The Martha’s Vineyard Commission voted to deny demolition of a circa 1900 house at 43 Look St. in Tisbury Thursday night. The decision follows a prior vote by the Land Use Planning Committee (LUPC) to recommend denial.
As The Times previously reported, an overall project was put forth to raze the four-bedroom, 1,920-square-foot house at 43 Look Street, and replace it with a five-bedroom, 3,479-square-foot house. Considered an example of American Foursquare architecture, the commission found that the home was worth preserving. Not everybody on the commission was onboard with the decision. Commissioners Ernie Thomas, Peter Wharton, and Trip Barnes abstained from the vote with the latter two voicing opinions in favor of the demolition. Commissioners Fred Hancock, Michael Kim, Linda Sibley, Christina Brown, Jay Grossman, Ben Robinson, Kate Putnam, Jeff Agnoli, Kathy Newman, Jim Vercruysse, Greg Martino, Doug Sederholm, and chair Joan Malkin voted in favor of blocking the demolition. Commissioner Brian Smith wasn’t present for the vote.
The Tisbury Historical Commission previously recommended renovation of the house instead of demolition. In an Oct. 19 letter to the MVC, that commission described the home as “one of the few existing examples left of American Foursquare architecture on Martha’s Vineyard.”
At the meeting, DRI coordinator Alex Elvin told the commissioners a rough estimate of $650,000 to $750,000 was provided for renovation of the house as opposed to leveling it and building a new structure. The cost of a new structure, excluding the cost of demolition and some site work, was estimated at $734,000, Elvin said.
“This is a loss and I don’t see any compelling reason to accept that loss,” Kim said of the prospect of demolition.
Among other criticisms and observations, Barnes said the house wasn’t within the historic district.
“There’s absolutely nothing historic about this building at all,” Barnes said. “Nothing. It’s an old house.”
Renderings of the replacement house were previously deemed subpar by commissioners. Newman made note of this when expressing her thoughts about the house. Newman said she might be able to digest the loss of the house better if plans for what would replace it were more thorough.
Sibley was unsold on demolition. “I’ve been unable to find a compelling argument in favor of destroying this house,” Sibley said.
Wharton suggested Foursquare houses were popular in their day and may have been the “McMansions of their time.” Wharton said an advantage to the Foursquare design was that it offered maximum interior space. Wharton described the neighborhood the house was in as “eclectic at best” and argued the owner should be free to make his own building choices.
Robinson described the house as an echo of modest year-round residents who settled the neighborhood. Robinson said the house shouldn’t be judged by its plainness.
“History doesn’t need to be made up just by the ornate and the grand and the giant,” he said.
In other business, the commissioners voted to approve the Meshacket Commons affordable housing project in Edgartown. Commissioners Michael Kim, Greg Martino, Linda Sibley, Christina Brown, and Jim Vercruysse recused themselves from the vote. Commissioners Fred Hancock, Doug Sederholm, Jeff Agnoli, Ernie Thomas, Peter Wharton, Kathy Newman, Trip Barnes, Kate Putnam, Jay Grossman, Ben Robinson, and chair Joan Malkin voted to approve the project.