Announcing the 2020 Preservation Award Winners

Nantucket Preservation Trust annually recognizes individuals and organizations who have undertaken projects that advance the cause of historic preservation on Nantucket. The awards recognize preservation work on historic buildings and landscapes, as well as those who protect and steward island resources.

NPT’s Preservation Awards program is designed to show that a building or landscape can be sensitively updated while maintaining and preserving its historic integrity. In general, the NPT Preservation Awards emphasize proper preservation, showcase the island’s craftspeople, and reveal the foresight of owners who care about our historic structures and landscape.

An online awards ceremony will be held Thursday, June 18th at 6 PM. Register online to access the free event.

2020 Architectural Preservation Award

The Boston-Higginbotham House
27 York Street
Museum of African American History

The Museum of African American History (MAAH) has completed a multi-year restoration of the Boston-Higginbotham House and outbuildings on York Street. The Boston-Higginbotham House was constructed c. 1784 by Seneca Boston, a weaver and formerly enslaved man. The home is especially important in as it boasts more than 200 years of continuous ownership by free Black Nantucketers. The house was owned by Boston’s descendants until 1919. In 1920, cook and caretaker Florence Higginbotham purchased the home. The house was altered many times over the years, and the Museum of African American History, working with architect Marsha Feder and builder Chuck Lenhart of Sandcastle Construction, made careful decisions to utilize different rooms of the house to emphasize 18th, 19th, and 20th century stories. One highlight is Florence’s 1920s-era kitchen, complete with her Household Regal Cookstove, found in pieces in the basement and beautifully restored for present-day use. The home will serve as housing for MAAH interns and visiting scholars or artists. Work on the outbuildings included converting the former chicken house into accessible bathrooms, a small cottage into staff offices, and the garage into a display space for archaeological discoveries found on-site by students from the University of Massachusetts Boston. Much of the work was funded through the Community Preservation Committee. The newly restored Boston-Higginbotham House and outbuildings, together with the African Meeting House, now form a complete campus where centuries of Nantucket’s African American history can be experienced and researched.

2020 Historical Renovation Award

10 Martins Lane
Ken Jennings and Al Messina
Sandcastle Construction Inc.

When Ken Jennings and Al Messina first saw inside the lean-to house at 10 Martins Lane in 2017, they felt they had found an “untouched gem” and jumped at the chance to purchase it. The home, built on Fair Street in 1756 and moved to Martins Lane in 1801, had been owned by the same family for 75 years and used exclusively as a summer home. Working with a team led by Chuck Lenhart of Sandcastle Construction, Jennings and Messina completed a renovation and restoration to make the home suitable for year-round Nantucket living. To that end, projects included installing central heating and restoring the home’s four fireplaces to working condition. All historic floors, windows, trim, and hardware were restored and retained. Minimal repairs to the interior plaster walls were completed using the original lath and a multi-layer keyed plaster finish. Approximately 75% of the exterior cedar wall shingles were replaced, along with sections of rotten wood gutters, and an asphalt shingle roof was removed and replaced with cedar. The home has a narrow winder staircase in the front entry, which was retained. However, to allow for increased accessibility to the second floor, a more accessible staircase was added at the rear of the home by extending a dormer. A porch addition was converted into a first-floor bedroom, and a new porch was added. The bedroom addition and stair alteration were done sensitively in order to maintain the home’s scale and exterior appearance from the street, but these alterations will allow for Jennings and Messina to enjoy their home for decades to come.

2020 Stewardship Award 

The Pacific Club
15 Main Street
Pacific Club Directors

For centuries, the Pacific Club at the foot of Main Street has been a reminder of Nantucket’s seafaring economy. The three-story brick building, originally constructed in 1772 as William Roach’s counting house, was swiftly rebuilt following the Great Fire of 1846. Over the centuries it has served many purposes. In 1861 it was purchased by the Pacific Club, an organization of whaling industry businessmen, and served as their meetinghouse and social club. In the 20th century, it housed county courts, until the Town and County Building opened on Broad Street in 1966.  Today, members of the Pacific Club maintain the building. Starting in 2008, Virginia Andrews, Charles Duponte, and Richard Phelan, Directors of the Pacific Club, spearheaded an effort to restore the building. Securing the building’s exterior envelope was their first task. Pen Austin led the work of installing new wood rafters, replacing and repointing damaged brick where necessary. Exterior windows on the first and second floors were rebuilt with original arches, and steel was removed. Interior work on the third floor revealed mid-19th century murals with symbols of the Masons and the Order of the Eastern Star. The painting on the north wall was coated for protection and left exposed, while false walls were installed to protect the murals on the other walls. The original wall trim was reinstalled on these false walls to remain visible. The Pacific Club Directors are applauded for their careful stewardship of this iconic landmark, inside and out.

