House demolition riles neighbors, Historical Society

By Andrea Ray | Jul 27, 2017
The Captain Hammond House at 41 Main Street against the condominium proposal submitted for the same site. Photo by: Tanner Harding. Plan image courtesy of: Mike Russo

Marion — A historic house set for demolition has created a stir in Marion Village.

Marion Building Commissioner Scott Shippey recently granted a demolition permit to 41 Main Street LLC, the owner of the house at 41 Main Street in Marion. The developer, Mike Russo, intends to build a two-family condominium in the place of the historic house.

The house was built for eminent mariner Captain Stephen Hammond, and was completed in 1802.

Members of the Sippican Historical Society, along with several abutters, are concerned about the loss of the historic house, as well as the building of a condominium building that would distract from the historic village. “What the Historical Society is most concerned about,” wrote Historical Society member Judith Rosbe in an email, “is that the property owner could get a demolition permit without informing the abutters of the property.”

However, Russo said that restoring the house to its former glory would be prohibitively expensive. He stated in an email that the house is in a dilapidated condition, and an “extraordinary investment” would be required to restore it to its original appearance.

Furthermore, according to him, the house has not retained any of the historical elements that would make it a worthwhile preservation project. “To my knowledge, its age is [the house’s] only distinguishing historical quality,” he wrote in a letter to the Sippican Historical Society.

Russo also noted that the house had been for sale for five years, providing ample opportunity for anyone interested in restoring the house to step forward.

“There has been no indication that any party is interested in undertaking a heroic restoration effort and frankly I would be stunned if such a party could be found...the house will either be rebuilt to contemporary standards or will continue to rot until it requires demolition anyway,” he said.

To create plans for the condominium, Russo hired Marion architect Will Saltonstall to design the proposed building, a two story colonial-style house. "The design of the proposed new home was inspired directly by the architectural style of the existing residence and other early 1800’s period architecture on Main Street in Marion," Saltonstall said. "The design is composed of a simple two-story colonial building form at the street, with a one story form that extends off the rear of the home. The intent is to reproduce the historic scale, details, and qualities of the original building...We believe the proposed home will sit comfortably in the historic streetscape of buildings on Main Street and, when complete, will be perceived as a positive example of Marion Village architecture.

According to Rosbe, however, members of the Historical Society felt that the proposed design is not in keeping with the historic home already on the property.

Abutter Robert Darnton, of 42 Main Street, appealed the Building Demolition permit issued by Shippey on July 25. Darnton had been willing to suspend the appeal if Russo would either save the front of the home, or rebuild the home so that the front keeps with the style of the saltbox house already present. Russo was not willing to do so, and the appeal to Marion’s Zoning Board will stand. The appeal is expected to be discussed by the Zoning Board in August.

An emergency meeting of the Sippican Historical Society on July 24, in response to finding out about the demolition, yielded two results: the board opted to draft a Demolition Bylaw that it will ask Town Meeting to approve. The bylaw would require that notice be given to abutters of impending demolition.

The group is also attempting to get Marion Village named as a historical district. The Historical Society has attempted to get the village named a historical district twice in the past, but it was voted down both times. Creating a historical district would give the Historical Commission input on major changes made to buildings within that district, which residents disagreed with, Rosbe explained.

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