Built sometime after 1784, 6 Gull Island Lane was originally part of the Thomas Gardner estate. Gardner likely built it for his daughter Hannah (1782-1809) at the time of her marriage to Josiah Sheffield and remained in the Sheffield family until 1892.
In 2015, 6 Gull Island Lane was purchased by new owners, who have generously offered their house to be part of our 2018 Symposium. A new phase is about to begin for this antique.
A house like 6 Gull Island presents many challenges and opportunities for homeowners, architects, and builders alike. We are anticipating a fascinating conversation and looking forward to sharing this important building with you and following its progress.
This letter originally appeared in the March 1, 2018 issue of the Inquirer and Mirror.
We are sad to report that the Jacobs House was demolished on March 6, 2018.
HDC guidelines for demolitions need to be updated
To the Editor: Soon, Madaket is likely to lose another
unique structure, this time an important example of
mid-20th Century architecture. Unlike other homes in
Madaket, the Jacobs House at 31 Starbuck Road will
not fall victim to the western shore’s rapidly eroding
coast line, but instead to a flaw in our system of
approvals and permits which stems from a lack of
understanding about the need to protect the next
generation of Nantucket landmarks. The history of
many buildings is undocumented and, as it stands,
there is no burden on the owner and/or applicant to
provide a professional, unbiased assessment on the
historic or architectural importance of a structure prior
to HDC approval for demolition.
The Jacobs House, built in 1968 (now half a century
ago), was designed by renowned Boston architect
Frederick “Tad” Stahl (1931-2013), working with
former owner, artist and architecture student Marjorie
Jacobs. Stahl was best known for his work on the State
Street Bank, the restorations of Quincy Market and the
Old State House (all in Boston), and for designing over
25 community libraries in Massachusetts.The Jacobs
House is one of only two dwellings Stahl designed in
his entire career.
There is no question that the Jacobs House is unique.
Anyone seeing it realizes it is different than most
Nantucket houses. At the time of construction, many
felt it was out of character with the island’s historic
architecture. But times change and in the past decade
communities throughout the country have embraced
landmarks of the 20th century. Today the Jacobs House
is one of the prime examples of mid-century modern
architecture on island. House Beautiful thought so as
well and profiled it in a 1970 issue, describing it as
“Commanding a wild stretch of beach like an ancient
citadel.” And in the 1960 and 1970s, Madaket was
Nantucket’s wild west, home to surfers and artists, to
Millie and Mr. Rogers. The Jacobs House represents an
important moment in Nantucket’s history, when one
could take a risk, when the peaked roofs of a summer
house mimicked the ocean’s roaring waves.
Stahl embraced contemporary designs, but was, above
all, a preservationist. Perhaps it is this fact that makes
the pending loss of the Jacobs House so distressing.
The HDC was established to protect the historic
architecture of Nantucket, and a significant building,
even one constructed in 1968, is part of that history. In
this instance, the Commission was not presented with,
nor did they gather all the facts before voting 5-0 to
allow for the demolition of the structure.
Nantucket has already lost many architecturally
interesting 20th Century structures (a house designed
by Philip Johnson and an early Buckminster Fuller
inspired house to name a few) and will lose more.
Their relatively recent dates makes it easy to dismiss
them but saving the best of the era, any era, is
We urge the HDC to make changes in their
system to better document and to gather all the facts
about a building’s past before demolitions are
approved. In many communities a preservationist on
the HDC staff is charged with undertaking historic
research, but when town resources are unavailable to
complete this work it should be the burden of an
applicant to prove that a structure, regardless of the
date it was built, is not of historic or architectural
importance if they desire to demolish it. Doing so
would enhance the HDC’s mission to protect all of
Nantucket’s historic architecture.
The residents of 27 York Street have always been ahead of their time.
Seneca Boston, a weaver and former slave, purchased land at 27 York Street in 1744—a full decade before slavery was abolished in Massachusetts. The house Boston had built for his wife, a Wampanoag woman named Thankful Micha, and their six children is a rare example of a middle-class African-American home in the 18th Century on Nantucket.
Seneca and Thankful’s son, Absalom Boston, was one of Nantucket’s most famous residents. Absalom was a whaling captain with an all-black crew. When his daughter, Phebe Ann, was barred from the Nantucket public schools, Absalom successfully sued the town government to integrate the school in 1845, resulting in changes at the state level. Seneca’s brother, Prince Boston, was the first enslaved person in Massachusetts to successfully sue for his freedom and his wages earned as a whaleman.
Apart from less than one year, the house has been continuously owned by members of the Black community on Nantucket, and until 1919, by descendants of Seneca Boston.
In 1920, the house on 27 York Street was purchased by Florence E. Clay Higginbotham. Originally from Virginia, Florence Clay worked in Boston and went to cooking school. She traveled to Nantucket with friends in 1911 to work in ‘Sconset for the summer. When summer was over, she stayed. In 1917, she married Robert D. Higginbotham, also of ‘Sconset, but their marriage was short-lived.
Florence Higginbotham met the widow Evelyn Underhill, who owned a cottage colony in ‘Sconset, in 1920. That same year, Higginbotham purchased the former Boston home as an investment.
