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Nantucket Historic District

Nantucket, Massachusetts
County of Nantucket.
Nantucket Island
National Register Number: 66000772
Resource type: District.
Property type: Historic District: Architectural. The threat level was Threatened in
2004.
Congressional District: MA-10 Certified Local Government: NO
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Current use/information: Historic District.

Statement of Significance (as of designation - November 13, 1966):
From about 1740 to 1840 Nantucket was the world's leading whaling port. Although the Nantucket Historic District encompasses the entire island, two major concentrations of historic interest are the town of Nantucket, the finest surviving example of an early New England seaport, and Siasconset, where some of the island's earliest houses are located.

Condition:
The island is threatened by a recent surge of development that is generally incompatible with the historic character of the Landmark. Strong economic success has led to significant changes in community values. Many historic houses have become seasonal residences, reducing the commercial district's year-round vitality. Intensive development of historic gardens, maximization of floor area ratios, and loss of historic interiors are concerns. Politicization of what once were the community's aesthetic values is eroding the quality of architectural design and affects preservation decisions. Huge seasonal transportation increases threaten quality of life and character of place. This development is the reason that the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Nantucket on its 2000 list of "America's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places", noting that while "Nantucket has a long history of commitment to preservation, an upsurge in the destructive practices of "teardowns" and "gut rehabs," along with the inappropriate sizing and siting of new homes, are dramatically altering the heritage, cultural landscape, and quality of community life on the island."

The trend to renovate historic structures out of existence continues.

Recommendation/Change since last report:
Nantucket's historic preservation regulations must be reviewed and amended, as needed, to ensure against harmful practices like "teardowns" and "gut rehabs." In addition, the protection of historic interiors through increased use of easements is also recommended. Nantucket Preservation Trust, a non-profit preservation organization, recently proposed the "Nantucket Preservation Plan Project," which would provide the basis for developing more collaborative and comprehensive public and private community policies. Such efforts should be supported. Because development is inherently incompatible with this historic district, land preservation is highly recommended. Since this is a National Historic Landmark District comprised of multiple private/public properties, an assessment report would be warranted at this time. It could measure the impact of gut rehabilitations and poor restorations on the District compared to the conditions a decade or two ago and inventory the condition of the 800 pre-civil war structures to gauge the rate of attrition in the recent past economic environment.


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