Announcing the 2021 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.

Congratulations to the 2021 Preservation Award Winners!

The transformed basement at 84 Main Street.

Architectural Preservation Award
84 Main Street
Whitney Lucks & Karl Schneider

Preservation Team: Pen Austin, Caroline Cole Designs, Michael Gault, Nantucket Heritage Painting, Thornewill Designs

The c. 1762 Joseph Swain House at 84 Main Street had been in Whitney Lucks’ family since the late 1990s, but when she and her husband Karl Schneider became the stewards of the house, they undertook a historic rehabilitation of the house to adapt it to the needs of their family while preserving its character defining features and retaining its historic appearance from Main Street and Pine Street. Rather than build a large addition or second dwelling on the property, Lucks and Schneider opted to create more living space within the home’s footprint, transforming the basement and attic from storage space to useful living space. In the attic, walls were restored with lath and haired lime plaster by a team led by Pen Austin, and transom windows were installed between two attic bedrooms to capture and maximize light, while still allowing for privacy. The basement was hand excavated to allow for a greater ceiling height, and a large fireplace with bake oven were restored to working order. Excavation revealed the home’s original brick well, which was left visible, yet covered for safety. The main two levels of living space were also restored and refreshed, with architectural plans designed by Thornewill Designs, carpentry by Michael Gault, painting by Adam Zanelli of Nantucket Heritage Painting, and interior design by Caroline Cole Designs. Throughout the home, historic elements were revealed, restored, and reused, with consistently meticulous craftsmanship and sensitivity to the building and its original rooms and circulation.

Historical Renovation Award
30 Pine Street
Sherry Lefevre

The exterior of 30 Pine Street as seen from the street was unchanged by the renovation.

In completing a second-floor renovation of her home on Pine Street, author of The Heirloom House Sherri Lefevre sought to add utility while maintaining the home’s character and appearance from the street. Built by Walter Cure in 1819, the home retains many elements common in Nantucket homes of the that period, including its old plaster walls, mantels and mirrorboards. The object of the renovation was to create additional space in the two upstairs bedrooms at the rear of the building, as well as room for an additional bathroom, while maintaining the scale of the house. To accomplish this, architect Angus MacLeod designed a small gable addition on one side and added a shed dormer to increase headroom in one of the other rooms. The addition transformed what had been cramped, dark spaces into much more welcoming rooms, with little change to the original layout of the home. Master carpenter Bill Willet oversaw the construction and maintained all existing woodwork and the texture of the historic plaster walls. The work at 30 Pine serves to remind all that little details can make a big difference.

John A. and Katherine Lodge Stewardship Award
57-65 Pleasant Street
The Phelan Family

65 Pleasant Street has retained its pastoral setting.

In 1841, Samuel King of Nantucket, a copper, purchased the property at 65 Pleasant Street. King, originally from Ireland, married Mary Phelan (1810-1876), a widow, on September 26, 1841, and eventually established a nursery on the property, selling many varieties of apple, pear, and Russian mulberry trees and grapevines. King died in 1899. Mary’s son, John Phelan (1835-1908), served in the Civil War as a mariner and later became a boat engineer in Boston Harbor. He built the much larger Greek Revival house at 61 Pleasant Street, and the King house at 65 Pleasant Street remained in the family.

This property has remained in the Phelan family ever since. Two newer homes have been added, both taking their cues from the original structures on the property. The lone Greek Revival house set against a backdrop of an open field is evocative of Nantucket’s bucolic past and one of the most unique and best-preserved streetscapes in the Newtown area.

Caroline A. Ellis Landscape & Garden Award
15 New Street, Siasconset
The Siasconset Union Chapel, Michael Van Valkenburgh Landscape Associates, and Champoux Landscape

View of the West Garden, 2021.

