More Stage Harbor Road Homes May Come Under Wrecking Ball

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Local History , Historic preservation

The owners of this antique three-quarter Cape at 356 Stage Harbor Rd. are proposing to demolish the building, and will go before the historical commission for a demolition delay hearing June 19. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Another historic home on Stage Harbor Road may come under the wrecking ball.

The historical commission will hold a hearing June 19 on a proposal to fully demolish the George Taylor House at 356 Stage Harbor Rd., a 146-year-old three-quarter Cape located across the street from the Atwood House Museum.

The commission will hold a second hearing June 19 on home on the historic street, but the proposal for the circa 1850 Greek Revival house at 239 Stage Harbor Rd. calls for replacing a section of the foundation, not fully demolishing the structure.

The requests come in the wake of the rejection of a National Historic Register District designation for the road, one of the oldest and most historic in town. The historical commission initiated the process more than a year ago after several demolition proposals came forward, but the idea was rejected by property owners earlier this year, and the commission opted not to pursue the designation.

The commission was concerned that the the historical integrity of the streetscape could be compromise as more and more old homes are lost. Those fears may come to pass. An 18-month demolition delay placed on a 150-year-old home at 271 Stage Harbor Rd. expired June 1, and Historical Commission Chairman Frank Messina said he's been told by the owner that the demolition will go forward.

“It joins a long list of buildings that will be demolished in the next few months on Stage Harbor Road,” he said, noting that there has been no effort to save another home on the street that is under a demolition delay.
“You win some, you lose some, but on Stage Harbor Road we seem to be losing more than anything else.”

Messina added that the commission had hoped to save at least the front portion of the home at 271 Stage Harbor Rd., but said owners James and Cynthia Marsh of Andover “decided not to pursue an alternative” to demolition.

The 356 Stage Harbor Rd. home, owned by Ocinneide Properties 2 of Lewes, Del., is a three-quarter Cape built sometime between 1858 and 1880, according to the historic inventory form on file with the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The assessing department lists the date of construction as 1860, while the owner, in its filing for a demolition delay hearing, states that it was built circa 1872. It was built by George Taylor.

The applications states that the windows, roof and walls of the original structure have been “replaced or compromised” through additions built over the years. “The only remaining historic materials (to the extent they exist) would be certain framing members within the original walls, ceilings and the attic.” Because of those changes to the original structure, restoration or rehabilitation would be “impractical,” and investigation into moving the building has “not at this time been fruitful.” The home proposed to replace the Taylor house is similar in mass, scale and detail to the Greek Revival homes in the neighborhood, according to the application.

The work on the 239 Stage Harbor Rd. home, also listed as built between 1858 and 1880, involves replacing the front wall of the foundation. The building will not be removed or demolished, according to the application. A demolition delay application was filed because the structure is more than 75 years old.

On either application, the commission can vote to impose a full 18 month delay or a shorter delay.

Messina said the commission is still debating referring demolition delay proposals for Stage Harbor Road buildings to the Cape Cod Commission. Because the Massachusetts Historical Commission declared that the road was eligible for listing on the National Historic Register, some members of the commission believes demolition of historically significant homes on the street can be referred to the commission, which can impose more strict conditions on a project or even deny demolition.