After a decade of learning everything from weaving to silversmithing to sailors valentine making at the 1800 House, I was saddened to hear of its proposed sale. While it may resemble an ordinary house from the outside, itis nothing of the sort. This hub of creativity and fellowship is a gathering place of people across all of the generations and is a symbol of this sense of community and craftsmanship. The accessible parking and ample indoor and outdoor space allows people of all ages and walks of life to participate in this special bond. Selling this property is not simply the sale of a house; it is a statement that being accessible to all types of people with their unique and varied interests, as they celebrate the decorative arts of our beautiful island, is no longer a priority for the NHA. I strongly urge that this sale be reconsidered.
The 1800 house is an important part of the NHA portfolio. It could become a fascinating house museum, decorated with items now stored in the Gosnold warehouse, enlivened by costumed interpreters and offering lessons in Nantucket crafts. Please do not sell this treasure.
I have taken classes at the 1800 house for at least 10 years. The 1800 house is a great location. First it has available parking which makes bringing supplies easy. As a maker of sailors valentines I bring my supplies to enhance my pieces. There is no parking at greater light. Second if it a long day the group stops and has lunch in another room. We have become great friends. The interest between classes is enhanced and encourages future enrollment. I did a whale carving class that required activity inside and outside. 1800 House was a perfect location for this class.
I am against selling 1800 house. As a donor to the NHA I am disappointed in your proposal.
I am a former Board member, 1800 House instructor, and parent of a former docent. The 1800 House is the best site the NHA has to teach the arts and crafts courses we were told would continue. There is parking, natural light, separate rooms (to enable the teaching of multiple courses simultaneously) and a garden, all in a historic setting. You heard from current instructors that Greater Light, with only one room, poor lighting, and no parking, hasn’t proved suitable for teaching arts and crafts. At the meeting, a disingenuous chart showed three heavily advertised visitor sites (Whaling Museum, Hadwen House, Greater Light) compared to the 1800 House, a school. 1800 House was listed as having the fewest number of visitors—as if that’s a relevant factor— by a hefty margin. Prior to Greater Light being home to arts and crafts courses, the 3 sites were listed on the NHA website and map as places to go. The 1800 House wasn’t. The 1800 House address is only given when looking at the arts and crafts catalog. The 3 advertised sites had paid docents. They counted the number of visitors. The docents also asked if the guests have been to the other advertised sites. The 1800 House did not have docents…and again, is not advertised as a site. There is no way to know how many people enter, so the chart shown couldn’t have been accurate. Is it fair to ask opinions regarding the future of the 1800 House after misleading the membership? What if number of minutes spent at each site was the criteria? 1800 House would surely surpass Greater Light (before classes were moved there), and Hadwen (before baskets moved in), which is how things were when the 1800 House was alive. If number of visitors is a criterion, there are properties with even fewer visitors, such as the Pony Field.
Still, neither of these criteria, number of visitors or minutes spent, are part of the NHA Mission. Judging by how often instructors are thanked by former students, years after teaching, I would say the programs offered at the 1800 house meet the goal of the mission: “The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.” It is wise for a charitable institution to have many different entry points to engage interest and support. It was through the 1800 House that my family and I got involved with the NHA- and I know we are not the only family to fall in love with the NHA through the 1800 House programs. I believe the arts and crafts courses should be returned to the 1800 House as their best home. The combination of the 1800 House with the arts and crafts programs has demonstrated the ability to fulfill the NHA mission.
I preface my comments by saying that I worked for the NHA for 13 years, oversaw the booking of our speakers, guests and workers at the Thomas Macy House, 99 Main Street, took several crafts classes at the 1800 House and availed myself of many Member offerings at all the NHA properties, learning about my Native heritage and history, not taught much (if at all) in school when I was growing up. I keep my NHA Membership current to continue learning and taking part in classes and other events, and have brought grand-children in for a tour of the museum, wreath and tree festivals and other diversity events. I feel strongly that it would be a shame for the NHA to lose ownership of The 1800 House because so many who have enjoyed learned an historical craft there, have loved learning about the house itself and seeing the evidence of past inhabitants through the story of different wall layers in the main downstairs class room. Whether looking out from the inside or in from the outside, the wonderful windows give one the actual sense of what our historic ancestors saw daily in the wavy glass. The stairways and floor boards also speak to the age of the wonderful building which is currently in NHA stewardship and has been maintained so well by them up to this time. This all begs the question, would whoever may buy it respect and maintain this amazing building with the same integrity as the NHA has?
I’m sure I’m not the first to ask about considering other options for the building, like office space, with the recent loss of space in the main office and down-sized, cramped spaces there and at the Research Library, which was over-crowded the last I knew. What about housing for employees and/or Seasonal Interns, with the reduced housing at Hadwen now? If classes were to resume there, allowing Greater Light to have space again for Hannah and Gertrude’s full appreciation, would it be feasible to give tours of 1800 House on one week day and weekends to increase revenue there? Can you rent the back yard for small afternoon teas, intimate dinners, etc.? I think it would be a shame to let the building go to others without assurance of keeping its historic value in place by reserving the way the home is now, without gutting or refurbishing it to take away its colonial charm.
