Second Demolition Delay Placed On Iconic Seaview St. House

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Historic preservation

Proposed renovations to the iconic home at the corner of Seaview Street and Shore Road prompted the historical commission to impose a 16-month demolition delay, the second delay placed on the structure in two years. FILE PHOTO 

CHATHAM – For the second time in two years, the historical commission has imposed a delay on a proposal to demolish a portion of an iconic home at the corner of Shore Road and Seaview Street.

Commission members weren't happy with new plans to renovate and add on to the 93-year-old bow roof Cape at 233 Seaview St., which they said would be much larger than the existing building and would alter the historic streetscape.

“It's just so big,” said commission member Sandi Porter. “Holy smokes, it's so big.”

The design process has taken months, said Ann Cami, who owns the home along with husband Ronald, and further review is not likely to result in substantially different plans.

“This is not something we're doing lightly,” she said at the commission's April 21 meeting. “We do realize the value and importance of this home and we're trying to preserve as much of it as we possibly can while still having it be a functional home for our rather large and extended family.” If the work can't begin by the fall, she said, it would likely not start until after a demolition delay period.

The commission voted 5-2 to impose a 16-month demolition delay. Chairman Frank Messina urged the owners to take another look at the design during that time.

In April 2018, the commission imposed an 18-month demolition delay on renovation plans for the home, the oldest portion of which was built circa 1927 by S. Herbert Jenks. The commission's historical inventory form for the house calls it “an excellent, intact example of a high-style, Colonial Revival summer cottage, an early 20th century style that was employed throughout Chatham as the town emerged as a summer destination.”

The delay was lifted after the owners agreed to save the central, bow roof portion of the house and to make some requested changed to the design of new additions.

Unhappy with those designs, the owners hired another architect, Peter Haig of Architectural Design of Orleans, who filed new plans earlier this year. At an initial hearing in February, commission members had concerns about the extent of the proposed demolition; at the more recent hearing, members focused on the exterior design, elements of which some felt were “overdone,” said Messina.

The plans call for demolishing 1,600 square feet of floor area in the existing structure, with the new addition totaling 4,404 square feet of floor area. The floor area of the existing building is 6,035 square feet. Essentially, wings on the north and south side of the main section would be removed and rebuilt, chiefly to increase the amount useful space on the second floor and in the basement. The historic central portion would remain, which some changes to the dormers.

“The main thing for us and for the Camis was to keep the historic character of the main bow roof structure and the sun porch, which is so extraordinary,” said Haig.

The removal of historic material is “significant,” said Messina, who was also critical of the design of the north addition.

“We are replacing a rather modest wing with a rather impressive structure with more fenestration than you can shake a stick at,” he said. Porter added that the design looks like a cottage was added to the north side. Commission member Robert Lear said he was “somewhat taken aback” by the overall changes to the volume of the building, which he suggested could be reduced while still meeting the needs of the owners.

Haig called a delay “very unfortunate,” adding he didn't anticipate any further changes to the design.

“It really is about the architecture. We think we've done the very best we can to make that work,” he said.

The sections proposed for demolition are not part of the original house, the nature of which they are trying to respect, said Cami. This is their primary residence and needs to be able to accommodate their four children and extended family.

“This is to us partly an historic home, but also partly our family home” that the couple hopes to pass down to their children and grandchildren. “Part of what we're trying to do here is to preserve the past but also make it a functional home for generations to come. And that is a tricky balance.”