Underhill hired Higginbotham to take over management of the cottages. When Higginbotham had a son, William, in 1921, the two moved into Evelyn Underhill’s cottage. Other black workers did not live with their employers, but rather in shanties in Codfish Park. The three lived in ‘Sconset in the summer and Waltham in the winter.
After the stock market crash of 1929, Underhill lost many of her investments. After a few years of living year-round in ‘Sconset, the two women and William moved into Higginbotham’s home on York Street. The women read poetry, listened to jazz records, and socialized with each other. However, when Evelyn Underhill’s friends came to call, Florence Higginbotham was to retreat to the back quarters of her own house.
In 1933, Higginbotham purchased the African Meeting House next door. During the 1930s and 1940s, she rented it out as storage and once as studio space for an artist.
The house was added to in 1830 and 1940, but nothing was taken away. The house retains much of its original 18th century fabric. Now owned by the African American Museum Boston-Nantucket, the Boston-Higginbotham is undergoing careful restorations. A preservation easement will protect the house for the future.
Florence named her house Mizpah, a Hebrew word meaning beacon or watchtower, and lived there until her death in 1972.
Tomorrow, Saturday April 29th the island will be decorated in daffodils, and Main Street will be full of people in festive yellow attire and antique cars as part of the 2016 Nantucket Chamber of Commerce Daffodil Festival. Nantucket’s annual Daffodil Festival takes place each year the last weekend in April and is the island’s (unofficial) kick-off to spring.
Activities along Main Street include: parades, store openings, and the main highlight: The Antique Car Parade. Therefore, today is the perfect opportunity to share a special tour of Main Street found on the “Envision Heritage” YouTube channel, Please take a moment to read the 2015 Ramblings excerpt “Envision Heritage” featured below and to watch this special video to learn more about this important documentation:
“Envision Nantucket was launched by the University of Florida’s Historic Preservation Program in 2012, as part of the Envision Heritage initiative, which explores how new and emerging technologies can be used to document, interpret, and manage heritage sites, landscapes, buildings, and interior spaces. This program is supported by the Osceola Foundation and the Nantucket Community Preservation Committee. NPT has been a partner, assisting the Preservation Institute: Nantucket with the program on island.
Laser scanning is a highly accurate and efficient means to create a spatial database of an existing site and can be used to generate other work products. This technology greatly reduces the time and increases the accuracy of recording historic landscapes, sites, buildings, and interior spaces. The 3D laser scanner sends out a laser beam that collects data by measuring the distance of the beam to objects in space. The scanner assigns distances to these objects by calculating the time of flight of the laser in relation to the known speed of light. Multiple scans are used to collect data from many vantage points, and these scans are then combined into a single virtual 3D model. From the 3D model, many types of representational products can be created, including: photo-realistic perspectives and orthogonal views (site plans, floor plans, sections, and elevations), line drawings that meet the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) standards, and animated digital walkthroughs of the site.
This week found FIVE events you should all attend! They may not be directly related to preservation and our mission, however we also try our best to connect with the island community by working with other non-profits and participating in community events. One Book One Island (OBOI) is a collaborative project of community partners that seeks to promote reading, literacy, and community by encouraging everyone on Nantucket to read, discuss and reflect upon the same book. Today, we encourage you all to get out there and attend one of the last opportunities to discuss and reflect upon the 2016 book: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.
FRIDAY, MARCH 18
Celebrate Your Family Story Art Project & Story Telling
9AM to 11AM (ongoing)
(for children birth to 5-years old)
Community School, 56 Centre St.
Concert of Spirituals with the Community
Starting at 6:00PM
Music Center’s Youth and Women’s Choruses
African Meeting House
29 York Street *off-street parking available at Silver & Pleasant Streets
SATURDAY, MARCH 19
Family Quilting Workshop
10:00AM to Noon
for children 6 and up and their parents
Artists Association, 24 Amelia Dr.
A free workshop, but registration is required.
Please call 508-228-0722. Class size limit is 30.
Grimke Sisters Presentation by Louise Knight
Grimke biographer Louise Knight offers insights into their life
Nantucket Atheneum, 1 India Street.
SUNDAY, MARCH 20
A Charleston Buffet courtesy of Annye’s Whole Food.
Music provided by The Shepcats.
5pm to 7pm
Nantucket Historical Association Whaling Museum
15 Broad St.
We hope to see you at some of the community events. If you didn’t have the opportunity to read the 2016 book there’s always next year! Make sure to check back next January to learn about the 2017 book and events.
Spring is in the air! Winter is flying by and we’re getting closer and closer to our busiest time of year, summer! Meaning, the NPT office is getting ready for Preservation Month and our annual fundraisers, welcoming back visitors, board and committee members, and getting into spring cleaning mode.
In the midst of our annual office clean up we decided for the, “umpteenth” time to try and open a mysteriously locked desk drawer. Yes, this sounds strange, but our drawers all have locks on them and (before I was an NPT employee, over four years ago) one locked shut, we thought, for good! At NPT we like to unlock histories of houses, so we felt it only appropriate to finally unlock this mystery.
