A small, ragged house at the corner of Harbor and Church streets that has been standing for 169 years will stand for at least another 60 days, thanks to a last-ditch effort to save it from the wrecking ball.
The owners of the 1½-story house would like to demolish it and rebuild, having tried unsuccessfully for years to refurbish and sell the old home.
But the Sandwich Historic District Committee, which is trying to keep what is left of the town’s dwindling original housing stock, asked the owners on Wednesday night, June 12 to hold off a little longer.
“This structure has been able to stand all these years, in spite of all the neglect,” said Richard A. Claytor Jr., the chairman of the committee. “If we don’t save it, it’s gone.”
Mr. Claytor was joined in his vote against the demolition by committee member William R. Collins.
Mr. Collins suggested what he called a “Hail Mary” attempt to advertise the building to someone who has the means and the spirit to restore it.
The owners could contact Sarah Korjeff, the historic preservation specialist with the Cape Cod Commission, and ask her to place ads for the property in various preservation periodicals and websites, Mr. Collins said.
The owners, Peter Thomas and Kirby Holmes, agreed to the advertising gambit, but said after the meeting that they did not hold out much hope for a savior.
“We think it is unsalvageable,” Mr. Thomas said. “It has been patched up and added onto so many times that people call it a Frankenhouse.”
Ms. Holmes said the couple bought the property five years ago with the idea in mind to have it refurbished.
Several contractors looked at it and walked away, saying it was too far gone, Mr. Thomas said.
The couple’s daughter lived in the Cape-style home for three years and then Mr. Thomas and Ms. Holmes tried to sell it. But they have received no legitimate offers.
When the couple finally decided they should knock it down and start anew, they ran headlong into the historic district committee’s mission to preserve Sandwich’s past.
“It’s very frustrating,” Ms. Holmes said. “We are trying to do the right thing.”
Mr. Claytor said he and other committee members had made a site visit to the house, consulted with David Wheelock a local carpenter who specializes in historic restoration, and contacted Ms. Korjeff for an opinion.
Mr. Wheelock said anything can be restored with money and expertise, Mr. Claytor said.
Ms. Korjeff said the building and the garage have been listed as “contributing buildings” within the Jarvesville National Register Historic District in the National Historic Register since 2010. The historic district encompasses 200 contributing historic buildings, Ms. Korjeff said in a letter to Mr. Claytor.
The house at 1 Harbor Street is among the single- and multi-family houses built from 1825 to 1860 as housing for the Boston & Sandwich Glass Factory, Ms. Korjeff wrote.
The preservation specialist did not make a recommendation about saving or demolishing it, but noted, “The building plays a role in defining the streetscape of two roadways because of its location on a corner lot. It is an example of a modest historic housing type typical of the glass factory housing in the district.”
The Historic District Committee, formally known as the Sandwich Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee, recently formulated demolition guidelines for homeowners.
The guidelines help homeowners determine whether structures on their property—such as homes, barns, and guesthouses—are historically significant.
If buildings are more than 75 years old and are located within a historic district, the HDC would like to be consulted. The committee, in turn, would research the history to determine whether the structure is of historical significance.
If it is significant, the HDC will help the homeowner determine the best course of action.
If a historic structure is demolished, the HDC would like them replaced with replicas or close facsimiles, its members have said.
The committee would like to see homeowners follow the US Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines to repair, restore, and replace—in that order.
If a building must be demolished, say, for safety reasons, the committee would like to have the building materials salvaged.
The HDC has continued its hearing for the house for at least 60 days.