What is Article 54 asking voters to do?
Voters at the May 7 Annual Town Meeting in Hanover will be asked to reconsider last year’s decision to tear down the 1896 Curtis School on Main Street, and appoint a task force to search for solutions that could preserve the historic structure.
After last year’s vote, the Hanover Historical Commission invoked the demolition-delay bylaw, which put off any action for a year. Unfortunately, the town conducted no coordinated effort to reach out to the public. The last time a request for proposals was issued was approximately 10 years ago. A loosely organized group of concerned residents toured the building once, but without authority to proceed further, the effort dissolved.
In researching this issue, I have reviewed numerous studies and building-use reports. Each lists issues to be corrected at the 1896 Curtis School, but not one of these studies recommends that the building be demolished. The latest one, the 2010 Municipal Facilities Assessment (known as the “DRA report” and available on this site) recommends that the town maintain “the basic exterior historic envelope of this building, to the extent possible, and to restructure, redesign, and reconstruct the building.” The DRA report recommends that the site become a fire station; regardless of whether that is a good idea, we can’t preserve the historic envelope of the building if there is no building to preserve!
We need a clearly defined process in place to address historic preservation for the 1896 Curtis School, and for other historic sites in town that may be threatened with demolition in the coming years. Passage of this article will help establish that important process.
Who is sponsoring Article 54, and why?
I submitted the citizens’ petition article for the town meeting warrant because I believe that demolition of our town’s historic resources should be undertaken strictly as a last resort. Historic preservation is a quality-of-life issue – we shouldn’t tear down a historic structure simply because we don’t know what else to do with it.
My wife and I have lived in Hanover for 10 years, and we have two sons — one in middle school and one in elementary school. Preservation of local history is important to me, and I have been involved in various organizations and efforts for the past 28 years, beginning with my appointment to the Hull Historical Commission in 1984 at age 13 (at the time, the youngest person ever appointed to a municipal board in Massachusetts). I served two terms on the Commission, and since that time have been involved with the Hull Historical Society and the Fort Revere Park & Preservation Society. In 1985, I assisted in photographic documentation of the dismantling of Paragon Park at Nantasket Beach for the Historical Commission (including climbing the tracks of the 96-foot-high roller coaster), and worked on the effort to keep the Paragon Carousel in town. I’ve written a book that tells the story of the Blizzard of 1978 (“Storm of the Century”) and contributed to “Hull & Nantasket Beach: Then & Now” through the Arcadia Publishing series of local history books.
My interest in the 1896 Curtis School is two-fold.
Many people have told me that they are disappointed that nobody has done anything with the building in the past few years, particularly in the months since the demolition delay took effect. I agree that more could have — and should have — been done, but lack of past effort is not a reason to demolish this building. I believe that there is an untapped willingness among citizens to find a way to preserve this building. Folks also have expressed concern about the cost of preserving this building. I deliberately did not include a request for funding in Article 54 because I believe that any expenses associated with preservation should come back to town meeting for approval.
The other reason I’m proposing this article is that Hanover has many historic resources, and we need a process to evaluate these buildings and determine how we can best preserve them. What happened to the Curtis School should not be allowed to happen to another historic building in town — a process that is commonly referred to among preservationists as “demolition by neglect.” Passage of Article 54 will help us develop a template for a process of handling historic buildings in the future, so that we don’t find ourselves facing these same difficult choices in the coming years.
I welcome comments and suggestions, and hope you find the information on this site helpful as you formulate your decision on Article 54.
See you at town meeting on May 7!
Christopher Haraden, firstname.lastname@example.org