The days of wondering what was in this mystifying drawer are now over. Mel, our new Administrative Assistant, decided to take a swing at opening it and surprisingly was successful! No, it wasn’t a special drawer stocked with important documents, keys, or even fun items, but rather one filled with some very random items! Take a look at what we found once the drawers inside was revealed!
Yes, that’s what it looks like the contents were nothing special:
1. One bag of old, stale pretzels
2. One travel size hand sanitizer bottle
3. One NPT custom made logo bracelet
4. One calculator
5. One small bottle of Aveda hand cream
6. One moist towelette
7. One NPT bank stamp
This may not be the most exciting “Friday Find” but the NPT office found it quite exciting to finally know the contents inside the mysterious locked drawer! I hope you enjoy you’re Friday and search those old drawers, or decide to unlock your house history because you never know what you may find.
Today, Friday, March 4th is the first Friday of Women’s History Month. In honor of the month long celebration, we are highlighting a very important figure in preservation, musical, and African American history, Esther Gordy Edwards. Her name might not be sound familiar at first, but you have heard of Motown Record Corporation, established by her brother, Berry Gordon. Not only was Motown a successful record company, it produced some of the 60’s greatest hits by famous musicians including: Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and more!
Edwards, along with other members of the Gordon family, played an important role at the company. In 1972 Edwards decided to stay in Detroit to manage the corporate office while the rest of Motown moved to Los Angeles. She understood the importance of preserving and collecting Motown’s early history and retained a large collection of memorabilia as well as the original recording studio. Lucky for us Edwards was a packrat and her love of Motown preserved this important part of American history forever.
In 1985 she decided it was time to share these memories and the building where it all started with the rest of the world, and officially opened Motown Museum. Two years later in 1987 the state of Michigan designated Hitsville U.S.A. at 2648 West Grand Boulevard a historic site. Today, we owe it all to Esther Gordy Edwards for preserving the memories and place where some of America’s greatest hits were recorded. Sadly, Edwards passed away in 2011, but she will forever be remembered as preserving the legacy of Motown. To learn more or visit the museum click the following link: http://www.motownmuseum.org/
For this week’s “Friday Find” we found a reason why you may want to watch or re-watch a few of the 2016 Academy Award nominated films. The 88th award show airs this weekend, on Sunday, February 28 at 7pm. Did you know today’s films often feature historic locations? The following films, nominated for a 2016 Academy Award, feature a historic location and/or building: Steve Jobs, Trumbo, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, and The Revenant.
The film Steve Jobs, which has been nominated for the best actor in a leading role and best actress in a supporting role, shows the childhood home of Steve Jobs –today a designated historic site. The property, located at 2066 Crist Drive in Los Altos, California, is not only where Jobs lived from 7th grade through high school, but also the house’s garage is where the very first Apple computer was designed. The computer was one of 50, which were designed and created by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne in the late 70’s. At the time they each sold for $500. Little did they know that their design and those 50 computers would lead them to a company that today could soon be worth over a trillion dollars!
The house is still in the family, owned by Job’s adopted sister, Patricia Jobs. Since the house has a historic designation any renovations or changes made to the building must first be approved by the town of Los Altos. If you haven’t seen the film but plan to, make sure to look for the shot of this 20th century landmark!
The Nantucket Preservation Trust has many reasons to express loveon Saturday, Valentine’s Day! We wouldn’t be here if weren’t for the support of our members, board, event attendees, business sponsors, underwriters, homeowners, and most importantly the historic island Nantucket! We lovethe historic island and all that encompasses it.
Do you share our love for Nantucket’s architectural preservation? Become a 2016 member to help us protect what we love, historic architecture and most importantly its interiors! Show us your care and join today by clicking HERE!
The 2016 Preservation Awards: call for nominations will run now through Friday March 25 at 5:00 PM. The Preservation Awards honor projects, individuals and organizations that have made a positive impact in preserving Nantucket’s historic character. NPT hopes that the awards will continue to encourage proper preservation work, broaden outreach to the building community, and ensure the protection of the island’s historic resources. For nomination forms and further information visit the Preservation Awards webpage, click here.
The 2016 Preservation Awards program, now in its tenth year, recognizes individuals and organizations for historic preservation related projects, stewardship of island landmarks, sensitive landscape design associated with historic buildings, historical renovations, new construction, and the promotion of traditional building methods. Nominees are reviewed by The Preservation Award committee and then given to the NPT board for final decisions. Award recipients will be notified in late April and announced during Preservation Month in June via the Nantucket Preservation Trust website and advertised in The Inquirer & Mirror. Award recipients are annually honored at the private Preservation Awards Ceremony, which will be held on Thursday, June 23. By recognizing preservation projects and the work of individuals, property owners, design and construction professionals and organizations, the NPT hopes to encourage proper preservation work and broaden outreach to the community.
We are asking for nominations of an individual or organization that qualifies for one of the following award categories: Architectural Preservation, Landscape, Stewardship, Traditional Building Methods, Historical Renovation and New Construction. All nominations must include nominee’s name, location of project and how it supports preservation on the island. To download a nomination form click here or for more information call the NPT office at 508-228-1387.