It was kind of like one of those old black-and-white westerns, when the cavalry, with bugles blaring and flags flying, rides in on their horses to save the day just in the nick of time.
But in this case, the cavalry consisted of just two men: Rich Claytor and Ross Vander Pyl.
There were no horses involved. They had no bugles and weren’t carrying flags.
But they saved the day, nonetheless.
In actuality, what they saved was a tiny house at the corner of Church and Harbor streets in one of Sandwich’s oldest neighborhoods.
The house was old—dating back to at least the mid-1800s—but some say parts of the house are much, much older.
As with many old houses, this one has seen better days. It has rotten beams, a crumbling foundation, bowed walls, and sagging ceilings.
It was in such a state of disrepair that its owners felt it was a lost cause. They had tried to sell it as is, but had no takers. They talked to contractors about repairing it, but the advice they were given was to tear it down.
The historic district committee tried to change the owners’ minds. But in the end, it was unsuccessful.
Mr. Claytor and Mr. Vander Pyl were both members of the historic committee when the fate of the home was discussed. They had argued vehemently for its salvation.
In September, when the committee narrowly voted to allow the demolition, Mr. Claytor resigned in utter frustration.
So it looked like it was curtains for the home at 1 Harbor Street.
Not so fast.
Mr. Claytor and Mr. Vander Pyl came up with a rather unorthodox idea.
If they could not save the old home through a regulatory process, they perhaps would buy it and restore it themselves.
And that’s what they did. Together they ponied up $115,000 and bought the home. The sale went through on October 25.
“We just couldn’t let it go,” said Mr. Vander Pyl, who is a landscaper by trade, but has done much work restoring historic homes. Mr. Claytor, an engineer, also has plenty of experience with old homes.
The restoration work has begun and is expected to take two years, Mr. Vander Pyl said.
“We’ve just begun opening things up, so we can see what needs to be done,” he said. “It’s going to take some time.”
Time. Now that is something this old home has, thanks to these two men stepping up, checkbooks in hand.
As members of the historic committee, they certainly know how to talk the talk.
We’ve heard it all before, and the messages are painfully true:
Too many aspects of the town’s history are slipping away. Century-old homes are being renovated and modernized and are losing their quaintness and quirkiness. Traditional style and substance are making way for sleekness and efficiency. That is all well and good in most places, but not in the town’s oldest and most historic neighborhoods.
It is the historic district committee’s job to serve as a gatekeeper to this change. It can be thankless, frustrating work. Sometimes the group cannot save these homes, at least not just with talk.
Mr. Claytor and Mr. Vander Pyl turned their words into actions. They’re walking the walk.
It is an admirable thing they are doing.