Resident doesn’t think historic house should be leveled

To the Editor:

I am appalled to read that the historic Sanford/Bristol House on North Street was approved for demolition. Why? Because it is old? Because the inside has been gutted of historic value? Because maybe parts if the structure are not sound? The beehive fireplace is not up to code?

This sounds like a classic example of "demolition by neglect" to me. Did we not have many of the same problems with the John Downs House on North Street? It was a long haul, but somehow we managed to save that house. Before purchasing the Sanford House, did not Mr. Farrell go through the usual procedures and have the house inspected and, if as he says, he planned to restore it, didn't he hire contractors to look at it and give him estimates on the cost of restoration?

If restoring the house proved too costly, Mr. Farrell should have elected not to buy it in the first place. The fact that he did buy it without doing his homework and without proper planning should mean that the problems that are cited as reasons for demolition are his problems, not that of the Historic District Commission.

Actually, if the Sanford/Bristol House is prime for demolition, why not the Buckingham House, my home, also on North Street, along with some other homes in the district that were built before "codes" and modern materials existed?

The facade on the Buckingham house is concave and some insurance agencies are reluctant to issue a homeowners policy because the house is old. They say "the facade is concave and the house may fall down.”

The facade has been concave for over 300 years — the house has not fallen down, nor is there any chance it will do so in the near future. It is in need of a good paint job and once in a while planking needs to be replaced and new windows have to be handmade using 200-year-old glass.

Maybe the foundation doesn't look secure, but it has held the house for 373 years, so I guess it will last a while longer. Same thing with the Sanford House — that house has been standing on the same foundation for over 200 years, it is not going anywhere in the near future. What about those main supports being held up by jacks in the basement in the Sanford House? The Buckingham House has them too and the floors are secure, even when there are close to 100 people in the house for holiday parties, to say nothing of the generations of kids, dogs and families that have called the place home.

I am sure no one felt that they might unexpectedly land in the basement. And that beehive fireplace — I doubt there are any beehive fireplaces or any other type of fireplace that are "up to code" in historic homes because once again, there were no "codes" in colonial times and also because our forefathers knew what they were doing when they built these homes and they were built to be safe and to last many lifetimes. And so they have, until now.

Elsie-Marie Clark