Academy Hill Apartments
4 Westminster Street
HallKeen Management

Sitting at one of the highest points in the Old Historic District, the impressive façade of the Academy Hill Apartments is instantly recognizable to almost any Nantucketer. Since leasing the building from the Town of Nantucket in 1985 and converting the 1929 three-story brick school building into 27 one- and two- bedroom apartments for senior citizens, HallKeen Management has shown proven dedication to the building’s careful preservation. Project managers Kurt LeMar and Kate Schroth worked with preservation consultant Marsha Feder to assess and determine the preservation needs of the building. Recently, Lewis Gillespie refabricated and reinstalled copper gutters, Chris Bourque of Nantucket Millworks rebuilt the front doors, and Gary Gnazzo of Joseph Gnazzo Company, Inc. restored the masonry. The 98 original wooden sash 15-over-15 double-hung windows were carefully restored according to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation by Ted Eayrs of Blackburn Building Conservation LLC, following window prototype work performed by Brian Fitzgibbon and Patrick McCarthy of Nantucket Carpentry Inc. HallKeen also oversaw the restoration of the central pediment above the main entrance, work that included flush boarding, wood brackets, and a large carved wood seal of the Town of Nantucket, which was badly weathered. Ivan Niero of IN Enterprises completed the pediment restoration, and Ted Eayrs restored the town seal. Work was partially funded through the Community Preservation Committee. HallKeen’s high quality maintenance of Academy Hill not only preserves its historic character, it positively impacts the quality of life of its residents and helps contribute to a vibrant year-round presence in the downtown historic core.

2020 Traditional Building Methods Award

Ben Moore

Carpenter Ben Moore has lived and worked on Nantucket since 1985 and opened his own shop and business, Moore Woodworking, in 2001. He has contributed to numerous preservation-minded residential, commercial, and community projects, including creating custom doors, windows, stairs, newel posts, furniture and cabinets. Recently, the trustees of Siasconset Union Chapel commissioned Moore to reconstruct the door jamb, threshold, exterior trim, rosettes, and decorative exterior molding of the Chapel’s front door, which Moore created from rot-resistant mahogany. He has also completed restoration work of the entryway arches of St. Mary’s Church, the finial on the cupola at 19 Broad Street, the fence at Hadwen House, and numerous other island projects. He combines traditional joinery methods with modern woodworking tools to help maintain Nantucket treasures.

2020 Landscape & Garden Award

Russell and Marian Morash

Perched on a hill overlooking Nantucket Harbor, the house and garden of Russell and Marian Morash evoke a special sense of place for its creative owners, who are comfortable digging island soil or around the wide world. In over forty years as Nantucket seasonal residents, they have graciously welcomed visitors to their property, hosting events for many island nonprofits and inspiring our community with their love of growing and cooking their own food. Their home, a contributing structure to Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark designation, was one of the first new construction houses to be approved by the Historic District Commission following the expansion of its jurisdiction to cover the entire island in 1972. The raised bed gardens evoke the English style kitchen gardens planted by the first Europeans to settle on Nantucket in the 17th century, and their property highlights the value in using the landscape in a historic way, to grow food. Russell was a longtime television creator, director, and producer who created The Victory Garden, This Old House, and The New Yankee Workshop. Marian, a James Beard Award-winning chef, was a regular on-screen contributor to The Victory Garden and authored The Victory Garden Cookbook series. Starting in 1976, she was the founding chef at the iconic Straight Wharf Restaurant. For decades, Russell and Marian have inspired people on Nantucket and across the country to get their hands dirty and “do it yourself.”

