7 North Gully Road on the Move Again

The shed at 7 North Gully Road was relocated earlier this week, to a new location within Codfish Park, in the below-the-bank portion of 7 Elbow Lane, allowing a more than century-old structure to be saved from demolition. Sam Daniel sent these photos of the move in progress – click through to see more photos, and read about the history of shed, including its first move from its original location on Front Street!

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The Great Fire of 1846 and Nantucket Architecture

Today marks the 175th anniversary of Nantucket’s Great Fire. Around 11 pm on July 13, 1843, a fire broke out in William M. Geary’s hat shop on Main Street. Nantucket is 1846 was a busy commercial whaling port, with closely built homes and businesses lining narrow streets, and the fire spread quickly. Approximately one third of the town burned that night, with approximately 250 buildings destroyed. Nantucket’s architectural landscape contributed to both the spread and the stopping of the fire. The predominately wooden houses, built closely together to provide shelter from the wind, shops, storehouses filled with whale oil, and other commercial buildings quickly went up in flames.

Main Street c. 1845, the only known photo of Main Street prior to the Great Fire. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

Along with shifting winds that contained the fire in the close vicinity of the harborfront, some of the few brick buildings that pre-dated the fire helped to stop it, too. The fire did not spread to the west of the Pacific National Bank, built in 1818, sparing the grand homes of Upper Main Street from destruction. The Jared Coffin House at the corner of Broad and Centre Streets also emerged largely unscathed, and the fire did not travel further north up Centre Street. The Pacific Club, at the foot of Main Street, was damaged in the blaze, but survived. Other buildings emerged remarkably undamaged. The 1823 Methodist Church was only minimally impacted by the fire, though surrounding buildings on Centre Street were torched to ruin. An apocryphal story claims that, when a fire company wanted to dynamite the building in an attempt to keep the fire from spreading, Maria Mitchell stood on the steps of the church and convinced them not to. A similar tale holds that when fire wards sought to blow up 72 Main Street, Lydia Mitchell Barrett, at home with her children, refused to leave.

Following the Great Fire, Nantucketers rebuilt quickly. Nantucket’s whaling economy was already on the decline by 1846, and following the fire some businesspeople chose not to rebuild, but those who did did so quickly, and with fire prevention in mind. Main Street and other streets were widened, so as to prevent a fire from being able to jump over from one side of the street to another. Particularly along the North side of Main Street, brick was the material of choice for rebuilding. The Nantucket Atheneum was the first structure in rebuilt in town, and the stylish Greek Revival building reflected the popular tastes of the era.

New Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines Adapted

On June 11, the Historic District Commission voted to adopt new guidelines for building adaptation, Resilient Nantucket: Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines. In the following article, originally published in Ramblings, Lisa Craig and Phil Thomason, lead consultants on the Resilient Nantucket project, explain its goals.


As one of the oldest and largest National Historic Landmark (NHL) districts in the United States, the island of Nantucket fosters a strong regard for the protection and preservation of historic places. Historic preservation in Nantucket promotes tourism, strengthens the local economy, protects the town and surrounding area’s historic character, and fosters community investment in protecting Nantucket’s historic identity. That identity was clearly articulated in the 2013 update to the NHL designation, which not only extended the NHL’s period of significance to 1975 to encompass the pioneering work of Walter Beinecke, but also recognized the island’s national role in the evolution of land conservation and historic preservation.

It’s therefore no surprise that the Town of Nantucket, through its Nantucket Historical Commission, Historic District Commission, and Department of Planning and Land Use Services has partnered with community organizations to address the 21st century challenge of sea level rise and flooding, which have increased both in frequency and in scope in the last two decades.

The Town’s 2019 Massachusetts Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Community Resilience Building Workshop and Report recognized the need to adapt historic resources to climate impacts as missing from climate change planning. Thus, in both the MVP Workshop Report and the 2019 update to the Hazard Mitigation Plan, the preservation of historic and cultural resources in response to flooding and sea-level rise became a priority for investigation and action.

