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.