Nantucket’s Literary History Part 4

This is the last in our short series highlighting the homes and buildings that inspired a few Nantucket writers. What part of Nantucket inspires you?

5 Quaise Pastures Road: Frank Conroy

Award winning author and director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Frank Conroy lived on Nantucket on and off from 1973 to 2004. Conroy died in 2005, but left behind a beautiful book of essays on his island life, Time and Tide.

Conroy came to Nantucket in 1955 as a college student, living in shared housing arrangements in very much the same way students today do (and one imagines, always will). His acclaimed memoir, Stop-Time was published in 1967.

Conroy moved to Nantucket in the 1970s, where he wrote magazine articles, played jazz piano, and worked as a scalloper. He taught writing at many colleges and universities, served as the director of the literature program at the National Endowment for the Arts, and was appointed director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in 1987.

Conroy’s Nantucket home was unique. Architect Jock Gifford (now of Design Associates) completed construction on Conroy’s Polpis barn-style home in 1973. Set back on a secluded parcel of land overlooking Polpis Harbor, it was the perfect spot for a writer and musician.

The outside oak lumber for Conroy’s barn came from a Pennsylvania sawmill, and the inside exposed chestnut beams were taken from a 160-year-old tobacco barn in PA. When the Inquirer & Mirror visited Conroy at home in 1974, he kept a photograph of friend and fellow author Norman Mailer hanging from one of the antique beams.

The Conroy house was sold in 2012. It has since been demolished.

Nantucket’s Literary History Part 3

Gilbreth Family. Courtesy NHA

 

92 Hulbert Ave “The Bug-Lights”: Ernestine Gilbreth Carey & Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr.

The twin lighthouses that dot the extension of Hulbert Ave are officially called the Nantucket Cliff Beacons but more often called the bug-lights (1838). These structures were the unlikely summer home of industrial engineers and efficiency experts Frank B. Gilbreth, Sr., Dr. Lillian M. Gilbreth, and their 12 children.

Originally located on Cliff Beach, the lights worked in conjunction with the range lights on Brant Point and buoys to guide vessels into the channel. The bug lights were decommissioned in 1908.

Courtesy NHA.

The Gilbreths purchased the property with the keeper’s toolhouse and the smaller light in 1921. By 1952, the keeper’s toolhouse was replaced with a larger cottage. The larger light tower was moved (by horse!) to the Gilbreth property. The towers were converted to dormitories for the many Gilbreth children.

Frank Jr. and Ernestine wrote two books together chronicling their unique family, Cheaper by the Dozen and Belles on Their Toes. Frank Jr. authored other books inspired by his life on the island, including Innside Nantucket and Of Whales and Women. Ernestine wrote Jumping Jupiter and Rings Around Us.

In 1991, Frank Jr. wrote “We have lovingly preserved [the bug lights], but I can’t overstress how well the structures were built and how amazingly sound they are today. In the seventy years we’ve had them, not a single shingle has needed to be replaced on the sides of either structure.” The bug lights and cottage are still in the Gilbreth family today.

Courtesy NHA.

Nantucket’s Literary History Part 2

In honor of Preservation Month & the upcoming Nantucket Book Festival,  this week we’re taking a look at some of the architecture of Nantucket’s literary history. Our short series continues…

7 Silver Street: John Guare

From 1975 to 1978, 7 Silver Street (ca. 1830s) was the home of playwright and author John Guare. Guare wrote Landscape of the Body and Marco Polo Sings a Solo during the years he owned 7 Silver Street.

The 1970s saw a bustling theatrical scene on the island, with many of Guare’s plays performed at the island’s local stages. Guare’s time on the island informed his “Nantucket” series of plays: Gardenia, Lydie Breeze, Women in the Water, and Judith.

Guare met his wife Adele Chatfield-Taylor, an architectural preservationist, in 1975 on Nantucket.

Guare came to Nantucket in the 1960s while a student at Yale Drama School, as a caretaker for C.L and Marion Sibley at 111 Main Street (1746). He returned to the island throughout the 1980s to work on his plays.

 

Nantucket’s Literary History

Nantucket has been home to many novelists, poets, playwrights, and lovers of words over the years. It’s currently the year-round home to (at least) three New York Times bestselling writers, and the summer home of countless others.

This month, we honor Nantucket’s literary history through buildings where great writers found inspiration.

31 Pine Street: Tennessee Williams & Carson McCullers

“It was a crazy but creative summer.” –Tennessee Williams

How did two of the 20th century’s greatest southern writers find themselves 30 miles of the coast of New England?

In June of 1946, Tennessee Williams rented a house on the island for the summer. “I seldom remember addresses, but this was 31 Pine Street in Nantucket, an old gray frame house with a wind-up Victrola and some fabulous old records, like Santiago Waltz and Sousa band numbers,” he said in an interview with Rex Reed.

The Glass Menagerie was on Broadway, but Williams and his partner Pancho Rodriguez were looking to get out of New York. Williams had long admired Carson McCullers—he called her the greatest living writer—and wanted to meet her.

Williams was in poor health when he wrote a characteristically dramatic letter to McCullers, declaring that he had gone to Nantucket to die, and he’d like to meet her before his death. The two had never met before, but McCullers took him up on his offer and arrived on the boat.

“This tall girl came down the gangplank wearing a baseball cap and slacks. She had a radiant, snaggletoothed grin and there was an immediate attachment,” Williams said.

