Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher Scholarship Recipient & NBSS Graduate Hollis Webb

“I get excited when I see a timber frame house on Nantucket,” Hollis Webb says, “What do I have to do to get other people excited about them, too?”

A Nantucket native, Hollis is one of just eleven students who graduated this past June from the North Bennet Street School’s (NBSS) heralded Preservation Carpentry program. He is the 2017 and 2018 recipient of the NPT’s Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher Scholarship.

Carpentry has been a part of Hollis’ life for as long as he can remember. Family and friends worked in the trades on Nantucket, and Hollis has experience in many different aspects of homebuilding. Prior to enrolling in the Preservation Carpentry program, Hollis worked as a carpenter, including on some traditional projects with Pen Austin.

“Nantucket has a solid community working in preservation and historical architecture,” Hollis says, “All these first period homes are just five minutes away.”

With Nantucket’s high concentration of historic homes, Hollis knew a program in preservation was the right next step in his career.

Preservation Carpentry first-year students learn basic woodworking skills in the shop, with an emphasis on the use of hand tools. “We applied some of the basic timber framing we learned in the first year to a first period home. That was incredible,” Hollis says.

Second year students take their skills on the road. Hollis’ class recently completed a sill restoration on a 1720s house in Norwell, MA. Sill repair was one of the more challenging projects Hollis has encountered at NBSS, “You’re working on projects with no easy solution. You’re figuring everything out as you go.”

Attending the NBSS has changed the way Hollis views his hometown. “I remember coming back home during Christmas after my first semester, and it was like seeing Nantucket for the first time. I was seeing the island through a different lens.”

After graduation, Hollis plans to return to Nantucket full time to live and work. “I’m excited to get back. There are projects in every direction,” he says, “The best thing that could happen would be to work with a homeowner who really appreciates the idea of restoring their home.”

Hollis encourages anyone interested in applying to the North Bennet Street School to work in carpentry for a few years, and “find a way to study Nantucket’s old houses, not just to study the frame, but to dig into the history of the house.”

At the Nantucket Preservation Trust, our doors are always open to help you learn more about the history of Nantucket’s architecture, or about our scholarship programs for students who want to learn traditional trades.

This article originally appeared in the 2018 issue of Ramblings. You can read the full magazine online here.

A Stroll Down Old North Wharf

Old North Wharf was originally built in 1770, following the construction of Straight Wharf in 1723 and Old South Wharf in the 1760s.

The original structures on Old North Wharf were all destroyed during the fire of 1846. By the 1870s, the area was bustling again with fishing and sailing. In the early 20th century, many of the warehouses, fishing shanties, boat building workshops, and carpenter’s shops were converted to artists’ studios, summer cottages, and “picnic houses.”

Join us on a digital stroll down Old North Wharf…

2 Old North Wharf: Barzillai Burdett, boat builder, c. 1856. Burdett built whaleboats, row boats, and small catboats in this shop. In 1887, he built the catboat Dauntless, which he used to ferry bathers from town to cliffside beaches.

4 Old North Wharf: While other working buildings have been converted to resort cottages, this warehouse remains a reminder of Nantucket’s working waterfront.

12 Old North Wharf (Mary F. Slade): Just where did the name Mary F. Slade come from? The Mary F. Slade was a three mast barque of 199 tons, 95 feet long, built in 1848 at a shipyard in Scituate Harbor. She was made of oak and iron and copper fastened. No details of how or when she was lost, or how her quarterboard reached Nantucket, but it is assumed she was lost on the a shoal off Nantucket.

10 Old North Wharf: Austin Strong Boathouse, 1923. Commodore, artist, playwright, and philanthropist Austin Strong was a colorful character—you’d have to be to be the man behind the Rainbow Fleet, step-grandson of Robert Louis Stevenson, and friend to puppeteer Tony Sarg. Strong was the first person on Old North Wharf to turn a fishing shanty into a boathouse—or more specifically, a “land yacht.”

18 Old North Wharf (Wharf Rat Club): This building was originally used for culling quahogs, then became a fishermen’s supply store. People started gathering to swap stories and hang around the shop, and by 1927 the Wharf Rat Club was established. Rats still tell stories there today, and there are no fees or official meetings. The only requisite for membership is the ability to tell a good story.

The cottages Lydia, Independence, Constitution/John Jay, Enterprise, and Nautilus were all named after whaling ships that belonged to brothers Charles and Henry Coffin. (Herman Melville’s one whaling voyage was aboard the Coffin-owned whaleship Charles & Henry.)

8 Old North Wharf (Essex, formerly Charles & Henry): Silvester Hodges Carpenter Shop. The buildings on Old North Wharf represent the evolution of Nantucket—from scallop shanties to carpenters’ shops to boat building workshops to artists’ studios to summer cottage, these structures changed with the island.

