Preservation Update

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.

2 Stone Alley and Eliza Codd, Nantucket Architect

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the accomplishments of the first woman to have her own architectural practice on Nantucket, Eliza Codd.

Eliza Codd, c. 1905. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

Eliza Codd was born on Nantucket on February 27, 1882. She grew up in the fine Greek Revival home at 14 Orange Street. Her father, William F. Codd, was a noted engineer and surveyor. As a child she frequently accompanied her father on surveying visits and from a young age showed an interest in measurements in line.

After attending secondary school in Bordentown, New Jersey, Eliza graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in architecture in 1904. While a student at MIT, she won the Rotch prize for best academic record. She returned home to Nantucket and began her architectural practice. According to the Inquirer and Mirror, “many of the modernized old houses of Nantucket bear the impress of her skill in conserving the characteristics of Nantucket architecture while adding the requirements of modern times.”

Eliza was dedicated to public service. In 1918, she volunteered to help control the flu pandemic on Nantucket as an assistant to William Wallace, the island’s Special Emergency Health Agent. She volunteered with the Red Cross in World War I and, following the conclusion of the war, traveled to France under the auspices of the YMCA to teach mechanical drawing to US army soldiers and aid in rebuilding.

While living on Nantucket, Eliza converted a c.1870 stable on her family’s Orange Street property into a cottage dwelling. Her cottage, 2 Stone Alley, is a recognizable landmark along one of Nantucket’s iconic pedestrian lanes. For the past three and a half years, a proposal to radically alter the structure with a large addition has been in front of Nantucket’s Historic District Commission. The plans did now follow the guidelines set out in Building with Nantucket in Mind. The HDC commissioners repeatedly asked for revisions to draw the proposed addition to the west, away from Stone Alley, and to create a mass that was subordinate to the original building. Various rounds of revisions made subtle changes to the plans, but the proposed addition remained more than double the size of the original dwelling and continued extending southward, parallel to Stone Alley. On Friday, March 5, the HDC voted unanimously to deny the application, citing failure to address the commissioners’ concerns.

2 Stone Alley

When Eliza passed away in 1920, at only 38 years old, her friend Mary Ella Mann wrote that in her short life, “She served humanity; for in the high position that she achieved in her profession she elevated the standard of women’s work in the world. We who knew her and loved her best are proud and grateful to remember her as a representative woman of Nantucket.” In voting to deny the inappropriate addition to Eliza’s home at 2 Stone Alley, the HDC has voted to protect a physical testament to the legacy of Nantucket’s pioneering first female architect.

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.

NPT Statement on 5 South Water Street Proposed Renovation

The Historic District Commission meeting regarding the proposed renovation at 5 South Water Street, originally scheduled for October 30th at 10 AM, has been postponed. 

Click here to view the most recently proposed plans for the 5 South Water Street renovation.

October 29, 2020

To the Historic District Commissioners,

I am writing to you with respect to the proposed additions to 5 South Water Street, located in Nantucket’s Old Historic District. 5 South Water Street as proposed is not in keeping with the design guidelines of Building with Nantucket in Mind, nor with the existing historic buildings on South Water and nearby Main Street.

5 South Water Street seen from the southwest

South Water Street, originally listed as Water Street, has existed since at least 1799 and is a highly trafficked street in the middle of our downtown historic core. Any new construction here should “contribute to the overall harmony of the streets…while reflecting the traditions and character of historic buildings, are in themselves high quality designs for this area.” (Building with Nantucket in Mind, 9)

There are several guidelines from Building with Nantucket in Mind that the Commissioners should remember while reviewing these most recent plans, especially with respect to the roofline, dormers, and massing. The current proposal features an abundance of dormers on the second and third floors that create distracting disruptions in the roofline, especially as seen on the North and South Elevations, all viewable from public ways.