The following year, the Town and Preservation Institute Nantucket launched a project: Resilient Nantucket: 3D Digital Documentation and Sea Level Rise Visualization. The project used LiDAR scanning to digitally document the core of Nantucket Town, its waterfront, and Brant Point. That work was complemented by a community workshop, Keeping History Above Water: Nantucket, which identified community values and priorities for historic property adaptation and the need for design guidance.

Now developed and presented through numerous public meetings to Nantucket residents and property owners, the Resilient Nantucket: Flooding Adaptation & Building Elevation Design Guidelines (Resilient Nantucket Design Guidelines) joins a range of other planning and mitigation documents which together provide a unified approach for protecting Nantucket’s resources from natural disasters.

The guidelines were drafted by leading preservation consulting firm, Thomason and Associates, with the assistance of The Craig Group. These design guidelines are likely the first in the nation to fully model the newly issued guidance from the National Park Service whose publication, Guidelines on Flood Adaptation for Rehabilitation Historic Buildings, now provides formal guidance to inform the decisions of historic district commissions when considering flooding adaptation designs.

The Sea Street Pump Station, an example of dry floodproofing.

The Resilient Nantucket Design Guidelines are prepared with photographs and descriptions that document Nantucket’s existing historic character, in particular, building styles, materials, design details and streetscapes, that define Nantucket’s character. They serve as a supplement to the HDC guidebook Building with Nantucket in Mind and provide current thinking on adapting properties to accommodate climate-driven change by elevating and “hardening” historic properties while still retaining overall architectural integrity.In addition, the Guidelines recommend design considerations for new construction within the historic districts that address flood risk, yet do not detract from the character of historic residential and commercial areas. This is done in a “user-friendly” by including photos and illustrations of best practices in flooding adaptation as approved by FEMA and consistent with the NPS guidance. Included are illustrated examples of how Nantucket buildings and sites can be retrofitted to accommodate flood mitigation and adaptation alterations ranging from temporary barriers, nature-based approaches, dry and wet floodproofing strategies, and even elevation and relocation.

Lisa Craig is Principal with The Craig Group, a preservation consulting firm specializing in resilience planning for historic coastal communities. Phil Thomason is Principal with Thomason & Associates, LLC with significant experience in preservation planning and design guideline development, most recently focusing on elevation guidance for historic coastal & riverine communities.

Preservation-Friendly Votes at the 2021 Annual Town Meeting

The large tents set up at the Backus playing fields last Saturday might have been mistaken for a town fair, but instead, they hosted a rather unusual Annual Town Meeting. Though many of the over 900 Nantucketers who turned out at the start of the meeting departed following votes on hotly debated Articles 90 and 97, those who remained through the afternoon voted in favor of a number of preservation-friendly articles.

Article 48, which limits pools in lots zoned R-1, SR-1, R-5, and R-5L to only those lots that are at least 7,500 square feet, passed with the required two-thirds vote in favor. This change will further restrict the construction of swimming pools in areas surrounding Town and in Siasconset. The Article had been positively indorsed by the Planning Board but not recommended by the Finance Committee, but voters on Saturday sided with the Planning Board. The tall hedges and fences required by the Historic District Commission to screen pools from view are often not in keeping with the historic feel of these in-town areas, so limiting swimming pools will help protect Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark status.

Another zoning change was approved to restrict the height of buildings in the CMI, Commercial Mid Island, zone from 40 feet to 30 feet. The article, which had been originally introduced by HDC commissioner Val Oliver and was carried over from the 2020 Town Meeting, was approved by over two-thirds of voters, with an amendment that buildings up to 38 feet may be approved by special permit.

A proposal by Sign Committee chair Kevin Kuester to limit traffic signs to the minimum permitted under state law was approved. This will ensure that the historic feel of our streets and lanes will not be marred by overly large signs. It also will prevent the use of neon colors, lighted signs, and warning signs within 1,000 feet of another sign, with the exception of pedestrian crossing signs and intersection warnings.

