A November 6 article by Tao Woolfe reported, “The Sandwich Historical Commission has determined that while the Sandwich Boardwalk is a historic icon for the town, it is too ‘new’ to be officially recognized as a national historic site.”
We believe there is more to the story.
There is no argument that the Boardwalk is historic. It is listed on the Massachusetts Register of Historic Places and has the protection of the Old King’s Highway Regional Historic District.
The 1992 rebuild of this structure—adhering to a design that dates back to 1875—was used as an argument to disqualify it from designation on the National Register of Historic Places.
We contend that while the rebuild may not meet the criteria for designation, a determination is open to interpretation and precedent. The Boardwalk is unique and situated in a harsh marine environment that makes it nearly impossible to survive beyond the 50-year age minimum set in the criteria. The criteria allow for deviation if the structure is a rare surviving example, has reused materials from the past and where the resource is fragile.
Furthermore, there is precedent in listing a bridge that has been rebuilt numerous times. The North Bridge at Minute Man National Historical Park in Concord was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, even though it was categorized as an “interpretive reconstruction” that was less than 50 years old when it qualified.
The Sandwich Historical Commission agrees that “it’s possible to argue that it has substantially the same look and feel and should therefore be included in the National Register.” We want to pursue that avenue, but that will require hiring a specialist to conduct an analysis. The SHC lacks the funding, so we are looking into options.
While we may not exactly agree, we are thrilled with the SHC’s stated support for preserving the icon we all now respect and enjoy. With or without the official national designation, we can all work together to save, repair and preserve this “historic icon.”
Candus S. Thomson
Candus S. Thomson is a member of Friends of the Sandwich Boardwalk.