Two 'Wins' For Historic Preservation On Stage Harbor Road

By: Tim Wood

This house at 295 Stage Harbor Rd. will be moved to a different location on the same lot but will be preserved, much to the relief of the Chatham Historical Commission. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – After the loss of a couple of historic homes on Stage Harbor Road, and with slim prospects of saving at least two others currently under demolition delays, the news that the owners of two other old homes on the street are working to preserve their structures came as a welcome relief to members of the historical commission.

Both homes are within the area that the Massachusetts Historical Commission has determined is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The commission ended its effort to nominate the road, one of the oldest in town, after a majority of property owners rejected the idea.

Because the area is eligible to be nominated for the National Register, the commission has the option to refer proposed changes to contributing structured to the Cape Cod Commission for review. In both of the proposals the local commission heard Oct. 16, they rejected referrals, and also decided not to impose the town's demolition delay bylaw.

One of the proposals involved one of the oldest homes on the street, the Captain John Taylor House at 310 Stage Harbor Rd. The full Cape was built in 1793 at the end of what is now Independence Lane and moved to its present location, at the corner of Independence Lane and Stage Harbor Road, along with a barn in 1818.

It was actually the barn that was the subject of the recent hearing. A small addition constituting less than 25 percent of the floor area will be placed at the rear of the structure, said builder Craig Coughlin. That still leaves the essence of the “beautiful historic property” intact, said commission chair Frank Messina.

Like many of the houses along Stage Harbor Road, the Captain John Taylor House is firmly rooted in the town's maritime history. Taylor was a sea captain who drowned in 1833, according to the historic inventory form for the structure. The house was inherited by his eldest son Ephraim, who was a member of the Massachusetts General Court and was best known locally for teaching local boys how to navigate. The house remained in the Taylor family until 1989.

The house diagonally across Stage Harbor Road, the Captain Charles W. Hamilton House, was the other historically significant home on the docket last week. Its current owner, Rosamond Smythe, plans to preserve the house by moving it to a different location on the 295 Stage Harbor Rd. lot. It will be used as an outbuilding or studio and a new home built at the front of the lot, said Bernadette MacCleod of Ryder and Wilcox.

“I personally appreciate the applicant's attention and the fact that we will be able to save that structure and keep it on Stage Harbor Road,” Messina said.

Built about 1840 by another Chatham sea captain, the house is unusual in that it has the form of a three-quarter Cape but the entrance is on the north gable end, rather than at the front of the building, according to the historic inventory form.

Captain Hamilton died in French Polynesia in 1859, and after his wife Rebecca died in 1979, it was inherited by her eldest daughter, also called Rebecca, who had married a Nickerson. It remained in the family until the 1950s. It was sold several times until the Daniel and Rosamund Smythe purchased it in 1991. The inventory form notes that transactions involving the house during the past several decades “reflect a trend seen throughout Chatham where houses built by local residents for year-round use were bought by non-residents as vacation houses.”