Early in the meeting, on the consent agenda, voters approved an appropriation of $2.8 million in spending for the Community Preservation Committee, $730,000 of which will go to historic preservation projects. The money will be split between two projects, with the Nantucket Historical Association to receive $395,000 for repairs to the Hadwen and Barney Candle Factory, and the Landmark House benefiting from $335,000 to restore its exterior trim. The CPC appropriation also included $1.696 million for community housing initiatives, and $284,515 for open space conservation and recreation.  Additionally, Article 81, also passed via consent, simplifies CPC member terms.

In the final article voted on at this year’s Town Meeting, the hearty souls who stayed through to the end of the day passed a resolution 81-49 recognizing the second Monday in October as Indigenous Peoples Day, as opposed to Columbus Day. Article sponsor Emily Osley noted how Nantucket place names are derived from Wampanoag terms, yet the town does little to officially acknowledge the island’s original inhabitants. We applaud the Nantucket community for taking votes that will enhance our island’s National Historic Landmark status and maintain our unique sense of place.

Nantucket’s Historic Paint Colors

There is a widely held belief that only twelve paint colors may be approved by the Historic District Commission for exterior use on Nantucket. The HDC maintains a list, and we know them well – Hamilton Blue, Essex Green, Quaker Gray, Main Street Yellow, Nantucket Red, to name a few. Despite this notion, the HDC can technically approve any exterior color they see fit, as long as it can be considered to be in keeping with Nantucket’s historic character.

According to the guidelines set forth in Building With Nantucket In Mind, “The colors of Nantucket should be a reflection of its sprit, an old weathered and peaceful town. It is recommended that the colors on walls of buildings be of subdued hue intensity and light to medium value. Foundations and trim may be a subtle variation or contrast with the color of the house.” The guidelines do make color recommendations for specific architectural features. The colors listed for doors include: white, black, brewster green, dark green, beige, barn red, gray blue, and yellow. These are the inspiration for the familiar colors we see on a visit to Marine Home Center, yet there is ample evidence around Nantucket for other colors.

On an island where so many homes, even those with clapboard facades, are clad in bare natural to weather cedar shingles, a little trim color can make a big impact. Tastes have changed over time, as has paint technology. In the 17th and 18th centuries, Nantucketers did not have lead needed to mix white paints and generally employed earth tones. Josiah Quincy, visiting Nantucket in 1801, recorded in his journal that most houses were “without paint, and with those which have it, red is the predominant color.” By the mid-19th century, lead white paints were available and widely employed on Greek Revival homes like 94 and 96 Main Street, constructed in 1847 and 1846, respectively. Still, white paints of the 19th century lacked the brilliance of today’s pigments, created with titanium dioxide instead of lead.

Most color choices that deviate from the “standard” Nantucket colors are based on historical evidence for a similar color, either based on historical images, or on historical paint analysis.

The paint color guidelines in Building With Nantucket in Mind note that “The choice of color for a building must blend with the colors of adjacent buildings and the overall setting.” So, don’t expect to see any neon oranges or purples anytime soon. Nevertheless, here are some of our favorite “nonstandard” paint colors that can be spotted around the Old Historic District.

The George Garnder House at 8 Pine Street, which is protected by an preservation easement held by NPT, has an vibrant robins-egg blue door and shutters. Similar shades can be seen around Cliff Road and other areas.

The door of the Zenas Coffin House, across the street at 9 Pine, is a vibrant chartruse.

14 Lily Street has pretty in pink clapboards, similar to the door at 56 Fair Street.

The former Centreboard Inn, on the corner of Centre and Easton Streets, has an ecclectic color scheme with pale blue and dusty mauve, suitable to its Victorian style. Other Victorians with period-appropriate paint jobs that differ from the HDC’s “approvable” list of colors include 19 and 21 Broad Street.

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.

NPT Awarded 1772 Foundation Grant

We are excited to announce that Nantucket Preservation Trust has been awarded a historic properties redevelopment planning grant from the 1772 Foundation to conduct a revolving fund feasibility study.