~ Julie Kever
I support the Board’s recommendation to deaccession the 1800 House. Unfortunately, the cost of maintaining properties is high and growing. Tough decisions are needed to maximize the assets and preservation of the collection.
I strongly believe that the 1800 House, for which endowment monies were raised to maintain and improve over a 9-year period, IS a core NHA property, much more important because of its historic character than any new building could be. Many people are passionate about the 1800 House, and, if the NHA had been proactive about maximizing the usage of 1800 House, significant monies could have been raised to improve the building and the crafts class program. I’ve offered to do just that and to help with a campaign to make the classes offered at the 1800 House the best on the East Coast. I object to the NHA leadership having effectively mothballed the 1800 House by moving the crafts classes to a property much less suited for same (Greater Light) and by therefore frustrating the very purpose of Greater Light (telling the story of the Monaghan sisters and of the arts colony on Nantucket). For those who say the classes could be held in still other NHA properties, I say, conduct a rigorous analysis of that view. There is no better property for holding classes than the 1800 House. I also strongly object to the notion of a historical association selling a historic property to raise money for a new property. I know that the board of the NHA intended to do just that. In the museum world deaccessioning a collection to buy or build something else is strongly frowned on, unless there are truly exigent circumstances. There are no such circumstances in this case. As NHA board leadership stated at the July 9 members’ meeting, the NHA has never been in a stronger financial position. If the NHA intends to construct a new building, have that building used in the best possible way, not just becoming the repository of whatever the NHA has to put somewhere. Raise new money for a new building, don’t sell off collections to do so. At the July 9 members’ meeting, I and others offered to serve on a Task Force to analyze the best possible use of the 1800 House. I hope the NHA board leadership does just that. I also hope the NHA does in fact take a hard and new look at its previous desire to sell the 1800 House, understanding that there is strong resistance in the community to doing that. If the NHA board leadership doesn’t address this with a truly fresh look and instead continues to repeat the same things it stated at the July 9 members’ meeting, there will be substantial pushback from the membership — and there should be. I also hope that NHA board leadership does not in the future use as an excuse to deaccession the 1800 House that it “costs us money to maintain it every year.” Yes, that’s true, just like it costs the NHA money to maintain every one of its properties every year. Not a single property of the NHA is a profit center. And the NHA is, after all, a nonprofit. I will applaud the NHA board leadership if it well and truly reassesses its prior decision. Even very well-intentioned folk can make mistakes, but it takes a lot of character to acknowledge same.
I don’t understand the timing of the proposal to sell the 1800 House. The NHA has no permanent executive director now. Until it does, its strategic vision is on hold. Selling such a beautiful property at this time makes no sense. Further, the NHA has just acquired the Basket Museum and its assets and will be selling its former home. Surely, this has been and will be a significant contribution to the NHA’s coffers. Why the rush?
I am not opposed to the sale of the house if the (ever diminishing) programming can be continued elsewhere. As I understand it, the house is not of great historical value so it’s not a great loss and I’m sure the proceeds from the sale can be used more wisely for something else.
I hope you will reconsider this decision. It is a very hands on “participatory” experience that will draw potential caring actively involved people to the NHA!
I worked at the 1800 House from 2006 to 2013 as one of two program managers.
When the 1800 House was restored it was for the purpose of housing an Early American Arts and Crafts program. The original focus was to teach the historic crafts at a level that would become noteworthy. It opened in 2005 with 10 classes offered. By 2013 the program had grown to 60 classes with several hundred enrollments. It was a bustling program with as many as 4 classes being held at the time. There were instructors from as far away as Michigan. instructors who would call and wanted to come to the program for a class, instructors at the top of their fields. There were classes designed using the archives of the NHA for inspiration. It was a very happy place. People stopped by just to see what was happening. The classes were designed such that students could learn the skills to complete the class project. Material were available, tools were provided and instruction was at very high levels. The program included painting classes, sailor valentine classes, scrimshawing, half model classes, needlework classes, basket weaving, eglomise and reverse painting under glass to name a few. The instructors were terrific. The building has its limitations. There should be a replacement staircase installed to safely reach the second floor. There needs to be a bathroom on the second floor. And an additional classroom should be added to the back of the building to allow for woodworking and painting (the messy crafts). NHA needs to decide if it wants to continue to offer classes with the original purpose in mind. The appropriate facility is needed to do that. Greater Light is limited in so many ways for this purpose. And there is no feasible way to rectify that. The 1800 House can be that place.
What in-depth studies have been completed to analyze the best way forward with this particular property? For instance, if we continued to use the property for revenue-generating and mission-centric purposes, versus long-term rentals for generating funds for our programs, versus selling the property and investing the funds for future purposes? There needs to be some comparative analyses to support whatever action the NHA Board supports in a comprehensive, yet comprehensible, manner.