 

41 Fair Street, by Anne Troutman

The first thing I noticed when I entered this house was the light. It was like a lantern, luminous. Bright sunlight stitched ceiling to wall, doorway to stair, stretched out across the floor, lazed over the lace curtains in the bedrooms upstairs. After over 200 years of habitation by a host of island families –Cartwright, Starbuck, Folger, Chase, Gardner, Perkins, Robinson and a few others–the rooms were a-jumble, as cobbled together with borrowings as a bird’s nest, and there was not a single right angle or plumb line to be found – anywhere. There still isn’t.

Oh, the other thing I noticed?  It was a happy house.

This spring is different from the others. ‘Sheltering at home’ during this long cool season, I find I have the time to catch up with myself; I’m letting go of years of running, doing, planning, moving around.  The slow quiet dream of the island is amplified and I feel time bend and flex with the weather.

This is the first spring I’ve heard that ringing silence throughout the day, undivided by the clatter of trucks, sanders, hammers and leaf blowers; the first spring in awhile I’ve heard so many different birds singing from dawn until the chiming of 8 o’clock church bell when they mysteriously go silent; the first spring I have daily savored the slow swell of buds on the hydrangeas by the front windows, the gradual greening of privet along Tattle Ct, the blossoming, fading and dropping of the maple’s tiny red flowers as the buds start to unfurl. The sycamore, lazier: its branches are tufted with lichen, its conical buds still tightly curled. Yesterday, two eagles circled high over Fair & Tattle, Farmer and Pine, riding a southerly current of air.

I like to imagine Lydia Starbuck waking early one morning in the year 1810. Her two young daughters, Judith and Phoebe, are still asleep upstairs. She’s lighting a fire, putting on the kettle, listening to the wind muscle around the house. Perhaps she looked out this same window at the wood smoke sifting crazily from the neighbor’s chimney; perhaps she too followed the slow progress of sunlight across the pine floors; perhaps she smiled, thinking–this is a happy house.


Artist and writer Anne Troutman lives and works on Nantucket.

A Tree, by Judy Belash

“A Tree”
Judy Belash

It’s an old tree
It’s quite an old tree
It’s a very old tree
It’s ancient

Its roots rule the sidewalks
Its branches bang on the roofs
Its trunk is worthy of Georgia O’Keefe
And its leaves echo Joyce Kilmer

When it was planted there was no thought
As to how long it would last but surely 100 years would go past
And it would continue to grow and to put on a glorious show
In the spring and in the fall

You can love that tree but be wary
Time can make traps for us all
The dislodged bricks like past mistakes
Will show us no mercy as we fall

You could cut it down, dig out the stump
Put a new sapling in its place
Banish the past as over and done
Call it history

I think not, it’s a tree after all


Thanks to Judy Belash for sharing her poem and photos, reproduced here with permission.  Nantucket’s historic trees contribute to the special experience of walking along downtown’s streets. Many of the trees were planted following the Great Fire of 1846, and Nantucket is one of the few places in the  US where elm trees that predate the early twentieth century introduction of Dutch Elm Disease to North America still thrive.

Preservation Resources for Staying at Home

With the news that Governor Baker has extended Massachusetts’ stay at home order to May 18, you may be looking for more ways to fill your time. Luckily, May is National Preservation Month, and there are many preservation-related activities you can undertake while you stay home!

The Society of Architectural Historians maintains SAH Archipedia, a nation-wide collection of peer-reviewed resources to learn more about architectural styles in the US, and specific buildings.

Archipedia New England was founded to be a resource of 400 years of New England architecture. Archipedia New England’s founding editor is Brian Pfeiffer, a longtime partner of NPT, and the site features contributions from many other members of the Nantucket preservation community.

Looking for something to listen to? Podcast fans will appreciate this list of 11 Podcasts Great for Fans of Historic Preservation Fans put together by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

For families, the National Trust also published this list of 13 Virtual Ways to Edutain Kids about History and Preservation, which features resources from historic sites and museums from across the United States.

If you would like to research the history of your own home, there are resources online that can help you. Although the Town of Nantucket’s Registry of Deeds is currently closed to the public, records from the registry are digitized dating back to 1931, or Book 106. These records can be accessed at masslandrecords.com/Nantucket. Deeds are searchable by name, street name, or book and page number.

