Fate of Look Street house hangs in balance

Demolition proposal is to remain undecided until MVC receives accurate plans for replacement.

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Agents for 43 Look St. in Tisbury are requesting approval from the MVC to demolish the property's existing structure. — Courtesy MVC

Agents for 43 Look St. in Tisbury appeared before the Martha’s Vineyard Commission again Thursday, continuing their plea for allowing the demolition of the existing house. 

Representative for the project Michael Morrison relayed his plans to demolish the existing four-bedroom, 1,920-square-foot house, and replace it with a five-bedroom, two-story, 3,479-square-foot “solar-ready” house featuring a basement.

The current house is believed to be around 100 years old, and is located outside the William Street Historic District, said DRI coordinator Alex Elvin, but the house itself is not listed in the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS) or any other historic register. 

At their previous discussion of the agenda item, the commission pushed back heavily on the way in which the replacement house was presented, citing a number of inaccuracies in the submitted rendering of the building plans.

On Oct. 6, commissioners strongly suggested Morrison return to the MVC with accurate plans of what will be built, if the demolition is to be approved. 

Morrison presented the commission with revised renderings for the proposed replacement, which, due to the previously submitted renderings, had confused commissioners because the house seemed to sit on stilts. On Thursday, Morrison clarified that the house will be on a typical foundation.

However, Elvin noted that on newly submitted plans is wording that reads “not for approvals or production,” and “actual house may vary from elevation.” 

The applicant also noted that they will not be pursuing construction of a second-story deck. 

The conclusion of the peer review on the plans, said Elvin, was that “the new house may be contextually inappropriate in terms of scale and design.” 

Other than those revisions, few changes were made to the initial plan. 

Additionally, commissioners expressed interest in engaging the Tisbury Historical Commission with regard to the significance of the existing house. 

On Thursday, Elvin briefed the commission on the response from the town’s historical commission, who recommended renovation over demolition. 

“Look Street is an important link in the history of the village and town,” the letter to the MVC states, “one that deserves special consideration and (if necessary) thoughtful and nuanced new construction … The property at 43 Look Street borders the William Street Historic District and, in its original Foursquare Design, lends to the story of its neighborhood.” 

“I don’t think there’s anything historic about the house,” commissioner Trip Barnes said, questioning the significance of the building. “Bartholomew Gosnold didn’t spend the night there; Teddy Kennedy didn’t have a girlfriend there … it’s just an old house, the guy wants to get a new house, I don’t blame him.” 

Commissioner Peter Wharton said that in his opinion, the revised proposal seems like the replacement structure would in fact fit into the area, as the neighboring houses don’t necessarily seem of the same style anyway. The houses in the vicinity, he said, “are eclectic.” Additionally, he said, “I’m not finding anything that’s really earthshattering consistent.”

Although the commission was split on whether the existing house carries any historical significance, and whether the replacement proposed would be an appropriate addition to the neighborhood, it was generally agreed upon that Morrison must submit accurate plans that effectively exhibit what the proposed structure will look like. 

Preceding a deliberation and decision regarding the proposed demolition, Morrison will be expected to submit — by Oct. 31 — finalized documents that portray the exact house, with accurate window placements, elevations, and features that would be built if demolition is approved.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is the house that I lived in until I was five years old, in 1955! We, my two sisters, mother and father (brother came afterwards) all lived there very happily. I still remember the nursery rhyme linoleum in one of the bedrooms. I’m pretty shocked by what Michael Morrison is trying to do there and how he’s going about trying to do it. Kudos to the commissioners for questioning the project, and not just giving it a green light. That location is a very prominent one and it’s really important that whatever ends up being done there is in keeping with the eclectic nature of the neighborhood.

  2. Trip Barnes always speaks his mind. Yes the house is not significantly historic, yet in it’s eclectic neighborhood setting it tells part of the story of the growth of William and Look Streets.

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