The weather on Monday, Day 8, was atrocious. The wind was blowing at a steady 20 mph with gusts nearing 50 mph, and it was raining off and on. So the logical thing for us Preservation Institute: Nantucket students to do was to climb church belltowers. But not before a morning lecture by the aforementioned Rudy Christian, who is a timber framer and director of the Preservation Trades Network. It’s hard to find someone more passionate about what he does than Christian, and his excellent lecture stressed the importance of keeping quality craftsmanship alive for generations to come.
Afterward, we headed to Unitarian Church — known for its Notre Dame-esque gold dome towering over downtown Nantucket — with Christian and Laura Saeger to see examples of timber framing.
Then we headed to the First Congregational Church and Old North Vestry. (Unitarian Church used to be Second Congregational.)
On Day 9, Mark Voight, the Nantucket Historic District Commission’s executive director, visited Sherburne Hall. Voight is a University of Florida alumnus and former PI:N student who came back to Nantucket to live and work. His committee is in charge of approving any construction project or alteration on the island. I wouldn’t want his job. The commission meets once a week as opposed to once a month like most places. And multimillionaries who want to build or renovate aren’t used to hearing “no.”
He seems to spend a lot of time keeping renewable energy projects at bay. He opposes the Cape Wind project because the windmills will be visible from the island, and he said one of the draws of Nantucket is that you can’t usually see other land from the island (other than nearby Tuckernuck and Muskeget islands, of course). He also has been opposing efforts to allow solar panels on roofs because he doesn’t want to allow fads. In other words, if he approves a big solar panel system on a roof visible from the street and five years later a smaller, less obtrusive system is invented, the original is going to be an unnecessary eyesore. And based on my week and a half on Nantucket, there’s not a whole lot sun here anyway.
I’m a big proponent of renewable energy and feel historic districts need to loosen up. Sure, the most environmentally friendly building is the one that’s already built — especially ones that are centuries old — but any extra effort would help. I don’t think solar panels should be allowed to engulf properties, but I don’t believe the Cape Wind project should be denied because waterfront landowners don’t want their view ruined. The Dutch seem to like windmills; I’m sure they will eventually too.