Searching in the registry of deeds to reveal the former owners of a house opens up possibilities for searching beyond the registry. The Nantucket Atheneum’s Digital Historic Newspaper Archive allows users to search issues of more than twenty island newspapers, including the Inquirer and Mirror dating back to 1821. Consider searching past owner’s names to reveal their occupations or family members. Searching by street name or house name can also turn up results. The archives of the Nantucket Historical Association are also online, including thousands of historic photos and maps, like Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Nantucket Town and ‘Sconset, from 1889 to 1949. A new search interface makes it easy to search across the NHA’s various collections, from images, to letters and historic documents, to material culture objects.

If you are considering a undertaking a preservation project on Nantucket, why not use this time to familiarize yourself with the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits in Massachusetts, or the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation? These are the guidelines that must be followed for projects to qualify for rehabilitation tax credits in Massachusetts.

As always, though we may not be working from our usual offices, Nantucket Preservation Trust is here as a resource for your preservation-related questions and concerns. Contact us at info@nantucketpreservation.org for more information.

Sheltering in Place in an Old Nantucket House

Many thanks to Nantucket Preservation Trust board member Michelle Elzay for sharing this special guest blog post.

It has been a month of dinner parties. Set at a long wood table beside a fire that is always hard to start but has a glowing coal bed by the end of the night. The first night we had roast chicken and toasted our friend’s birthday. We had planned a weeklong spring break visit to Nantucket with another couple. But as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, it became clear that we should remain on the island. A week has spread to four, with no set date to leave. Houseguests have become roommates.

I am staying in a house that a partner and I restored five years ago. This house, on Union Street, was built in 1834 by prolific island builder John B. Nicholson. Before our preservation, the house had not been lived in since World War II. Though in need of extensive repair, the interior of the house stood intact as it was built almost two centuries ago. It struck me, after a few days of “shelter in place,” that the rhythm of how I was spending my time in this house might not be unlike those of the people who occupied it at the time of its construction.

The dining room table set for Easter dinner.

The square block bounded by Union Street, Orange Street, Maiden Lane (now York Street), and Dover Street was developed in the 1830s largely by John Nicholson. Before that, four small homes had stood on the block. By 1836 Nicholson had added at least eight homes, two since removed, turning what was a more rural and African American part of Nantucket “Newtown” into a dense nineteenth-century urban environment.

Continue reading Sheltering in Place in an Old Nantucket House

The Nantucket Dream Dollhouse

Every year, Nantucket Preservation Trust’s Sense of Place Exhibition and Auction offers bidders the chance to win unique, hand created items from dozens of Nantucket makers and artisans. Among these special auction items this year will be the Nantucket Dream Dollhouse. Volunteers led by Gussie Beaugrand, Beth Davies, Barbara Halsted, and Michael Sweeney have been spending countless hours creating a representation of a Nantucket house that models modern living in a historic home. The completed dollhouse will have three bedrooms and sleep nine, with custom hand-dyed gray shingles; hand painted walls, clapboards, and trim; tiny curtains; and custom furniture. Thank you to the volunteers who made this unique project possible!

Nantucket Dream Dollhouse By the Numbers

Sidewall shingles: 10,528

Roof shingles:  2,296

Lineal inches of clapboard: 450

Lineal inches of baseboard: 234

Lineal inches of window trim: 215

Window sashes: 26

Shutters: 10

Your Nantucket Memories

Last week, Nantucket Preservation Trust put out a call asking Nantucketers, or anyone who loves Nantucket, to send us artistic representations about what they love most about their Nantucket home, or any building on Nantucket. So far, we have received dozens of fantastic pieces. To submit your own, please email an image with a brief caption to rcarr@nantucketpreservation.org.

RL Smith: My grandmother built this simple cottage on Dionis in 1957 and it is still in the family. One of the very best places to nap, read, or just chill is this daybed in the northwest corner. Open the sliding windows, listen to the waves lapping at the shore and feel the soft summer breeze enfold you. Heaven.

Continue reading below to see more photos, paintings, and drawings.

