Nantucket Part 3

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.

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The church is 200 years old. As you can tell, it wasn't a nice day.

I'm not a fan of the 3D effect in the church.

I'm not a fan of the 3D effect in the church.

The way up wasn't exactly secure.

The way up wasn't exactly safe.

No nails involved.

No nails involved.

     The pieces of wood were gigantic; some of the boards were more than 2 feet wide, the largest I've ever seen.

The pieces of wood were gigantic; some of the boards were more than 2 feet wide, the largest I've ever seen.

The graffitti was amazing, some of it dating back to the 1850s. One written on Armistice Day, when World War I ended, explained how many times the bell was rung in celebration.

The graffiti was amazing, some of it dating back to the 1850s. One written on Armistice Day, when World War I ended, explained the bell was pulled 700 times in celebration.

People don't write like that anymore.

People don't write like that anymore.

Too bad it wasn't a nice day.

Too bad it wasn't a nice day.

Then we headed to the First Congregational Church and Old North Vestry. (Unitarian Church used to be Second Congregational.)

This portion of the church was built in 1834.

This portion of the church was built in 1834.

This belltower was much safer, because they have tours there.

This belltower was much safer, because they have tours there.

There's the Unitarian Church through the rain.

There's the Unitarian Church through the rain.

The Old North Vestry portion of the church was built in 1725 and moved 40 years later to its current site, making it one of the oldest -- if not the oldest -- continuosly used church in the U.S.

The Old North Vestry portion of the church was built in 1725 and moved 40 years later to its current site, making it one of the oldest -- if not the oldest -- continuously used churches in the U.S.

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.

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Filed under Cape Wind, Nantucket, Preservation Institute: Nantucket, Preservation Trades Network, Uncategorized

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