-year history.

Hanbury Preservation Consulting was founded in 2008 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The firm specializes in historic preservation planning, heritage tourism planning, and strategic planning for preservation organizations. Principal Mary Ruffin Hanbury has led revolving fund feasibility studies for numerous other historic preservation organizations, including Preservation Texas, the Landmark Society of Western New York, the Montana Preservation Alliance, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, Historic Columbia, and Historic Fort Worth.

A Lost Piece of Brant Point

Beach Plum, longtime residence of the Constable family at 45 Hulbert Avenue since its construction in 1939, was lost to the bulldozer over the weekend. New owners will build a more modern gambrel-style residence in its place.

Beach Plum, c. 1995. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

In the Boston Globe, Pamela Constable reflected how the loss of the home where she spent summers  growing up feels like the true end of childhood.

Back in the 1930s, the Constable family reflected a preservation-minded ethic when they set about to build a new home. They relocated the c. 1920 cottage that had been located at 45 Hulbert, Salt Air, from the waterfront to its present location a few blocks away on Willard Street, where it still stands today.

Salt Air seen from Hulbert Street, 1920s. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.
Salt Air seen from Willard Street, 2020

Though Beach Plum may not have won any awards for stylish or elegant architecture, it was a contributing structure to Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark District designation, meaning the building added “to the historic district’s sense of time, place and historic development.” According to the guidelines set forth in Building With Nantucket in Mind, a contributing structure should not be approved for demolition “unless all reasonable measures to save rather than raze” have been taken.

Former site of Beach Plum, 45 Hulbert Street, March 2020.

In a Historic Structures Advisory Board (HSAB) meeting regarding the demolition, Mickey Rowland, HSAB chair and Nantucket Preservation Trust board member said, “We don’t preserve historic houses because of the way they look or because we think we can replace them with more attractive houses. We preserve them because they are a part of our island history and part of the story of the neighborhood.” Beach Plum was not only visible from Hulbert Avenue, but for over 80 years it had overlooked Nantucket Harbor, a part of the streetscape from land and sea. Rather than work with the existing historic fabric of Beach Plum, this historic structure was reduced to rubble.

Announcing the 2020 Preservation Award Winners

Nantucket Preservation Trust annually recognizes individuals and organizations who have undertaken projects that advance the cause of historic preservation on Nantucket. The awards recognize preservation work on historic buildings and landscapes, as well as those who protect and steward island resources.

NPT’s Preservation Awards program is designed to show that a building or landscape can be sensitively updated while maintaining and preserving its historic integrity. In general, the NPT Preservation Awards emphasize proper preservation, showcase the island’s craftspeople, and reveal the foresight of owners who care about our historic structures and landscape.

An online awards ceremony will be held Thursday, June 18th at 6 PM. Stream the ceremony on Youtube.

2020 Architectural Preservation Award

The Boston-Higginbotham House
27 York Street
Museum of African American History

The Museum of African American History of Boston and Nantucket has completed a multi-year restoration of the Boston-Higginbotham House and outbuildings on York Street. The Boston- Higginbotham House was constructed c. 1774 by Seneca Boston, a weaver and formerly enslaved man. The home is especially important as it boasts more than 200 years of ownership by free Black Nantucketers. The house was owned by Boston’s descendants until 1919. In 1920, cook and domestic worker Florence Higginbotham purchased the home. The house was altered many times over the years, and the Museum of African American History, working with architect Marsha Fader and builder Chuck Lenhart of Sandcastle Construction, made careful decisions to utilize different rooms of the house to emphasize 18th, 19th, and 20th century stories while honoring the full 200 years of African American ownership. Highlights include Florence’s 1920s-era kitchen, complete with her Household Regal Cookstove, found in pieces in the basement and beautifully restored for present-day use, a Greek Revival mantelpiece, and 18th-century fireplace paneling. The home will be open to the public while also serving as housing for MAAH interns and visiting scholars. Work on the outbuildings included converting the former Chicken House into accessible restrooms, a small Cottage into a Visitor Reception Center & staff offices, and the Garage into an educational classroom which will include documentation of archaeological artifacts excavated on-site by graduate students from Fiske Center for Archeological Research of the University of Massachusetts Boston.  Restoration work was funded through the Community Preservation Committee, the Tupancy- Harris Foundation, and The Weezie Foundation for Children, as well as donations from many island businesses and contractors. The newly restored Boston-Higginbotham House and outbuildings, together with the African Meeting House, now form a complete campus where centuries of Nantucket’s African American history can be experienced and researched.