 

11 Old North Wharf (Enterprise): A boat storage and maintenance building from 1920 until the 1950s, Enterprise became a summer cottage in the 1960s.

 

There are lots more cottages to explore, as we find more information, we’ll update this post!

Mary’s Favorite Instagram Accounts for Island Architectural Photography

 

From rose-covered-cottages to lighthouses to grand summer homes, Nantucket’s architecture is a photographer’s dream. This week, I’m sharing my favorite Instagram accounts. Be sure to follow them—and us!—to keep an eye on Nantucket, wherever your travels take you this fall.

Dirk and Sharon Van Lieu, the team behind Nantucket Architecture, often seek out some of the island’s lesser-known gems, like this Dionis cottage, to share with followers. As we head into the fall, their off-season photography especially is hauntingly beautiful.

 

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Amanda Amaral is a photographer originally from Texas, but has called Nantucket home for more than five years. Her work often includes architectural details, bathed in exquisite light. Follow her to see the island change with the seasons.

 

Grandeur Nantucket photographs (and finds and shares photos of) some of Nantucket’s grandest and most iconic homes–or homes that were stately in their time (like this shot of 6 Gull Island Lane).  Follow along for vibrant colors and fun facts about Nantucket’s history.

Longtime Nantucket resident Josh Gray’s atmospheric photos will instantly remind you to why the island is called “The Gray Lady.” A writer, too, Josh often combines quotes from literature with his photos.

 

Finally, there’s us, the Nantucket Preservation Trust! We love sharing the stories of Nantucket’s unique architectural heritage. Be sure to tag us in your photos of Nantucket architecture so we can see all the great photos you’re taking, too!

Careful With the Cobblestones

This letter originally appeared in the 9/13/2018 edition of the Inquirer and Mirror.

To the Editor: Few streets in America can transport you back in time like Nantucket’s Main Street, from the grand houses of whale-oil merchants to the humble cobblestones.  Recently, the Department of Public Works announced plans for much-needed improvements to upper Main Street, starting with the sidewalks between Winter and Pleasant streets.

We commend the DPW, and director Rob McNeil, for turning their attention to this historic streetscape. Improvements to the sidewalks will allow not only visitors and residents with mobility issues but all to more safely navigate our streets and learn about our history. The DPW has taken the time to meet with Main Street neighbors and learn of their specific concerns and hopes for the project. At a presentation on Sept. 6 the DPW revealed plans to reuse original material, and when original material does not exist, some new materials will be distressed to create a timeworn appearance.

Concerns about the project remain, however, especially the proposed work to the cobblestone street. Current plans call for removing cobbles and old walkways, excavating, laying asphalt and then relaying cobblestones on top of the asphalt in stone dust, instead of the traditional method of setting cobblestones in sand. Our cobblestone streets immediately convey a sense of authenticity and antiquity and lend heavily to Nantucket’s unique sense of place. The elements that make them special and their quirks should be retained as much as possible. Equally important is the quality. Cobblestones have a very long lifespan, especially when compared to an asphalt surface.

Nantucket’s traditional cobblestone streets – cobbles set in sand – may roll and curve in odd places, but they have the environmental advantage of being a permeable paving surface. This means the cobbles shift with the ground, rather than crack, when they move, and rainwater can penetrate into the ground. For this reason, cobblestones set in sand can help reduce stormwater runoff. This is especially important for Winter Street, which is at a particularly low elevation and already contends with standing water after storms. Early residents of this area – known as the Clay Pits, where clay for bricks was excavated – knew this. Look at the foundations of 86, 88 and 90 Main Street. They are all high above the ground.

Cobblestones set in sand also provide our ancient trees with the rooting space they need to grow and flourish. What will happen to these giant elms if the base of the road is excavated and paved over? These trees are a precious resource and best practices must be employed to ensure their survival.

We know the season for road repairs is a short one and improvements must be made, but we strongly urge the DPW to continue to work with the neighbors and to rethink the use of asphalt. We believe using this important stretch of Main Street as a testing ground for a new method of cobblestone paving on-island would be a mistake and urge the town to again lay the cobblestones in the traditional method that has worked for nearly 200 years. These cobblestones have been around longer than any of us have. They deserve to be treated with the utmost of care.

MICHAEL MAY

Executive Director

Nantucket Preservation Trust

Preservation in Practice: Window Restoration with Brian FitzGibbon

A window in process.

Brian FitzGibbon, antique window-restoration expert, has taken out only one ad since he began working on historic homes. At age seventeen, he started a painting business and put a small classified ad in his New Jersey hometown newspaper. His phone has been ringing ever since.

The youngest of seven children, Brian grew up in a Victorian house. When he was still in high school, his parents hired Italian master craftsman Antonio Pinola to work on the house and Brian spent thousands of hours working alongside Antonio. “He hated doing windows, and our house had tons of windows, so he trained me to work on them,” Brian says.