The recently redesigned gardens at the Siasconset Union Chapel enhance the historic grounds of the chapel and serve as a serene space for contemplation and thought. Internationally renowned landscape architecture firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. completed the design for the gardens, and local Nantucket business Champoux Landsape handled the install and care for the new gardens. The project unified the Chapels East and West Columbarium spaces with a pastoral-feeling design. The larger West Garden was transformed over the winter of 2019/20, and the East Garden, along Chapel Street, was reconfigured this past winter.  A new C shaped wall was constructed in the East Garden, and Ben Moore, winner of NPT’s Traditional Building Methods Award in 2020, replaced skirting boards along the Chapel’s east and south walls. Work also included improvements to the drainage system to divert water away from the Chapel’s east and south sides, helping to preserve the 1883 structure. The project features many plant species iconically associated with Nantucket, including daffodils blooming in the spring and hydrangea in the summer. The Chapel gardens are a welcoming space for remembrance and reflection and will continue to provide space for the community for future generations.

Traditional Building Methods Award
11 Orange Street
Valley Restoration and South Church Preservation Fund

Paul Bastiaanse reguilding the dome, October 2020.

In 2020, the South Church Preservation Fund completed an exterior restoration of the South Church Tower and its iconic golden dome. The restoration of the 1809 structure was overdue, but the building’s stewards had to get creative – rather than set up expensive scaffolding, the Church turned to a steeplejack to do the work. Paul Bastiaanse, the owner of Valley Restoration, based in Torrington, Connecticut, led the restoration. While suspended from the steeple, Bastiaanse and his team first washed the exterior, then scraped and sanded it with hand tools. The steeple was primed, allowed, to cure, then imperfections were caulked and sealed, with any rot repaired in kind. The steeple was then painted, and windows were cleaned and reglazed as needed. The weathered gilding on the steeple dome and weathervane was sanded, sealed, and primed, before a layer of sizing and 23 karat Italian Gold Leaf was carefully applied.  Working without conventional scaffolding allowed the restoration of the tower to be completed in a timely and cost-effective manner, without disruption to the Church’s activities, providing another example of how time worn techniques still have a place in caring for our historic buildings. This work was funded by the Nantucket Community Preservation Committee, ensuring this landmark will welcome all who visit or live on Nantucket for years to come.

7 North Gully Road on the Move Again

The shed at 7 North Gully Road was relocated earlier this week, to a new location within Codfish Park, in the below-the-bank portion of 7 Elbow Lane, allowing a more than century-old structure to be saved from demolition. Sam Daniel sent these photos of the move in progress – click through to see more photos, and read about the history of shed, including its first move from its original location on Front Street!

Click to enlarge

Continue reading 7 North Gully Road on the Move Again

The Great Fire of 1846 and Nantucket Architecture

Today marks the 175th anniversary of Nantucket’s Great Fire. Around 11 pm on July 13, 1843, a fire broke out in William M. Geary’s hat shop on Main Street. Nantucket is 1846 was a busy commercial whaling port, with closely built homes and businesses lining narrow streets, and the fire spread quickly. Approximately one third of the town burned that night, with approximately 250 buildings destroyed. Nantucket’s architectural landscape contributed to both the spread and the stopping of the fire. The predominately wooden houses, built closely together to provide shelter from the wind, shops, storehouses filled with whale oil, and other commercial buildings quickly went up in flames.

Main Street c. 1845, the only known photo of Main Street prior to the Great Fire. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

Along with shifting winds that contained the fire in the close vicinity of the harborfront, some of the few brick buildings that pre-dated the fire helped to stop it, too. The fire did not spread to the west of the Pacific National Bank, built in 1818, sparing the grand homes of Upper Main Street from destruction. The Jared Coffin House at the corner of Broad and Centre Streets also emerged largely unscathed, and the fire did not travel further north up Centre Street. The Pacific Club, at the foot of Main Street, was damaged in the blaze, but survived. Other buildings emerged remarkably undamaged. The 1823 Methodist Church was only minimally impacted by the fire, though surrounding buildings on Centre Street were torched to ruin. An apocryphal story claims that, when a fire company wanted to dynamite the building in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading, Maria Mitchell stood on the steps of the church and convinced them not to. A similar tale holds that when fire wards sought to blow up 72 Main Street, Lydia Mitchell Barrett, at home with her children, refused to leave.