Building with Nantucket in Mind stresses that the “massing of a new building in the town should employ the traditional form types seen in the town… A simple main mass should be placed on the street side of the building and be in harmony with the form and orientation of existing buildings along the street.” (68)

The West Elevation, facing South Water Street, is the simplest of the four faces, but the second and third floors take many of their cues from residential architecture (dormers, roof walk, shutters) As Building with Nantucket in Mind reminds us of commercial architecture, “Street-facing elevations should try to reflect Main Street design elements.” (151) This building should relate to the others nearby.

Overwhelmingly, the Historic District Commission’s design guidelines stress simplicity and harmony. (With regards to roofs: “In any case, roof designs should harmonize with the rhythm of roofs along the street.” (72) and dormers: “Dormer design and placement should not destroy the simplicity of the roof plane of Nantucket buildings, which is an important aspect of the character of its architecture.” (72) A simpler structure, even a large structure, would fit in with the historic surroundings in a way the proposed building does not.

We ask the Commissioners to remember that the HDC has not only the authority but the responsibility to see that any new construction in this location should enhance the historic district, not detract.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary Bergman
Executive Director
Nantucket Preservation Trust

Announcing the 2018 Preservation Award Winners

This year’s call for Preservation Award nominations resulted in more nominees than ever before! After much deliberation, our committee is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2018 Preservation Awards.

A hearty congratulations to all the recipients, and many thanks to the numerous thoughtful nominations we received. Preservation is possible!

The Architectural Preservation Award
The Hospital Thrift Shop
17 India Street

With limited resources, the Hospital Thrift Shop (HTS) embarked on much needed maintenance of the Macy-Horsfield House at 17 India Street. The almost all-volunteer organization sought to make the building safer for its many visitors. The house (built in 1792) had been the victim of years of water damage, resulting in a rotten sill, a moving rubble foundation, and a building that bowed out into the driveway. The HTS consulted preservationist Brian Pfeiffer, who connected the organization with craftpeople on the island (Matt Anderson, Pen Austin, and Mike Gault) and at the North Bennet Street School (Michael Burrey and students) who used traditional building methods and materials to repair the integrity of the timber frame, the rubble foundation, the sill, and the plaster walls. This level of stewardship by volunteers is highly commendable and a great reminder that proper maintenance is the root of preservation.

 

The Caroline A. Ellis Landscape Award
Mariann Berg (Hundahl) Appley
69 Main Street

The house and gardens at 69 Main Street (Mitchell-Beinecke house, ca. 1821-1833), now under the stewardship of Mrs. Mariann Appley, are an important part of the Upper Main Street landscape. The house is a reminder of the wealth whaling brought to Nantucket, while the gardens are illustrative of the island’s reinvention in the 1960s and 1970s, as spurred, in large part, by former owner Walter Beinecke. As part of the 1962 restoration, Beinecke added a formal garden, a greenhouse and the Georgian-inspired tool-houses connected by a bench and arbor, in keeping with the character and period of the restoration. Mrs. Appley purchased the property in 1979. She is accomplished gardener and longtime member of the Nantucket Garden Club. Understanding the importance of the both the house and grounds at 69 Main Street, she will be placing a preservation easement on the interior, exterior, and gardens of the property. Not only has she been a careful steward of the property’s landscape, but the easement will ensure it is protected for decades to come.

 

The John A. and Katherine S. Lodge Stewardship Award
John Ray House | 8 Ray’s Court
The Harris Family

 Since 1945, the John Ray House (c. 1753) at 8 Ray’s Court has been thoughtfully cared for by one family. Purchased that year by Rachel Carpenter, the house passed to Rachel’s nephew, Don Harris, and his wife, Beverly in 1975. Don, who passed away last year, grew up spending summer at the house and relished its history. Preservation of the house was extremely important to him, and Don and Beverly soon became fixtures at many preservation-education programs so they could gain knowledge about the house and its proper care. Much of the everyday maintenance of the house and repairs have been completed by them. The Harris family has also been willing to share the house—opening for others to learn, including the Preservation Institute Nantucket students. Today, due to the family’s preservation commitment, the John Ray House remains a fine example of an early Nantucket house that has evolved overtime and yet retains its architectural integrity. Before his death, Don wrote of the house, “Everything in the house breathes the past.”