2020 Historical Renovation Award

10 Martins Lane
Ken Jennings and Al Messina
Sandcastle Construction Inc.

When Ken Jennings and Al Messina first saw inside the lean-to house at 10 Martins Lane in 2017, they felt they had found an “untouched gem” and jumped at the chance to purchase it. The home, built on Fair Street in 1756 and moved to Martins Lane in 1801, had been owned by the same family for 75 years and used exclusively as a summer home. Working with a team led by Chuck Lenhart of Sandcastle Construction, Jennings and Messina completed a renovation and restoration to make the home suitable for year-round Nantucket living. To that end, projects included installing central heating and restoring the home’s four fireplaces to working condition. All historic floors, windows, trim, and hardware were restored and retained. Minimal repairs to the interior plaster walls were completed using the original lath and a multi-layer keyed plaster finish. Approximately 75% of the exterior cedar wall shingles were replaced, along with sections of rotten wood gutters, and an asphalt shingle roof was removed and replaced with cedar. The home has a narrow winder staircase in the front entry, which was retained. However, to allow for increased accessibility to the second floor, a more accessible staircase was added at the rear of the home by extending a dormer. A porch addition was converted into a first-floor bedroom, and a new porch was added. The bedroom addition and stair alteration were done sensitively in order to maintain the home’s scale and exterior appearance from the street, but these alterations will allow for Jennings and Messina to enjoy their home for decades to come.

2020 Stewardship Award 

The Pacific Club
15 Main Street
Pacific Club Directors

For centuries, the Pacific Club at the foot of Main Street has been a reminder of Nantucket’s seafaring economy. The three-story brick building, originally constructed in 1772 as William Roach’s counting house, was swiftly rebuilt following damage in the Great Fire of 1846. Over the centuries it has served many purposes. In 1861 it was purchased by the Pacific Club, an organization of whaling industry businessmen, and served as their meetinghouse and social club. In the 20th century, it housed county courts, until the Town and County Building opened on Broad Street in 1966.  Today, members of the Pacific Club maintain the building. Starting in 2008, Virginia Andrews, Charles Duponte, and Richard Phelan, Directors of the Pacific Club, spearheaded an effort to restore the building. Securing the building’s exterior envelope was their first task. Michael Burrey led the work of installing new wood rafters, and Pen Austin oversaw extensive masonry work. Exterior windows on the first and second floors were rebuilt with original arches, and steel was removed. Interior work on the third floor revealed mid-19th century murals with symbols of the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star. The painting on the north wall was coated for protection and left exposed, while false walls were installed to protect the murals on the other walls. The original wall trim was reinstalled on these false walls to remain visible. The Pacific Club Directors are applauded for their careful stewardship of this iconic landmark, inside and out.

Academy Hill Apartments
4 Westminster Street
HallKeen Management

Sitting at one of the highest points in the Old Historic District, the impressive façade of the Academy Hill Apartments is instantly recognizable to almost any Nantucketer. Since leasing the building from the Town of Nantucket in 1985 and converting the 1929 three-story brick school building into 27 one- and two- bedroom apartments for senior citizens, HallKeen Management has shown proven dedication to the building’s careful preservation. Project managers Kurt LeMar and Kate Schroth worked with preservation consultant Marsha Fader to assess and determine the preservation needs of the building. Recently, Lewis Gillespie refabricated and reinstalled copper gutters, Chris Bouque of Nantucket Millworks rebuilt the front doors, and Gary Gnazzo of Joseph Gnazzo Company, Inc. restored the masonry. The 98 original wooden sash 15-over-15 double-hung windows were carefully restored according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation by Ted Eayrs of Blackburn Building Conservation LLC, following window prototype work performed by Brian Fitzgibbon and Patrick McCarthy of Nantucket Carpentry Inc. HallKeen also oversaw the restoration of the central pediment above the main entrance, work that included flush boarding, wood brackets, and a large carved wood seal of the Town of Nantucket, which was badly weathered. Ivan Niero of IN Enterprises completed the pediment restoration, and Ted Eayrs restored the town seal. Work was partially funded through the Community Preservation Committee. HallKeen’s high quality maintenance of Academy Hill not only preserves its historic character, it positively impacts the quality of life of its residents and helps contribute to a vibrant year-round presence in the downtown historic core.

