Nantucket Part 9

I forgot to add last time that I attended my first historic district commission meeting July 21 in Nantucket. Because the Nantucket Historic District encompasses the entire island, every single change must go before the board. So unlike most commissions that met once a month or biweekly, the Nantucket Historic District Commission meets every Tuesday evening. The meeting I attended lasted about two hours and 25 projects were introduced, but I would imagine that’s considered light.

The meeting wasn’t the most fun I’ve ever had, but it was interesting. Most of the projects were tabled so the commissioners could go view the proposed changes. Revisions were requested on many others. A few were OK’d. In other words, for a homeowner to change anything on the island, no matter how small, is a very tedious process; the Nantucket Historic District Commission has a lot of control over how the place looks.

With that said I don’t think everyone on the board was in the same league when it came knowledge about architecture and construction. I don’t want to pass judgment because I only attended one meeting, but it wouldn’t be too far fetched to say the building industry has insiders on the board.

Last week, my final on Nantucket, began with a presentation by Arlene Fleming, who used to work for the World Bank and is now an intangible history consultant. She spoke about the lack of importance placed on intangible aspects of historic preservation, for example timber framing, blacksmithing, and plastering. I feel teaching people how to  do a particular traditional trade can be just as important as saving a (tangible) building.

I spent the remainder of the week completing both our documentation project at the Maria Mitchell House (along with seven other team members) and my independent study project at the Boston-Higginbotham House (along with one other partner).

For the Mitchell House project, we had to finish measuring both the interior and exterior, convert the drawings to CAD, and write a conditions report. On Friday morning, members of the community were invited to hear what we did all summer at the house. I was in charge of describing what we did during the paint analysis.

For the Boston-Higginbotham House project, we went room by room and chronicled the architectural features we believed should be included in the interior easement and what era each originated from. The house was thoroughly photographed, and then we put together a Power Point presentation. On Friday we presented our work to our classmates and a few guests, including Renee and Bill Oliver, caretakers of the Boston-Higginbotham House and the neighboring African Meeting House.

Program director Marty Hylton hosted a going-away dinner Friday evening (my third lobster dinner in five days), and I left ACK on Saturday morning. My summer on Nantucket is over.

I have a few more entries left; here are some more random photos.

Residences along a wharf.

Residences along a wharf.


Civil War monument

Civil War monument

The Oldest House was built in 1686. But it was blown apart by lightning in 1987 and rebuilt, so I don't think it's very authentic.

The Oldest House was built in 1686. But it was blown apart by lightning in 1987 and rebuilt, so I don't think it's very authentic.


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Filed under Boston-Higginbotham House, Maria Mitchell House, Nantucket, Preservation Institute: Nantucket

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