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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.

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.

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.

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.

Codfish Park and 10 Beach Street

Fish houses and bank, 1870s. Nantucket Historical Association (NHA) image.

Tucked away on the far eastern edge of Nantucket, Codfish Park is one of the island’s most interesting neighborhoods. Codfish Park did not actually exist until the late 19th Century. The beach below the ’Sconset bank was narrow and precarious. The October Gale of 1841 undercut ’Sconset’s bank, causing several houses to give way to the sea. Other houses were moved out of harm’s way to other areas of the village.

In the decades following the October Gale, the beach accreted naturally. Soon, the beach became an area for boat storage and fishing shacks. This land below the bank belonged to Henry Coffin, who deeded it to the Proprietors of Nantucket in 1886. Three trustees were given the power to regulate the beach.

Men playing the banjo and fiddle outside a Codfish Park shanty, c. 1890. (NHA image.)

This land was to be used to public enjoyment, and one of the stipulations of Coffin’s deed was that “no building or other obstruction of any kind be erected or maintained on the premises, except bath houses, to be used as such.” The beach grew quickly, tripling in size in three decades. It wasn’t long before fishermen erected cottages, shacks, and drying racks.

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