18 State Street

The home at 18 State Street

Another glass factory-era home on State Street faces almost certain demolition following an email snafu and an uncharacteristically hurried vote of the board tasked with preserving historic structures.

The Sandwich Historic District Committee voted 3-2 to allow demolition of the small, gray-shingled house during a virtual meeting last week at which emails from neighbors and preservationists were not read into the record because they had been sent to the wrong email address.

Chairman William R. Collins asked that the vote be delayed for two weeks. That delay would allow the emails to be sent to the correct address—and read into the record—and would allow time for the committee members to visit the house, possibly accompanied by a restoration expert.

“It is better to make haste slowly and to avoid any appearance of cutting people off,” Mr. Collins said.

But committee vice chairman Mary Foley argued that the correct email address was published in the newspaper and on the town website, and emails sent elsewhere “should not be accepted.”

The building is too far gone to save, Ms. Foley added.

Her opinion was supported by Building Inspector Brendan Brides, who said the structure is “extremely dangerous” and warned committee members not to go inside.

“It’s not so dangerous that it wouldn’t last another two weeks,” Mr. Collins said.

Committee member Ross Vander Pyl agreed.

“This is a flawed process,” Mr. Vander Pyl said. “Why not wait for other people’s opinions? What’s the rush?”

Nevertheless, a poll and then a quick vote were taken.

“I would like to make a motion to demolish,” Ms. Foley said.

This week there were rumors that the committee’s decision would be appealed to the Old King’s Highway Regional District Commission.

As of Thursday, November 19, however, no appeal had been filed with the town clerk’s office.

The weathered house at 18 State Street is a two-family home—one of three structures originally on the site—believed to have been built between 1830 and 1850 for workers of the Boston & Sandwich Glass Company.

Photos of the house’s interior show torn ceilings from which insulation and other debris dangle. A 2018 report from an engineering firm says: “The entire building envelope is replete with rot, water, and insect damage.”

The report from The Dempsey Group, Inc., goes on to say: “In our professional opinion, the building is fundamentally, structurally unsound.…It currently poses a serious threat to life safety and should be torn down in its entirety and replaced by a new code compliant structure.”

Another engineer’s report from 2017 found similar issues and noted that the basement was full of standing water. The cost of repairing the home would exceed more than 50 percent of the value of the building, the report said.

Despite its decrepitude, however, many preservationists reportedly believe the house can be saved. But instead of sending emails expressing those views to the HDC’s public comment email, they sent emails directly to the workplace mailbox of Michelle Y. Raymond, the committee’s administrator.

During the meeting, Ms. Raymond repeatedly offered to read the emails aloud, or forward them to the correct address, but Ms. Foley was adamant about not allowing Ms. Raymond to do so.

The newly condemned home was one of three historic State Street homes purchased in 2016 by Michael and Stephanie Rogers.

The couple’s demolition of another historic home on the site in 2017 enraged the members of the historic district committee at the time, and ultimately led to the creation of renovation guidelines for historic home owners.

“There is such a thing as a streetscape to be considered and in terms of losses, this was a big one,” Mr. Collins said when Mr. Rogers demolished 20 State Street. “Such losses are destroying the historic climate of our precious village.”

The Rogerses argued at the time that the structures were not kept up and had fallen into serious disrepair. Inside, the small homes are moldy and the timbers are rotted, they said.

Last month the couple sold the home at 18 State Street to Alberto and Patricia DiMascio.

(1) comment

TaxiManSteve

The pandemic is an excellent window of opportunity to remove troublesome heritage properties. And this begs the question, what is the point of having a historical commission if it doesn't protect heritage? Maybe it would be more intellectually honest to abolish it and let the market have its way unfettered?---SWL

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