Continue reading Your Nantucket Memories

Celebrating Nantucket’s Interiors

Adjusting to life during the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the spread of COVID-19  means that Nantucket residents will be spending more time in their homes for the foreseeable future. For Nantucket Preservation Trust, celebrating Nantucket’s unique architectural heritage also means celebrating the interior spaces where we will be keeping a safe social distance for the time being.

4 Traders Lane, Kris Kinsley Hancock, www.nantucketpix.com

In an effort to forge connections during a time of isolation, at NPT, we’re asking all of our Nantucket community—whether you are physically on the island, or just dreaming of the time when you will be—to show us what you like most about your home, or any building here on Nantucket. Is it the way the light comes through a certain window in the morning? A corner with your favorite comfy chair? Some lovely architectural detail? Send us a drawing, a photo, or any other artistic representation about what you like most about a house, or any building on the island that you love, along with a brief caption, and we’ll share what we receive in a web gallery.

Svargaloka, 5 Elbow Lane, Siasconset.  Kris Kinsley Hancock, www.nantucketpix.com

Please email submissions to rcarr@nantucketpreservation.org,  or send them via direct message to our Instagram, @ackpreservationtrust.

 

New Preservation Easement with American Legion Post #82

The former whale oil storehouse and candle factory at 21 Washington Street began as an industrial, utilitarian structure, but the building took on a new life in 1928 when it became the home of the Byron L. Sylvaro American Legion Post #82. Over the past ninety years, it has a central hub in the lives not only of Nantucket veterans, but the wider Nantucket community. Countless dinners, dances, fundraisers, meetings, and performances have been hosted at the building. From its 19th century industrial origins to its current usage as a community space, the building has maintained many historic elements and is a standing reminder of Nantucket’s whaling past. A new preservation restriction placed on the structure with the Nantucket Preservation Trust, now in the final phases of completion, will ensure the historic character of the building is maintained in perpetuity.

American Legion Post #82, 21 Washington Street.

The brick warehouse at 21 Washington Street was built in 1837-38 as the William French & Jared Coffin Candle House. The building housed equipment for processing, then storing, whale oil and spermaceti. The building lies just to the east of Commercial Wharf, which would have been bustling with whaleships in the 1830s. Jared Coffin, a 6th-generation descendant of Nantucket proprietor Tristram Coffin, was a wealthy Nantucket businessman who partnered with his son-in-law William French.

The warehouse survived the Great Fire of 1846, but French and Coffin’s partnership disbanded in 1847. French left Nantucket and returned to his home of Providence, Rhode Island, and Coffin relocated to Brighton, Massachusetts. Henry Kelley of New York City purchased the building and land in 1857 but sold it less than a year later to Matthew Crosby. Eventually the warehouse became known as the Charles and Henry Coffin Warehouse, likely in the ten years after the dissolution of French and Coffin’s company and before their sale of the structure. By the turn of the 20th century, Joseph Barney, son of whale oil merchant Nathaniel Barney, owned the property. His heirs sold it in 1916 to Henry and Florence Lang of Montclair, New Jersey.

The Langs, influential Nantucket summer residents, purchased many historic Nantucket buildings in the early 20th century, a period when the decline of the whaling industry was still harshly felt among the island residents. Florence was an artist, and the Langs were patrons the arts on Nantucket and across the country. They purchased old commercial real estate along Washington Street and the wharfs, then turned the dilapidated storehouses and fishing shanties into artists’ studios. Deeply committed to supporting artists, Florence founded the Easy Street Galley in 1924, the first place on island where artists could display and sell their work.

In 1928, the Langs deeded the Charles and Henry Coffin Warehouse to the Bryon L. Sylvaro American Legion Post #82. The post, founded in 1919 and named after a Nantucketer who died in action in France in World War I, has been an organizing force in the lives of Nantucket veterans for over 100 years. Nantucket Preservation Trust is thrilled to join with Post #82 to preserve their historic building. By placing a preservation easement  on the property, the Legion will be eligible to receive Community Preservation Commission funding for restoration work. This important landmark will continue to host community meetings, dances, and many other events. Its continued reuse today reminds us not only of Nantucket’s past as an international whaling port, but also Nantucketers’ resilient nature. To learn more about preservation easements, click here.

