A new nonprofit, called the Falmouth Preservation Alliance, launched this week. The group’s mission is to save historic structures from the wrecking ball.
“We’re not against development. We’re against development that demolishes historic buildings,” alliance president Barbara M. Weyand said October 9 seated at the kitchen table in her West Falmouth home.
Currently, the town goes “from crisis to crisis,” Ms. Weyand said. The public usually learns a historic structure will be demolished only after a development plan is in place. “The public learns about it when there’s a purchase and sale agreement,” she said. “We’re always coming from behind.”
One recent “crisis” was the demolition of the Zylinski house on Teaticket Highway, located between The Admiralty Inn and Burger King, Ms. Weyand said. The stately house was built in 1830 by a ship captain and was torn down at the end of the summer to make way for a tire store.
When asked to imagine a better outcome for the Zylinski house and how the alliance would have facilitated that outcome, Ms. Weyand had definite ideas.
First of all, she said, the alliance would have approached the Zylinski family before the home was put on the market and educated them about tax credits available to owners who preserve historic structures. They would have linked them up with contractors and artisans qualified to do the work, she said. The idea being to help homeowners with the upkeep of old buildings “before they’re falling down and they can’t afford to fix them,” she said.
If the family still wanted to sell, Ms. Weyand said, the alliance would have assisted realtors with “niche marketing” of the property, for example, by assembling promotional materials about the building’s significance and tax credits available for its preservation.
Perhaps the alliance could have fundraised to purchase the property outright, adapted it for modern use and sold it back to the private sector with deed restrictions, Ms. Weyand said. The alliance wants to preserve historic buildings so they are “useful in the 21st century,” she stressed. “We’re not trying to preserve buildings that are going to be empty.”
Ms. Weyand said she could imagine the Zylinski house renovated into attractive commercial offices, with a sign out front explaining the building’s place in history.
“If everything else fails,” Ms. Weyand said, the Falmouth Preservation Alliance will salvage architecturally significant pieces from buildings slated for demolition. Etched glass panels and three mantel pieces from the Zylinski house currently reside in Ms. Weyand’s basement.
Falmouth is the first town on Cape Cod to have a group dedicated to historical preservation projects, according to Cape Cod Commission historical preservation specialist Sarah P. Korjeff. “I think this is a big deal for the Cape,” Ms. Korjeff said. “It’s a huge benefit, when buildings are threatened, to have an organization in place, rather than having to pull everything together at the last minute,” she said. “It will make a big difference.”
Ms. Weyand is a retired corporate and product marketing consultant, and it shows. The alliance’s five-page “communications document for launch” is printed in an attractive color scheme, with a professionally designed logo (paid for by Ms. Weyand) at the top of each page. The group’s introductory PowerPoint presentation includes schematic drawings representing how the alliance fits in with the town’s existing groups—Falmouth Historical Society, Chamber of Commerce, The 300 Committee, and others—and lays out the group’s “mission,” “philosophy,” “style,” and “activities.”
“We wanted to demonstrate our seriousness to the community at large,” Ms. Weyand explained. “And not look like we just sat around one day and said, ‘Let’s have a trust.’ ”
Ms. Weyand and her husband have owned three antique homes themselves, most recently a Victorian on Route 28A in West Falmouth. The couple currently lives in a condominium along the same road, but will move next month to a house in North Falmouth. “We’re serial movers, because I like projects,” Ms. Weyand said. “My heart goes out to houses that need rescue.”
The alliance has set a goal of raising $5 million over the next 10 years. In addition to grants and private donations, the group will raise money by offering some consulting services for a fee, including advice on how to “prepare effectively for an appearance before the Historic Districts Commission and other town boards,” according to its launch documents. “Business partners” will also be able to advertise for a fee on the alliance’s website: falmouthpreservationalliance.org.
Creating a plan for “adaptive reuse” of the Elm Arch Inn on Elm Arch Way off Main Street is a top priority for the alliance, Ms. Weyand said. Developer David Wald’s plans to raze the 19th-century inn and build condominiums on the site were scraped last month in the face of pushback from town boards.
Ms. Weyand said she is pleased that members of the alliance’s board and advisory council have varied professional backgrounds. “It’s not simply people who have a degree in historical preservation,” she said. “It’s a mix of business people” who recognize that “there’s a connection between historic preservation and the town’s economic engine” of tourism, she said. “People come to Cape Cod seeking historical character.”
Members of the alliance’s board of directors are: Todd L. Bidwell, Dorie C. Ketterer, Philip G. Nehro, Susan L. Shephard, Eric T. Turkington, Heidi L. Walz, and Ms. Weyand.
Members of the group’s advisory council are: Jay Zavala, Ann L. Sears, Nathaniel D. Ross, Barbara J. Milligan, Joseph A. Martinho, Michael D. Kasparian, William H. Hough, Barbara A. Hampson, Jennifer Gaines, Patricia S. Gadsby, Stephanie McCusker Feronti, Michael A. Duffany, and J. Malcolm Donald.