1 Little’s Lane Being Demolished

Tappan House being demolished

The Tappan House being demolished

The Tappan House, 1 Little’s Lane, Newbury, being demolished today, right now.

This is what can happen anywhere in Newburyport without a Local Historic District (LHD).  By law zoning cannot stop it.  A demo delay just delays the destruction for a year.
1 Little's Lane being demolished

1 Little's Lane being demolished, Courtesy of Skip and Marge Motes

Destruction of The Tappan House, 1 Little's lane

Destruction of The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Courtesy of Skip and Marge Motes

The Tappan House being destroyed, March 20, 2012.

The Tappan House, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, 1 Little’s Lane before demolition.

Demolition of 1 Little’s Lane, Newbury

A fantastic story by the Newburyport Daily News on the plans to tear down the Tappan house at 1 Little’s Lane in Newbury, with a photo of the heavy equipment that had already demolished the 19th century carriage barn. 1 Little’s Lane is a restored circa 1800 home, 6,500 sqft, with 6 bedrooms and 4 1/2 bathrooms that abuts the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm. The story and the photos can be read here.  Photos of the restored house inside and out can been seen here as well as here.

The Tappan House, 1 Littles Lane, Soon to be Demolished

The Tappan House, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

“One billionaire’s castle is another billionaire’s teardown. Never mind the existing mansion—it’s the location these moguls want, not someone else’s hand-me-down house. Instead of renovating, the very rich call in the wrecking ball and build their personal playgrounds from scratch.”

One of the most startling ones to me is a mansion bought by Steve Jobs.

“For years, Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple wanted to tear down a 17,000-square-foot, 35-room Spanish-style mansion he owned since the 1980s in Woodside, Calif., south of San Francisco. He instead envisioned a smaller, likely more techno-savvy home for his family on the lot. After battling legal challenges to save or move the 1920s “Jackling House,” built by the California architect George Washington Smith for a prosperous copper entrepreneur, Jobs received a demolition permit. Howard N. Ellman, Jobs’s lawyer, said the house was bulldozed in February but Jobs’s dwindling health put the plans on hold. Janet Koelsch, the Woodside town clerk, confirms there have been no applications for development received for the property since demolition of the house.”

The article “America’s Doomed Mansions,” By Marcelle Sussman Fischler, Forbes.com, November 21, 2011 can be read here.

Not to compare anyone in Newbury or Newburyport to Steve Jobs!!  But, the tale and others like it in the article does remind one of the impending demolition of 1 Littles Lane, the Tappan House, in Newbury, MA, just down the street from Newburyport.

The article in the Newburyport Daily News about the impending demolition of the Tappan House can be read here.

To read more about the Tappan House, 1 Little’s Lane, Newbury, MA,  press here.

Newburyport, the Kim Kardashian of the North Shore

“In the 1960′s Newburyport looked like a bomb hit it, it looked like Berlin after the war, it looks great now, we don’t need a Local Historic District (LHD).”

Link to "A Measure of Change"

Link to "A Measure of Change"

In the 1960′s downtown Newburyport did look like a bomb hit it, just take a look at the film “A Measure of Change” made in 1975, it is pretty shocking, and yes, Newburyport has come a long, long way.

It used to be that the wealthy folks lived on High Street, and everyone else lived “below.”  So much money has come into Newburyport, especially in the 7 years, that million dollar homes exist, not just on High Street, but throughout Newburyport. The whole demographic and dynamic has changed. And the almost (we hope never) demolition of 1 Little’s Lane (see earlier post), the stately circa 1800 Tappan House in Newbury, that was bought for 1.6 million dollars, raises a whole new question.  The mindset to tear down as significant a house as 1 Little’s Lane, translates to the mansions on High Street (and lots and lots of other places that are “less significant,”  but in my mind just as significant as 1 Little’s Lane).

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

Newburyport has become a new “it” place.  The, if you will, Paris Hilton (dated) or Kim Kardashian of places to live in New England. The influx of folks with an enormous amount of money (and often no knowledge and sometimes no appreciation of historic houses) is a game changer. When Mr. Karp starts building, that amount of money is going to look like peanuts.  And the “old” houses are now often seen, even if they are beautifully updated like 1 Little’s Lane, as “fixer-uppers.”  Old wiring, no spa bathroom, no walk-in closets, no huge kitchens-family rooms, no media rooms, not enough bathrooms.  Just old New England charm, which often just doesn’t cut it, apparently.

So the almost (we hope never) demolition of 1 Little’s Lane should be a wake up call to us all.   We are way beyond the Newburyport of the 1960′s, we’ve made it to the “big time” — the Kim Kardashian of the North Shore.  Folks come here because of the historic charm,  and if we don’t protect it (Local Historic District-LHD), Newburyport will just one more suburban place outside Boston to hang a person’s hat.

Saving one House at a Time

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Newbury, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

The Tappan House, 1 Little's Lane, Newbury, Courtesy of P.Preservationist

What fabulous news.  The demolition permit for 1 Little’s Lane in Newbury (see the Newburyport Blog’s earlier post), the stately circa 1800 large Federal style house, for the moment, has been put on hold, according to the story in today’s Newburyport Daily News.