The two writers found inspiration at 31 Pine (ca. 1850). Williams recalled “…The fireplace was always filled with beautiful hydrangeas, and we sat at opposite ends of a long table while I wrote Summer and Smoke and she wrote The Member of a Wedding as a play.”

Williams and McCuller’s time in Nantucket has inspired two contemporary plays, 31 Pine Street and Rancho Pancho.

 

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 (Hundal) 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, who purchased the property in 1979 (along with her husband, the late Mortimer H. Appley (1921-2012). Mrs. Appley is an 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 had donated 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.

 

 

2018 Summer Lecture & Luncheon with Gil Schafer! Tickets Available Now

Creating Places to Call Home: How Tradition, Style, and Memory Can Inspire Ways of Living

July 19, 2018, 11:30am
Great Harbor Yacht Club
$150 | Tickets Available, Click Here

Join us on July 19 for our annual Summer Lecture & Luncheon. This year, we’re thrilled to return to the Great Harbor Yacht Club, where sweeping vistas of the island’s harbor are the perfect backdrop to a summer’s day.

Our featured speaker this year will be award-winning architect and author of the new book A Place to Call Home, Gil Schafer. Schafer believes the most successful houses are the ones that celebrate living—houses with timeless charm that are imbued with memory and a distinct sense of place. It’s this dialogue between past and present that enables him to interpret traditional principles for a multiplicity of architectural styles within contemporary ways of living. Join Schafer as he opens the doors to his world of comfortable classicism, sharing some of the firm’s most recent, and exciting, projects from around the country and walking through the inner workings of his distinctive approach—from concrete techniques to the more emotional and intuitive aspects of his process—showing how he brings his projects to life and fills them with soul.

Award-winning architect Gil Schafer III is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary classical architecture. A member of Architectural Digest’s AD 100 and a winner of Veranda’s “Art of Design Award,” Schafer is a member of the Yale School of Architecture Dean’s Council, a trustee of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, and served as president and then chairman of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art for over a decade. He holds a Masters of Architecture from the Yale School of Architecture and is the author of the bestselling book The Great American House and the newly released A Place to Call Home. Schafer’s work has been featured in numerous national and international publications, including Architectural Digest, Elle Décor, Veranda, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal. When he’s not traveling for work, Schafer divides his time between New York City, upstate New York, and Maine.

Tickets are $150 per person and available online (click here) or by calling the Nantucket Preservation Trust offices at 508.228.1387.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Levi Starbuck House

Photos Michael Rynes.

We’re thrilled to add another house to our 2018 Nantucket Preservation Symposium. The Levi Starbuck house at 14 Orange Street (built 1837) was home to whale oil merchant Levi Starbuck and is an iconic example of a grand Nantucket home. Built by William M. Andrews, 14 Orange Street is one of the earliest examples of Greek Revival architecture on Nantucket.

Andrews was only 26 years old when he completed 14 Orange Street, after completing another house with Greek Revival features at 22 Hussey Street. Andrews may also have built 24 Hussey and 8 Orange Street.

Levi Starbuck purchased the Andrews house in 1838, by which point the 69-year-old was already a successful businessman. He was a member of one of the most prominent whaling and merchant families on the island. He spent the last ten years of his life in the opulent new house on Orange Street.

Over the years, owners of the house have been thoughtful stewards and additions and upgrades have been sensitive, keeping at the forefront the home’s historic interior.

Join us on June 7th for a look at this gorgeous Greek Revival home and step back in time.

Don’t Judge a House by its Shingles: 55 Union Street

This June, go behind closed doors with the Nantucket Preservation Trust symposium workshop Decisions in Preservation: Understanding, Repairing, and Preserving Historic Nantucket Homes. We will look at antique houses in various stages of the preservation process. Learn more at www.nantucketpreservationsymposium.org.

For many years, the Nicholson-Andrews house at 55 Union Street (ca. 1834) sat vacant in need of rescue. A casual and uniformed observer might consider a property in the state 55 Union was in beyond the pale. Nothing could be further from the truth!

A notable example of transitional Federal/Greek Revival architecture, the Nicholson-Andrews house was unoccupied and unmodified for almost sixty years. Because of this, many of its interior features were undisturbed. As architectural historian Brian Pfeiffer wrote of the house, “Among the significant architectural elements that remain are the house’s floor plan, lime plaster walls and ceilings, softwood floors, paneled doors, molded and paneled interior window trimmings, molded baseboards, mantelpieces and balustrades.”

In other words, don’t judge a house by its shingles.

55 Union Street today (photo Jordan Real Estate).

Two interesting features of the Nicholson-Andrews house found during a recent restoration show us how living on an island impacted building methods.

Decorative painting was found on the underside of one of the floorboards. This points to the importance of using salvaged materials. It appears that timbers from the upper floors were a mixture of salvaged and newly-milled timbers from 1834. Puritan and Quaker ideals of thrift would have influenced building on Nantucket at the time, as well as the realities of transporting building materials to the remote island.

Eelgrass insulation was found in the west wall of the main block of the house. Yes, eelgrass, the very stuff our tasty Nantucket bay scallops like to hang out in. When dried, eelgrass is light, fire and rot resistant, and forms many small air pockets when packed into a wall which helps trap warm air. Eelgrass was plentiful in costal New England, until a disease killed nearly 90% of the eelgrass beds of the North Atlantic in the early 1930s.

Today, the house serves as a beautiful example of a typical Nantucket house and reminder of what can be accomplished with hard work and know-how.

Register today for our 2018 Symposium Workshop to see 55 Union and other historic properties firsthand. Click here to register, or call 508.228.1387.

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!