While well versed in many trades, Brian had dedicated his work to saving Nantucket’s antique windows. Why windows? There’s beauty in looking through the imperfect, hand-blown glass. When you look through old windows, Brian says, you are looking back on the world the way it would have been seen two hundred years ago. Nearly all window frames made prior to 1940 were made with old growth wood. Antique window frames were made from the finest grades of lumber, easily disassembled and repaired, and meant to last for generations. Before machines, each sash was carved by hand. It is an exceptional feeling to hold in your hands a window made by a Nantucketer more than two hundred years ago. You think of all the storms the paper-thin glass has endured.

 

A restored door.

So why are these beautiful, impeccably made antique windows rapidly disappearing from Nantucket, and from countless houses across the country? One of the biggest misconceptions about antique windows is that new windows are more energy efficient.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Manufacturing replacement windows is highly energy intensive, and often involves long-distance shipping that uses even more natural resources. It would take many years to recoup the cost of replacement windows through energy savings—often longer than the life of the replacement windows themselves. With proper installation, copper weather-stripping, and exterior storm windows, antique windows can equal or beat the insulative value of new windows.

Window frames painted and waiting for glass.

“I want to help these houses live for generations,” Brian says. This year, he  worked on restoring the windows of 100 Main Street and Shanunga in ’Sconset. That’s over a hundred sashes. Brian does all the work himself, by hand.

Brian’s especially thrilled to be working on Shanunga, one of his favorite houses on the island. The historic cottages of ’Sconset are an absolute delight to all that stroll by them, and he’d love to do more work on these important cottages. Imagine what the island would have looked like when all windows were handcrafted glass.

 

Originally published in Ramblings

Back to School…

Academy Hill in 2018.

The weather is still warm here on Nantucket, but many of our island visitors and friends have begun their journeys home as the new school year looms on the horizon.

With that in mind, this week’s post looks at the history of the Academy Hill School building on Nantucket.

Did you know that Academy Lane was not named for the big brick building that sits atop it? Instead, it was named for an earlier private school called The Academy, situated north of the public school. The Academy was in existence by 1800, but by 1818 the building had been sold to the First Congregational Church.

Academy Hill in the 1850s.

In 1856, the first class at Academy Hill had 129 students.  The original Academy Hill building was wood construction and opened on December 2, 1856. The firm of Easton and Thompson constructed the building for a cost of $20,000.

The wooden Academy Hill school underwent modernization and alterations in 1904, totaling $10,700 in improvements. Ten years later, in 1914, further alterations were made, including the addition of a south wing.

But by 1927, there was a need for a new school building. The town was split on what to do about Academy Hill. Some thought the site was too small, others wanted the new building to remain in the same location. The wooden structure was taken down and reconstructed as a three-story brick school building, opening for the school year 1929.

By 1977, the grand brick building was showing its age. It was far too small to keep up with the population on the island. That year, one-third of all Nantucket children went to school in temporary facilities.

In 1979, the Town of Nantucket sought proposals from bidders to transform the old school building into housing for the elderly. In 1986, Academy Hill reopened with 27 apartments for senior citizens on Nantucket, finding new life for the old building.

The Life & Work of Addison Mizner on August 23rd

Addison Mizner

 

We’re thrilled to partner with the Nantucket Historical Association to  present a lecture on The Life and Work of Addison Mizner with author Richard René Silvin. Join us Thursday, August 23  at 6:00 PM at the Nantucket Whaling Museum to learn more about the noted (and elusive) society architect of Palm Beach, Addison Mizner. Tickets available here.

Addison Mizner (1872-1933) spent his early life in Spain and Central America. His father was US minister to Guatemala, and young Mizner was heavily influenced by Spanish culture and heritage. He spent ten years as an apprentice before unleashing his talent on the architecture scene. Mizer’s first major commission was the Everglades Club, one of the world’s most exclusive golf clubs. Mizner went on to design many buildings in the Palm Beach area and was a driving force in the development of the city of Boca Raton.

Richard Rene Silvin

Richard René Silvin’s fascinating life has taken him all over the world. Born in New York, he grew up attending Swiss boarding schools. He earned a BA from Georgetown University and an MBA from Cornell University, after which he spent 25 years in the investor owned hospital industry. He was the head of the International Division of American Medical International, Inc. which owned and operated hospitals in ten countries.

Silvin survived a late-stage cancer and retired from his role at American Medical International, only to begin an exciting second career as an author. Silvan has published five books, including a memoir about his friendship with the late Duchess of Windsor and a history of Palm Beach as seen through the eyes of Mizner. His latest work is about the SS Normandie, the French Lien’s magnificent 1930’s flagship.