2020 Traditional Building Methods Award

Ben Moore

Carpenter Ben Moore has lived and worked on Nantucket since 1985 and opened his own shop and business, Moore Woodworking, in 2001. He has contributed to numerous preservation-minded residential, commercial, and community projects, including creating custom doors, windows, stairs, newel posts, furniture, and cabinets. Recently, the trustees of Siasconset Union Chapel commissioned Moore to reconstruct the door jamb, threshold, exterior trim, rosettes, and decorative exterior molding of the Chapel’s front door, which Moore created from rot-resistant mahogany. He has also completed restoration work of the entryway arches of St. Mary’s Church, the finial on the cupola at 19 Broad Street, the fence at Hadwen House, and numerous other island projects. He combines traditional joinery methods with modern woodworking tools to help maintain Nantucket treasures.

2020 Landscape & Garden Award

Russell and Marian Morash

Perched on a hill overlooking Nantucket Harbor, the house and garden of Russell and Marian Morash evoke a special sense of place for its creative owners, who are comfortable digging island soil or around the wide world. In over forty years as Nantucket seasonal residents, they have graciously welcomed visitors to their property, hosting events for many island nonprofits and inspiring our community with their love of growing and cooking their own food. Their home, a contributing structure to Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark designation, was one of the first new construction houses to be approved by the Historic District Commission following the expansion of its jurisdiction to cover the entire island in 1972. The raised bed gardens evoke the English style kitchen gardens planted by the first Europeans to settle on Nantucket in the 17th century, and their property highlights the value in using the landscape in a historic way, to grow food. Russell was a longtime television creator, director, and producer who created The Victory Garden, This Old House, and The New Yankee Workshop. Marian, a James Beard Award-winning chef, was a regular on-screen contributor to The Victory Garden and authored The Victory Garden Cookbook series. Starting in 1976, she was the founding chef at the iconic Straight Wharf Restaurant. For decades, Russell and Marian have inspired people on Nantucket and across the country to get their hands dirty and “do it yourself.”

 

Your Nantucket Memories

Last week, Nantucket Preservation Trust put out a call asking Nantucketers, or anyone who loves Nantucket, to send us artistic representations about what they love most about their Nantucket home, or any building on Nantucket. So far, we have received dozens of fantastic pieces. To submit your own, please email an image with a brief caption to rcarr@nantucketpreservation.org.

RL Smith: My grandmother built this simple cottage on Dionis in 1957 and it is still in the family. One of the very best places to nap, read, or just chill is this daybed in the northwest corner. Open the sliding windows, listen to the waves lapping at the shore and feel the soft summer breeze enfold you. Heaven.

Continue reading below to see more photos, paintings, and drawings.

Continue reading Your Nantucket Memories

Celebrating Nantucket’s Interiors

Adjusting to life during the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19  means that Nantucket residents will be spending more time in their homes for the foreseeable future. For Nantucket Preservation Trust, celebrating Nantucket’s unique architectural heritage also means celebrating the interior spaces where we will be keeping a safe social distance for the time being.

4 Traders Lane, Kris Kinsley Hancock, www.nantucketpix.com

In an effort to forge connections during a time of isolation, at NPT, we’re asking all of our Nantucket community—whether you are physically on the island, or just dreaming of the time when you will be—to show us what you like most about your home, or any building here on Nantucket. Is it the way the light comes through a certain window in the morning? A corner with your favorite comfy chair? Some lovely architectural detail? Send us a drawing, a photo, or any other artistic representation about what you like most about a house, or any building on the island that you love, along with a brief caption, and we’ll share what we receive in a web gallery.

Svargaloka, 5 Elbow Lane, Siasconset.  Kris Kinsley Hancock, www.nantucketpix.com

Please email submissions to rcarr@nantucketpreservation.org,  or send them via direct message to our Instagram, @ackpreservationtrust.