And it is my experience that these things do not happen, and hopefully it will not happen, without an enormous amount of effort by all sorts of folks.

Would the demolition permit be withdrawn without a front page story by the Newburyport Daily News that alerted the community to the demolition permit taken out by the owners, and the story in Sunday’s Boston Globe about the possible demolition of the Tappan House, 1 Little’s Lane, with, in both cases, a photo of the historic dwelling.

One wonders.

And according to today’s story in the Newburyport Daily News, “The Patricans now have a variety of options at their fingertips, provided by a group of local designers and architects who volunteered their time to draw up ways to save the house…

The group’s plans fall into two categories: leaving the house where it is and making physical changes to screen it from the Patricans’ backyard, and moving the house to another location on the property.

The plan to leave the home in its present location calls for tree landscaping between the Patricans’ pool area and the Tappan House. It also calls for attaching “Jamaica shutters” to the Tappan House windows that face the Patrican property. The shutters have a historical appearance and could have legal restrictions placed upon them that would prohibit their removal unless an agreement is reached. It includes three potential scenarios for moving lot lines in order to give the Patricans more land around their main house and creating a lot for the Tappan House that could be resold.

The plans to move the house would push it farther down Little’s Lane, away from the Patricans’ house. It would be located near the edge of the field that is protected by the covenant. The house could then be sold to a new owner, along with the field.”

And I can assure you that an enormous amount of work, by incredibly talented and professional people, went into these plans for free, to provide alternatives for the owners of 1 Little’s Lane, to save the home, built by Revolutionary War privateer Offin Boardman for his son-in-law Amos Tappan, from demolition.

(One of the conceptual plans drawn up for the owners can be seen here.)

Hopefully there will be a win-win situation for this stately and historic property.

Moving an Old House

I remember when I saw the large new house go in on High Road in Newbury, (that joins 2 big parcels) at the corner of Little’s Lane and thinking to myself “Ut-oh.”  Thinking it’s too butt close to that old house near the Spencer-Pierce-LIttle Farm, and I bet, I thought to myself, someone, somewhere down the line is going to want to take it down, i.e. demolish that old house.

And it appears that the new owners of 1 Little’s Lane who now own both houses, bottom line, want it way far away from their property, whether it’s adios demolished it, or adios move it.

So I was curious what Historic New England’s policy was on moving old houses, since that’s who owns the Spencer-Pierce-Little Farm and who the owner says that they offered it to. I found this on their website.

“To those eager to redevelop the site of an old house, moving seems the fastest way to free up the parcel without appearing unreasonable or insensitive to the history and character of the existing building. But to preservationists, extracting a building from the site where it was built is troubling on many levels. Moving a house off site divorces it from the many material and cultural associations that are intrinsic to its history: its ownership sequence, topographic and historical setting, even the archaeological evidence buried in and around its site, all contribute to the authenticity, the “real-ness,” of the building. Moving can trivialize a building, turning it into an artifact, or souvenir. Normally, relocation also requires destroying elements that are too fragile, deteriorated, or bulky to move with the building.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Newburyport Federal Street Overlay and Historic Protection

The William Bartlett House, part of the Federal Street Overlay

The William Bartlett House, part of the Federal Street Overlay

If by some miracle 1 Little’s Lane does not get demolished (see previous post) you can bet your booties that it’s because all sorts of talented and dedicated folks are probably working behind the scenes.

And it’s always that way. Every time one of our historic assets are threatened in Newburyport (now in Newbury) all sorts of folks spring into action, and sometimes it turns out well and sometimes it does not.

One of the best win-win situations in my book is the Federal Street Overlay.  When the Catholic Church first decided to sell the St. Louis De Gonzague French Catholic Church and the surrounding land and two very historic brick buildings, at the end of Federal Street, to say there were no guarantees, would be an understatement.

There was a lot of talk about a large 40B housing project going in on that land, and no one in particular with any authority was talking about saving those two stately brick homes.

The back of the William Johnson House, part of the Federal Street Overlay

The back of the William Johnson House, part of the Federal Street Overlay

We just got stupid lucky.  We happened to get a very proactive planning director,  who negotiated with the Catholic Church and goodness knows who else,  and for most people, voila, the Federal Street Overlay came about.  But it took an enormous amount of time by a whole lot of people to make that project happen, and to restore those two gorgeous homes, the William Bartlett House and the William Johnson house.

I know on the little street where I live, it took an enormous amount of people and time to negotiate the project that is finally there now.

So when people tell me, things are fine, nothing happens to historic homes, we don’t need an LHD.  I’ve been behind the scenes enough to know that when an historic property is threatened and there is a happy ending, it is due to an tremendous amount of work by an untold amount of folks, who didn’t get any credit.  It’s like putting out one fire at a time.  And sometimes historic homes don’t make it.  And if Newburyport had an LHD, and I’m talking about “LHD-light,” it would be blanket insurance for the proposed area, those historic homes on High Street and Newburyport’s downtown.