Silvin has lectured widely on hospital administration and comparative international care systems. He is currently the vice-chairman of the Palm Beach Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Get your tickets online here or by calling the NHA, 508.228.1894.

Support the NPT at the August Fête & Nantucket Summer Antiques Show

 

August is finally here, and with it comes our most-anticipated event of the year, the annual August Fête!

This year’s Fête takes place on Thursday, August 9th from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM and explores the School Street neighborhood. You’ll get a chance to tour four historic homes and enjoy a tented reception on the lawn of the Old Schoolmaster’s House. With refreshments and libations from the Nantucket Catering Company and Spanky’s Raw Bar, entertainment from the Shep Cats, and our thoughtfully curated Sense of Place exhibit and auction, you’ll have a fantastic time celebrating Nantucket’s architectural history.

22 Fair Street, one of the historic homes you’ll tour at the August Fete.

There’s still time to get your tickets. Give us a call at 508.228.1387 to reserve yours today. New this year is our pre-check in, where we are encouraging guests to stop by the NPT offices on 11 Centre Street Monday-Wednesday this week to pick up your buttons that will let you in to the reception site and all the open houses. Skip the line and spend more time enjoying yourself at the 2018 August Fête.

The festivities continue Friday, August 10th with two events at the Nantucket Summer Antiques Show to sponsor the NPT’s Mary Helen and Michael Fabacher Scholarship.

Shop with award-winning interior designer Susan Zises Green at 9:00 AM and learn how to make the most of your antique show finds. Tickets are very limited and $100 per person. Includes 10:00 AM preview shopping and brunch, as well as admission to the Antiques Show all four days.

At 10:00 AM on Friday, the annual Strawberries & Cream Preview Brunch is a fun way to kick off the Antiques Show weekend and get an early look at all the vendors. Tickets are included with Fête leadership, $40 in advance, or $45 at the door.

Call us at 508.228.1387 to reserve your tickets today for all these exciting events.

August Fête Open Houses Sneak Peek!

Each year, the open houses are the highlights of the August Fête. This year, we’ll be exploring the School Street neighborhood in the Fish Lots. Here is a sneak peek at two of the houses that will be open for guests to tour.

Henry Coffin, Mariner | 22 Fair Street c. 1749-1756

The land at 22 Fair Street was originally owned by James Coffin (1640-1720) son of Tristram Coffin and Dionis Stevens Coffin. James Coffin was granted ownership of the 4th Fish Lot in 1717 but died three years later. His youngest son, Jonathan Coffin (1692-1773) appears to have inherited much of the 4th Fish Lot at age 29. Jonathan Coffin then granted the land to his son Henry Coffin (1716-1756) when Henry was a 33-year-old mariner. Henry Coffin married and had five children. A deed from 1808 in which Henry Coffin’s two oldest sons sold their interests in a piece of land “and a dwelling house” describes the property—including the house—as having been formerly owned by their late father from 1749 until his death in 1756.

 

Thomas Macy | 3 Tattle Court c. 1690-1700

The house at the end of Tattle Court was once the residence of Thomas Macy, which accounts for the earlier name of the court, Macy Lane. One of the oldest houses in the Fish Lots and perhaps on island, it is believed to have been moved from the original settlement at Sherburne and rebuilt at its present location soon after the neighborhood was laid out in 1717. Like most Nantucket houses from the early period, it faces south. The house was labeled “old and vacant” on the Sanborn Insurance Company map dated 1904 but was restored mid-century by Stewart and Maude Mooney.

A Place to Call Home with Gil Schafer | July 19th at the Great Harbor Yacht Club

Click here to purchase tickets.

In Gil Schafer’s bestselling first book, The Great American House, he uncovered just what makes a house a home. Architecture, landscape, and decoration all work together to create your own oasis. In his second book, A Place to Call Home: Tradition, Style, and Memory and in the New American House, Schafer shows how “traditional and classical principles can blend with a sense of place to create beautifully realized homes in a range of styles, all with the satisfying tensions of fancy and simple, past and present.”

A Gil Schafer designed space.

Schafer is known for stunning homes that fit seamlessly on the land they occupy, both in design and scale. A Place to Call Home highlights some of Schafer’s different projects, and the distinct landscapes they occupy. We quickly learn that the character of the landscape informs the style and scale of the house.

Every part of Nantucket tells a story.

 

Nantucket is a place like no other, where we are acutely aware of the relationship between the past and present as we move through the island. Whether it is the historic buildings of downtown, the wild open spaces of the moors and south shore beaches, or the quaint rose-covered cottages of ‘Sconset, we exist in that very space Schafer writes of—“the satisfying tensions of…past and present.”

We hope you will join us for what is sure to be a fascinating afternoon with award winning architect Gil Schafer III, one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary classical architecture.

There are a still a handful of tickets left. Call our offices at 508.228.1387 or purchase online by clicking here.