With funding from this grant, NPT will hire leading historic preservation consultant Mary Ruffin Hanbury of Hanbury Preservation Consulting to lead the feasibility study. The study will explore possibilities for NPT to create a revolving fund to purchase distressed historic properties, restore them, and place preservation easements on the properties, with the goal of then using these restored historical properties as affordable workforce housing for Nantucket’s year round community.

The creation of a House Rescue program has long been a goal of NPT, and we are excited to be working with Mary Ruffin Hanbury, who is an expert in historic preservation revolving funds and has worked with dozens of other preservation organizations across the country in realizing similar projects.

The 1772 Foundation, based in Pomfret, Connecticut, plays a leading role in promoting historic properties redevelopment programs, also known as revolving funds. The grant award received by NPT was part of over $1.5 million in grant funding awarded by the 1772 Foundation for the first quarter of 2021, its largest single round of grant funding in the foundation’s thirty-five-year history.

Hanbury Preservation Consulting was founded in 2008 in Raleigh, North Carolina. The firm specializes in historic preservation planning, heritage tourism planning, and strategic planning for preservation organizations. Principal Mary Ruffin Hanbury has led revolving fund feasibility studies for numerous other historic preservation organizations, including Preservation Texas, the Landmark Society of Western New York, the Montana Preservation Alliance, the Madison-Morgan Conservancy, Historic Columbia, and Historic Fort Worth.

2 Stone Alley and Eliza Codd, Nantucket Architect

This International Women’s Day, we celebrate the accomplishments of the first woman to have her own architectural practice on Nantucket, Eliza Codd.

Eliza Codd, c. 1905. Courtesy of the Nantucket Historical Association.

Eliza Codd was born on Nantucket on February 27, 1882. She grew up in the fine Greek Revival home at 14 Orange Street. Her father, William F. Codd, was a noted engineer and surveyor. As a child she frequently accompanied her father on surveying visits and from a young age showed an interest in measurements in line.

After attending secondary school in Bordentown, New Jersey, Eliza graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in architecture in 1904. While a student at MIT, she won the Rotch prize for best academic record. She returned home to Nantucket and began her architectural practice. According to the Inquirer and Mirror, “many of the modernized old houses of Nantucket bear the impress of her skill in conserving the characteristics of Nantucket architecture while adding the requirements of modern times.”

Eliza was dedicated to public service. In 1918, she volunteered to help control the flu pandemic on Nantucket as an assistant to William Wallace, the island’s Special Emergency Health Agent. She volunteered with the Red Cross in World War I and, following the conclusion of the war, traveled to France under the auspices of the YMCA to teach mechanical drawing to US army soldiers and aid in rebuilding.

While living on Nantucket, Eliza converted a c.1870 stable on her family’s Orange Street property into a cottage dwelling. Her cottage, 2 Stone Alley, is a recognizable landmark along one of Nantucket’s iconic pedestrian lanes. For the past three and a half years, a proposal to radically alter the structure with a large addition has been in front of Nantucket’s Historic District Commission. The plans did now follow the guidelines set out in Building with Nantucket in Mind. The HDC commissioners repeatedly asked for revisions to draw the proposed addition to the west, away from Stone Alley, and to create a mass that was subordinate to the original building. Various rounds of revisions made subtle changes to the plans, but the proposed addition remained more than double the size of the original dwelling and continued extending southward, parallel to Stone Alley. On Friday, March 5, the HDC voted unanimously to deny the application, citing failure to address the commissioners’ concerns.

2 Stone Alley

When Eliza passed away in 1920, at only 38 years old, her friend Mary Ella Mann wrote that in her short life, “She served humanity; for in the high position that she achieved in her profession she elevated the standard of women’s work in the world. We who knew her and loved her best are proud and grateful to remember her as a representative woman of Nantucket.” In voting to deny the inappropriate addition to Eliza’s home at 2 Stone Alley, the HDC has voted to protect a physical testament to the legacy of Nantucket’s pioneering first female architect.