With the much-discussed big-house bylaw now a fact of life in Chilmark, discussion at the town planning board this week turned to preservation of historic houses.
Pamela Goff, who owns a pre-Revolutionary house off Tea Lane, asked the board to consider an amendment to the bylaw approved by voters last year to regulate very large houses. The first-of-its-kind bylaw could have the unintended consequence of actually encouraging people to demolish old houses instead of preserving them, Mrs. Goff said.
The history of Seven Gates Farm goes back to 1887, and for generations a parade of farmers, shareholders and conservationists have done just about all they could to keep the land and buildings of this enclave looking, working and feeling largely unchanged.
Tearing down old buildings is most often cheaper than restoring them, so the sale of two antique houses to private buyers this week marks a positive turn for historic preservation on the Vineyard.
The Old Parsonage in West Tisbury, a seventeenth century farmhouse believed to be the second oldest home on the Island, and the Warren House, an eighteenth century merchant’s home on North Water street in Edgartown, are both in urgent need of extensive renovations.
The house sits at the far end of Quansoo Road in Chilmark, through a meadow of goldenrod and tall grasses overlooking Tisbury Great Pond. It is perhaps the oldest house on Martha’s Vineyard, more than three centuries old, and one of the finest existing examples of multi-century architecture on the Island.
The Old Parsonage house in West Tisbury, believed to be the second oldest home on the Island, has new owners.
The 17th century farmhouse owned by Tara Whiting and her brother Daniel Whiting sold to Eric Burns and Bonnie Lafave of New York city for $600,000. The deal was completed on Friday, Justin Manning of JJ Manning Auctioneers confirmed.
The house was scheduled to go to public auction on Sept. 28, but Mr. Burns and Ms. Lafave’s pre-bid offer was accepted beforehand.
Reached by telephone on Monday, Mr. Whiting called the sale bittersweet.
In 2007 the town of Chilmark, the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank and the Howard Hillman family announced a three-way land swap that was designed to save a historic house, open up a new conservation corridor and create more affordable housing up-Island.
The historic Mayhew-Hancock-Mitchell House at Quansoo Farm is the topic of a presentation by Adam Moore of the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation at an August 14 talk beginning at 5 p.m. at the Chilmark Public Library. The historic house, dating back to the 17th century, is one of a handful of homes in the U.S. that contain original wattle and daub construction.
The foundation is currently raising funds to preserve the house.
Unlike most houses that undergo basement reconstruction, the house on 8 Planting Field Way in Edgartown has a foundation that has kept the building upright for 163 years.
“With a lot of old homes the foundation collapses entirely,” said Scott Decker, the general supervisor. “We end up having to literally raise up the house, rip out the old foundation and put in new footings.