Nantucket Preservation Trust Turns 25

Nantucket Preservation Trust was founded in October, 1997, making this month our 25th Anniversary! In Ramblings this year, we reflected on the past 25 years of accomplishments and the work that we continue to carry out to preserve and protect Nantucket’s architectural heritage.

Nantucket Preservation Trust has come a long way from its beginnings in a small, second-floor office on Federal Street. Under the leadership of Patricia Butler, NPT’s founding Executive Director, many key programs were established that continue today. NPT’s first preservation easement, at 5 Quince Street, was recorded in 1999; the first house markers were placed in 2002; and the first house history book was published in 2004. Our house histories began with volunteers Susan Boardman and Kathleen Hay hand-binding homemade books—but the program has grown so popular, with more than 100 island structures documented as of 2022, we now rely on professional printers.

Michael May’s time as Executive Director, from 2006 to 2019, was a period of growth and expansion. The first issue of Ramblings was published in 2007, our Preservation Awards program began that same year, and NPT held our first Preservation Symposium in 2017.

One of NPT’s most important initiatives in the last 25 years was the expansion and update of Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark (NHL) designation in 2012-2013. The NHL expansion acknowledges the island’s rich historythat extends beyond the 19th Century Whaling Era, thus
expanding the Landmark’s period of significance from 1900 to 1975. Nantucket’s 20th-century
history as a crucible of the historic preservation movement and the field of heritage tourism is now recognized as nationally important. The Landmark re-designation also recognized the significance of Nantucket’s open spaces, with the thousands of acres of conservation land
held by the Nantucket Land Bank, Nantucket Conservation Foundation, and other organizations
contributing to our island’s overall historic character.

What has this meant practically? This expansion project, which was funded through a Community Preservation Act grant, added hundreds of 20th century island buildings as contributing to the NHL, meaning that owners of those structures can benefit from programs such as federal and state historic rehabilitation tax credits. Any building constructed prior to 1975 can now potentially be considered a contributing structure. Twenty-five years ago, it was relatively simple to receive permission to demolish an early- or mid-twentieth century building, but now those applications for demolition receive further review from Nantucket’s Historic Structures Advisory Board and Historic District Commission.

NPT has many exciting initiatives in progress as we enter our next 25 years, including a building deconstruction and architectural salvage feasibility study and exploring how historic reservation can help alleviate the island’s housing crisis. Though we are still grappling with many of the issues of 1997 in 2022, we know Nantucket Preservation Trust is steadfastly advocating for the importance of Nantucket’s historic structures and serving as an educational resource for anyone interested in the island’s built environment.

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