The Daniel Fisher House, a highly regarded historic Federal house on Main street in Edgartown, will undergo significant renovations in the coming weeks. 
In addition to the roof being re-shingled with thick red cedar shingles, the chimney tops will be taken down and rebuilt. New ornamental woodwork that hasn’t been seen on the building for years will be installed. The ornamental trim that ran around the eaves of the roof and dates back to the house’s origin already was removed by crane last month. 
With a $200,000 price tag, the renovations represent one of the most expensive restoration projects undertaken by the owner of the building, the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. 
The house dates to 1840, to a time when Edgartown was one of the premiere whaling ports in southern New England. The owner of the house, Dr. Daniel Fisher, was in the whaling business. He owned whale ships, operated businesses that provided provisions for whaling ships, and held the contract for providing whale oil to all the lighthouses along the Eastern Seaboard. His home was ornate. 
Later, at the turn of the 20th century, the house was owned by U.S. Senator William M. Butler. He added a semi-circular porch on the east side of the house (on the side facing the Whaling Church) and a porte cochere (the drive through on the opposite side) on the west side.
Dr. Daniel Fisher House column
Whaling-era gem houses Preservation Society today. — Mark Alan Lovewell
The project cost, while expensive, in many ways brings the house back to its origins. 
“This is an architecturally rich house and reflects the Federal style of architecture that ran from 1820 to 1850,” said Christopher Scott, executive director of the preservation trust.
“I am often asked why frugal Yankees would go to all that trouble to build houses close to the waterfront and have them painted white,” Mr. Scott said. 
“In that day, they were trying to mimic manor houses in England using building materials available to them,” he said. “Those English houses were made of limestone, indigenous to that area. We don’t have limestone.”
According to a Vineyard Gazette article published in 1940, the house was reported to be the first house on the Island to have a bathtub. Guests included Nathaniel Hawthorne and Daniel Webster.
Last spring, at the start of the wet June rains, the roof had a significant leak. Prior to the preservation trust’s June 15 Taste of the Vineyard event, a heavy overnight shower fell that tested the mettle of the organization. 
“Janet Heath, director of special events, came to work one morning two weeks before the Taste of the Vineyard and found all the paperwork on her desk soaked,” Mr. Scott said. “That included all the tickets and brochures related to the big Taste event. Tickets were floating in water.”
As a credit to the staff, Mr. Scott said, the event went on. Tickets and brochures were reprinted just in time. About $200,000 was raised at the event, the preservation trust’s biggest fund-raising event of the year.  
“You can basically say that we are putting all the money raised at The Taste up there,” he said, pointing to the roof.
The preservation trust owns 14 buildings, including Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury and the Flying Horses carousel in Oak Bluffs. 
In just the last two years, the trust has spent $80,000 on rebuilding the Edgartown Whaling Church organ, $75,000 on the roof of the church and an additional $40,000 to paint it. “These are expensive buildings to maintain,” Mr. Scott said.
The Daniel Fisher House is a special trust possession. Not only is the house a big part of the history of Edgartown, it is a busy building through most of the year. 
The house is the home of the preservation trust office and of offices for local businesses. Weddings and wedding receptions and a variety of different receptions are held in the house, including the eighth grade graduation reception for Edgartown School. On Wednesday, Dukes County probate court was in session in one of the big ground floor rooms.
Mr. Scott said they’ve delayed work on the roof as long as possible to get the booked events behind them. The last wedding reception of the season is this weekend. After Columbus Day, all the carpenters, masons and their helpers will arrive to begin dismantling and rebuilding.
Four chimneys to the house need to be taken down to the roof line. Paul Willoughby, the trust’s mason, will rebuild them precisely as they were.
To help the mason do so, Mr. Scott said, “We’ve had the chimneys photographed.” 
Beach sand was used in the mortar and, to no surprise, has been crumbling away for years. On the other hand, the trust has no plan to fix the chimneys so the six fireplaces in the house can be used. The project is intended to make the roof weather-tight.
Also, pieces of the 30-year-old roof shingles have been blowing off and landing on the lawn all summer. Now, as part of the project, thicker 5/8 inch open sawn red shingles will replace the old. The gutters will be lined with lead coated copper.
For those who have seen the house through the years, some of the restoration work will look brand new.
Ornamental trim that runs around the eaves is being redone. The trim consists of raised panels which are punctuated by carved mahogany star burst and acanthus leaves.
The circular porch and the porte cochere built by Senator Butler included two elements that today are missing and haven’t been seen in at least 15 years. The mahogany balusters and hand rails that once stood atop the roof of each will be put back.
Participating project contractors include Mr. Willoughby, John C. Anderson Painters and Restorers, Michael Lynch of Associate Roofing and John Kheary of Keyland Kitchens.