Following the Great Fire, Nantucketers rebuilt quickly. Nantucket’s whaling economy was already on the decline by 1846, and following the fire some businesspeople chose not to rebuild, but those who did did so quickly, and with fire prevention in mind. Main Street and other streets were widened, so as to prevent a fire from being able to jump over from one side of the street to another. Particularly along the North side of Main Street, brick was the material of choice for rebuilding. The Nantucket Atheneum was the first structure in rebuilt in town, and the stylish Greek Revival building reflected the popular tastes of the era.

Hugh Newell Jacobsen’s Nantucket Modernism

Noted modernist architect Hugh Newell Jacobson died last month at the age of 91. Jacobson and his Washington D.C-based firm, Jacobson Architecture, primarily worked in residential architecture, and completed a number of projects on Nantucket. Jacobson studied fine arts at the University of Maryland and earned a master’s degree in architecture from Yale University in 1955. His first job out of Yale was with Philip Johnson, and he founded his own firm in 1958. His designs were sometimes referred to as Monopoly houses, for their resemblance to the board game pieces, with simple massing and steeply pitched gables.

In 2003, Jacobson completed a renovation of the Vorhees Barn on Liberty Street. The building was originally constructed as a stable, an outbuilding of the Henry Coffin house at  nearby 75 Main Street. The structure retains full height barn doors on the exterior, but when opened, the all-white interior, a hallmark of Jabobson’s designs, is flooded with light. The design won an award for Excellence in Architecture from the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Jacobson once told the Washington Star Good architecture never shouts. It is like a well-mannered lady, kind to its neighbors. It takes a double take to know that she is there at all.”

One of Jacobson’s most well-known designs was Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ Red Gate Farm on Martha’s Vineyard, which was completed in 1981. Jacobson took inspiration from neighboring Nantucket for the project, saying “[Jackie] wanted it to look like Nantucket. Nantucket is filled with 19th century architecture, so she wanted a modern house that looked like a 19th century house.”

Jacobson Architecture’s designs for new houses on Nantucket reflect the firms hallmark of simple gabled structures and take cues from 19th century island homes. A home overlooking Polpis Harbor features and exaggerated central chimney pass. A 2013 design by Simon Jacobson on Middle Valley Road is composed of 12 small, interconnected cottages, which also won an Award for Architecture from the Washington chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Jacobson’s work on island reimagined historic forms in modernist contexts and exemplifies the opportunities for creativity and innovation that exist within the guidelines set forth in Building With Nantucket In Mind. It also serves as a reminder that Nantucket’s architectural landscape is always evolving, and sensitively designed 20th and 21st century buildings already contribute to the island’s sense of place.

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.

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.

Smith’s Point: Nantucket’s Far West End

Smith’s Point, the far western end of Madaket over Millie’s Bridge across Hither Creek, feels like a remnant of a former Nantucket. Although it is unclear how the Point got its name, the Wampanoag called this area Nopque, meaning landing place. In A Natural History of Nantucket, Peter Brace describes Smith’s Point “all outwash sand deposits held in place by American beach grass and some snow fencing,” and his part of the island is particularly shaped by eroding waves and winds. Historic maps show the Point used to extend all the way to Tuckernuck, and until 1869 Nantucketers could drive cattle and other livestock across Smith’s Point to Tuckernuck at low tide. In 1961, Hurricane Esther opened up a break in the point, and the resulting Esther Island remained severed from the rest of Nantucket until accreting sand re-connected it in 1986. More recently, in 2016, a winter storm took much of the beach away and turned Maine Avenue into a dead-end street.