Magnolia Avenue: A Window into ’Sconset’s Past

The natural beauty of ’Sconset has long attracted visitors to the far eastern end of Nantucket. Beginning in the late 19th century, builders seeking to capitalize on the village’s charms built rental communities to house growing numbers of summer tourists. The block of houses on the south side of Magnolia Avenue is a well-preserved example of the rental cottage industry building boom.

The Sunset Heights development of the 1870s was first the group of purpose-built rental properties constructed in ’Sconset. In 1873, prolific builder Charles H. Robinson began construction of Sunset Heights on a large parcel of land south of Main Street. Together with his partner Dr. Franklin A. Ellis, Robinson laid out Ocean Avenue and a series of small lanes, most named after trees. The partners constructed a footbridge over the gully to connect their development with the rest of ’Sconset, and the first cottage was completed by the summer. The new neighborhood was anchored by the Ocean View House, a hotel offering both short- and long-term accommodations at affordable rates. Robinson’s idea proved very successful; he continued building cottages in ’Sconset throughout the 1870s and 1880s, and in 1883 added the Ocean View Annex across the street from the original Ocean View House.

Plan of Sunset Heights. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

Charles Robinson wasn’t the only builder who sought to reap the benefits of ’Sconset’s quaint appeal. In 1879, Edward F. Underhill purchased land to the south of Magnolia Avenue in Sunset Heights and laid out Pochick Avenue. Unlike the larger Victorian style cottages built by Robinson and Ellis, Underhill built cottages that mimicked the old fishing shacks turned residences in the center of ’Sconset. In 1882 he purchased additional land and laid out Lily and Evelyn Streets, along which he also built small, closely grouped cottages. The Underhill cottages along Pochick Avenue later became the center of the Nantucket Actor’s Colony.

Local landowner Isaac Hills also got in on the ’Sconset cottage craze. In 1885, the year after the Nantucket Railroad extended to ’Sconset, he purchased land on the south side of Magnolia Avenue from Robinson, abutting the land of Edward Underhill. The property already contained two houses; three years after purchasing the land Hills contracted with Robinson to build an additional two houses on the block. Hills advertised many rental properties for occupancy in the Inquirer and Mirror throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, and Magnolia Avenue became alternatively known as Hills Street. Hills grouped his rentals together the ’Sconset Cottage Club, with Rudder Grange, on the corner of Ocean Avenue, serving as its headquarters and dining hall.

Magnolia Avenue. Foreground: Genesee Lodge. Background: Casa Fortunata. Courtesy Nantucket Historical Association.

However, by 1918 Hills had fallen on economic hardships and was cited for failure to pay property taxes. He also failed to pay in 1919, and in December of that year he sold off a parcel of land on Magnolia Avenue, with the cottage called Genesee Lodge, to Levi Starbuck Coffin. Levi Coffin was a well-known ‘Sconset citizen and owner of Bloomingdale Farm, but Coffin was also involved in the tourism industry centered on Sunset Heights, having served as the proprietor of the Ocean View House in the 1880s. Shortly after purchasing Genesee Lodge, Coffin turned a storehouse on the property into what the Inquirer and Mirror described as a “very comfy igloo.”[1] This new cottage, at 6 Magnolia St, was then rented with along with the other Magnolia Avenue properties as “Tis a House.” Evidence shows that the structure was originally constructed by Hills at the rear of the lot, and moved forward and expanded. A small building appears on Sanborn fire insurance maps from 1904 and 1909, with the map of 1923 showing the expanded dwelling closer to Magnolia Avenue.

6 and 8 Magnolia Avenue, January 2020.

Much of the old Sunset Heights is now lost: Ocean View House has been demolished, as have many of Robinson’s original cottages. But the dwellings that composed Isaac Hills’ Cottage Club are still visible along the south side of Magnolia Avenue. Genesee Lodge is now called The Good Tern, Villa Marguerite is now called Tern Too, and Tis a House is now called Rosehip. These cottages, together with Rudder Grange, Casa Fortunata, and Thorny Croft, form a block of intact late-19th and early-20th century buildings that offer a glimpse into Sunset Heights’ development as a resort destination.

[1] “’Sconset Notes,” The Inquirer and Mirror, May 15, 1920, Historic Digital Newspapers Archive – Nantucket Atheneum.