 

Traditional Building Methods Award
Wayne Morris, Mason

The NPT is pleased to recognize mason Wayne Morris in honor of his more than forty years of service to the island’s historic structures. He is well known among island craftspeople and tradespeople for his hard work, fairness, expert ability, and his willingness to think outside the box. Mr. Morris has worked on numerous buildings on the island, both private and public. Many of these buildings are an integral part of this community and include landmarks such as St. Paul’s Church where he worked on the new addition; the Coffin School on Winter Street where he replaced damaged brick and developed appropriate mortar; and the Maria Mitchell Science Library on Vestal Street, where he repaired the stucco wall system.

New Construction Award
Nantucket Yacht Club Dormitory | 4 South Beach Street
Emeritus Development and Nantucket Yacht Club

Designing a large commercial building in a historic district is not an easy task and poses many challenges. The Nantucket Yacht Club (NYC) and Emeritus Development were able to successfully complete large-scale, new construction that fits into the historic surroundings. The Yacht Club Dormitory at 4 South Beach Street is a 6,000-square foot building and contains sixteen dormitory units. Emeritus addressed the challenge by breaking up the massing, employing a low roof, and adding ornamentation like a shingle flare, to evoke the architecture of the early twentieth century. The structure also took its design cues and scale from the adjoining NYC. In addition to sensitively fitting into the streetscape, this building addresses the island’s critical housing need and will provide employee housing that will contribute to the vitality of the downtown year-round.

 

 

Nantucket Historic Interiors Survey: We Need Your Help!

 

You may already know that Nantucket boasts one of the largest concentrations of pre-Civil War era buildings in the country, with more than 800 such structures. While much work has gone into preserving the island’s exteriors, what interiors have been preserved—and what’s been gutted—has largely remained behind closed doors.

Until now! Thanks to the NPT and the University of Florida’s Preservation Institute Nantucket (PIN), some of these doors are opening for the first time as part of an unprecedented Historic Interiors Survey, funded by a grant from Nantucket’s Community Preservation Committee.

So far, the two organizations have collected information regarding more than half of the historic buildings on the island. The survey is expected to be completed later this year, but it has already identified nearly 300 houses that are in an excellent state of preservation or retain quite a bit of their original interior fabric. Over 100 structures surveyed have been heavily altered or gutted. Unfortunately, that number will only increase as time goes on, as the Nantucket is losing as estimated 20 or more historic interiors per year.

Architectural authenticity is a large part of the reason people love to live, visit, and vacation on Nantucket. Losing a historic interior is like tearing out pages from a novel—the more you lose, the less the story makes sense. People come to Nantucket for the same reason people travel to see great works of art—there is nothing like standing in front of the real thing.

When completed, the Nantucket Historic Interiors Survey will be the most extensive of its kind. It celebrates the work of homeowners, architects, and builders who put preservation at the forefront of their projects, but it reminds us there is much work ahead to educate future islanders and visitors.

We hope that 100 years from now, this survey will be used to measure Nantucket’s dedication to the people who came before us.

Now that spring is here and houses are opening up, we need your help! If you own a historic house but have not yet talked to the NPT about the inventory, please contact us today at 508-228-1387 to talk about your house!

“Decisions in Preservation” Case Study: 6 Gull Island Lane

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.

Ready to register for the symposium workshop? Click here.

Letter to the Editor Regarding Pending Demolition of Jacobs House

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.

Jacobs House February 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.

Jacobs House, February 2018

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.

House Beautiful magazine, 1970

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.

Jacobs House interior 1970, courtesy Jacobs Family.

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
important.

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.

Michael May, Executive Director

& Mary Bergman

Nantucket Preservation Trust