Map of Nantucket including Tuckernuck, detail. 1838. Curtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

The Point has long been known for its excellent fishing, but few dwellings were constructed here, outside of a handful of fishing shacks and modest homes along Hither Creek. In the 1910s, Otis Emerson Dunham, owner of several hundred acres in Madaket, contracted with the Massachusetts Coastal Company to develop a subdivision he called “Maddequet Terrace,” including much of Smith’s Point. Though there was an early frenzy of buying, little development followed, and by 1920, many of the parcels were forfeited to the Town of Nantucket for delinquent tax benefits. For others, however, the ease of travel brought on by the introduction of the automobile to Nantucket inspired the building of simple cottages near the beaches of Smith’s Point.

One of the oldest buildings on Smith’s Point is the Eel Skin Inn at 9 Maine Avenue. It was originally constructed next to the Hither Creek Boat Yard circa 1910. It served as a shack for eel fisherman and others to skin their catch after a day’s fishing. It was also, apocryphally, a rumrunner’s shack during Prohibition. It was moved to its present site on Maine Ave in 1975 by Tom Lazor, also known as Colonel Bat Guano. A small addition was put on following the Inn’s move across Hither Creek, but the structure’s historic character is defined by its low roof profile and varied fenestration.

The Crooked House, c. 1950. Curtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association

Another one of Smith’s Point’s oldest homes is the iconic Crooked House, noted in Building with Nantucket in Mind as “a delightful example of additive massing.” It was built along Massachusetts Avenue before 1938. It was owned by Henry Coffin, who together with his wife Anna owned many parcels in Smith’s Point. It’s most notable summer resident, however, was Fred Rogers. After first renting the cottage in the summer of 1960, he and his wife Joanne received the house as a Christmas present from his parents, James and Nancy Rogers, and spent decades visiting each summer.

Just up the street from Crooked House is 23 Massachusetts Ave, a quintessential Madaket fishing cottage. The property was also once owned by Henry and Anna Coffin, who sold it to Mary B. Gardner in 1935. The cottage was built shortly thereafter and still retains its simplicity and charm.

Houses at the end of Massachusetts Avenue, 2020.

The eclectic mix of early fishing shacks, cottages and ranch-style houses built between the 1910s and 1940s, and more angular, mid-century homes on Smith’s Point are unified by their integration into the landscape, materials, and generally unpretentious scale and massing. As development pressures increase, care must be taken to ensure the Point retains its unique character.

North Liberty Street’s Threatened Streetscape

Friday, January 8 at 10 AM the Historic District Commission will hold a special meeting to hear a proposal to renovate and relocate on its lot  the home at 27 North Liberty Street.  Click here to view the proposed plans and other supporting documentation. View the meeting agenda here.

Threatened: North Liberty Streetscape

In 2014, the North Liberty streetscape near the Lily Pond was threatened by a controversial application to move a barn off the property at 29 North Liberty Street. The proposal was denied by the Historic District Commission (HDC) but overturned by the Select Board on an appeal. Later, the HDC reversed their own decision and approved the move. An appeal in Nantucket Superior Court resulted in the upholding of the HDC’s original denial. A later appeal in State appeals court also upheld the HDC’s initial denial.

The same developer now desires to move a cottage at 27 North Liberty Street. The home, built in 1798, was originally the Seth Ray cooper’s shop. This time, the requested move is not off the lot, but rather six feet to the southeast on the current lot, with plans to relocate the barn on the property next door. What may seem to some as slight alterations are concerning to preservationists as moving historic structures should only be done as a last resort to demolition.

It is true that Nantucket has a long tradition of house moving to ensure a structure is not abandoned or demolished, but instead reused in a thoughtful way. It is unsettling when this practice is repurposed in an attempt to justify moving a structure on the same lot.

The proposed moving of structures on North Liberty Street threatens the historic fabric of the buildings, and the streetscape itself.

This article originally appeared in the 2020 edition of Ramblings.

NPT Assumes Administration of 31 Western Avenue Preservation Restriction

In a unanimous decision on Wednesday, October 14, the Nantucket Select Board voted to reassign the enforcement and management of the preservation restriction at 31 Western Avenue, the former Star of the Sea Youth Hostel, from the Nantucket Historic District Commission to Nantucket Preservation Trust.

The Star of the Sea Youth Hostel. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

Hostelling International compacted with the Town of Nantucket to place a preservation restriction, also known as a preservation easement, on the property in 2007. The restriction protects the historic character of the property. Click here to read the full restriction document. The main building was built as a lifesaving station in 1874.  The iconic Stick style structure was the first of four lifesaving stations build on Nantucket, and it is the last that survives. It served as a lifesaving station until 1921.

The federal government retained ownership of the site until 1962, when Lilye Mason, a longtime housemother for  American Youth Hostels, Inc. successfully bid to purchase the property and convert it for use into a hostel. In 1963, Ms. Mason sold the property to American Youth Hostels, Inc., now known as Hostelling International.

The property operated as a hostel until 2019. In August 2020, Hostelling International announced their intentions to sell the property and in September announced Blue Flag Partners as the winning bidders. The sale closed on Tuesday, October 6.  The preservation restriction at 31 Western Avenue protects the main lifesaving station building, a historic cottage, and a former stable that was converted into an additional hostel dormitory.  The restriction exists to protect the architectural, historic, and cultural features of the buildings at 31 Western Avenue. Under the preservation restriction, there can be no changes to the exterior appearance of the historic buildings without approval of NPT and the HDC. Any construction of new buildings or relocation of the existing buildings would also require approval.

Blue Flag Partners has announced intentions to develop the site in keeping with its historic hostel past. The transfer of the enforcement and management responsibilities of the preservation restriction from the Historic District Commission to Nantucket Preservation Trust, which holds 25 other preservation restrictions, will allow for an additional layer of preservation-minded review to any proposed changes to the Star of the Sea. NPT looks forward to ensuring the stewardship of these important historic buildings for generations to come.

4 Traders Lane – Buying a Home with a Preservation Easement

“Traders was not what I was looking for, but I stumbled upon it,” Ed Mills says of the Peleg Bunker house at 4 Traders Lane. Ed and his wife had been riding their bikes around the island and seen an ad for 4 Trader’s Lane. They biked past the house and stopped to take a look. “At that moment, Mr. Gosh came outside and said, “Hey, do you want to buy a house?” He invited us in, we walked around, and the seed was planted. My natural instinct to want to fix up the building came to the surface,” Ed says.

4 Traders Lane, 2020

The former owners of the house, Bob and Billi Gosh, had the thoughtful foresight to place a preservation easement on 4 Traders, preserving the exterior and some of the interior in perpetuity.

Ed has spent much of his life working with houses, and his family ties on Nantucket go back to his grandparents. On his mother’s side the family once owned the Wireless Cottage in ’Sconset. “My grandmother on my mother’s side was coming to Nantucket in the late 1920s and early 1930s and took an interest in protecting Nantucket’s history. That was part of my childhood.”

On his father’s side, it was Ed’s paternal grandfather who, upon his return from World War II, had a cabin built on Hinkley Lane. Ed’s grandfather and aunt built a second cabin in 1973. These beach cabins were simple—no insulation, no interior walls, made of eastern white pine. Ed’s family enjoyed many summers on Hinkley Lane.

“Nantucket has been a constant in my life,” Ed says. “The thought of doing one more big project that has more of a restoration quality to it was attractive.” Ed and his sister purchased the house at 4 Traders’ lane. His sister works for a preservation land bank in Western New York, so both Mills are concerned with saving places.

“As we dug into it and learned more about it, we learned it had an easement on it,” Ed explains, “At first it was a concern, but as we considered it, it became less so. It’s a historic building and should be protected. 4 Traders Lane has an incredible history—it’s clearly a building you’d want to work with as opposed to try to modify. That has its own challenges, but I don’t see why, with a little bit of effort, creativity, and planning, a 250-year-old house can’t maintain its historical significance yet be appealing to a modern owner.

“Nantucket is a wonderful place, and I’d like to help keep it that way,” Ed says. We are excited to see how the Traders Lane project progresses.

This article originally appeared in the 2020 edition of Ramblings.