Why did the board release information that the NHA was preparing to sell the 1800s house BEFORE it was even voted on? Why did the NHA empty the 1800s house BEFORE the sale was even voted on, rendering it useless? Why did the NHA empty Greater Light of its museum status, rendering it no longer a tourist destination, so that it would be used for classes BEFORE a potential sale of the 1800s house was even voted on? Why hire Mary Emery Lacoursiere, the best arts program teacher and organizer on the island, if she isn’t even given a multi room place, like the 1800s house, where she can host many productive classes? Why did we raise money for the 1800s house if we are not going to use it for the purpose it was intended? Why sell the 1800s house if we were told we don’t need the money? Why impede the 1800s house programs which are beloved by so many and sell out in the summer and are some of the very few programs offered to locals in the winter? Where else can people learn the lost arts of transferwear, sailors’ valentines, calligraphy, silversmithing, whale carving, floor mats, basket weaving and so much more? There was talk of a new location for the classes. Why? When we already have a perfectly good location that was outfitted for art classes with printing equipment, etc etc. and it has good parking. Why recreate what we already have in another dwelling which will be soulless and non historical and will take time to renovate etc. Why isn’t the NHA spending its time working diligently to find a new executive director versus selling something that doesn’t need to be sold and talking to the press about something that not everyone agrees upon and hasn’t even been voted on yet?
~Anne Marie Bratton
As a teacher, and Chairman of the 1800 House Advisory Committee, who has given classes at the 1800 House since 2006 until 2020, I believe I hold a point of view shared by many teachers and students on the island. Nancy Erikson’s vision of a special intimate spot to come to learn a variety of crafts was brilliant, in my opinion. Almost from its inception, the program produced a respectable income for a start-up program, until cutbacks were instituted. The 1800 House produced revenue for the NHA, although not enough to cover the costs of the entire property. The venue was homelike, and well suited to large and small classes. I have had a student who said the program had ‘changed her life’! It is a travesty that it must be sold. The program was growing in reputation. Big mistake!
It should only be sold with SIGNIFICANT preservation easements added to the deed, protecting both the exterior AND especially the original interior historic fabric. Otherwise it should remain in the collection. I fear if sold it will become yet another interior gut project, with all interior original features lost.
Considering the build out taking place around the island, getting rid of a property seems short sighted. Considering that many people purchasing old properties and then tearing them apart for mass renovation leaving barely any resemblance to the original building, are not concerned with the traditions of Nantucket, it seems foolish to risk such a thing happening to the 1800 house. People can promise to leave it as intact as possible but in my experience unless it is spelled out with pretty severe penalties, those promises are forgotten. Surely you can come up with something useful for the property for the NHA. Widen your vision if need be.
~Georgia Ann Snell
I was at the annual meeting and listened carefully to the arguments pro and con selling the property. I understand that selling the 1800 House seems appealing in the present circumstances with revenues probably down and real estate prices up. However, I am opposed to the sale when I think about the future. Housing, for one, is scarce and the property could be used for staffing and for visiting scholars.
As a resident of the island, I have a very soft spot in my heart for the 1800 House. All of my adult family members have taken art classes there over the years, learning how to make bent willow chairs and jewelry. As a director of a local non-profit (Nantucket Lighthouse School), I am grateful for the 1800 House as a venue for events, especially our annual Nantucket Garden Festival. The 1800 House is different from many other town properties because it has indoor and outdoor space. There are so few places in town like the 1800 House; it would be such a loss for the NHA to sell it.
I have had a long life and have seen disastrous decisions made by Boards of Governors.(Google the Baltimore Museum of Art. I think boards with relatively short experience with the museum they serve, often don’t know how the public at large might react. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO USE THE MUSEUM/institutions. In this particular case there was no sufficient effort to gauge the public effect which (if they can see through the propaganda) seem to be very much against moving the extremely popular craft and education classes to that TREASURE ,The Greater Light. To take the furnishings (and history) out of that unique house is shortsighted and from what I hear, extremely unpopular. I feel that Boards are often insulated .They give a lot of time to the job and do incredible work keeping the NHA going and improving —-,but maybe they are not always totally aware of ALL SIDES when making an irrevocable decision.
I believe that a carefully thought out preservation restriction should be placed on the house and only then should it be sold. I believe that it is the responsibility of the NHA to protect the architecture of the building for the community. The deaccession policy of the NHA is unclear. Thank you for asking.
I have never visited the 1800 House but have read about it on the NHA website. I oppose selling it. I’m certain a sale would result in another luxury renovation for short term rental. There are plenty of those on Nantucket but historic homes open to the public are in short supply.
I favor keeping the home. I am reading Anna Gardner’s biography which I purchased in the NHA gift shop. The 1800 House could be dedicated to the women on Nantucket active in the abolitionist movement in the 1800s. I am grateful for the NHA’s efforts to preserve and present Nantucket’s rich history to visitors. This house seems entirely consistent with this mission.
As a new member of the NHA, but having enjoyed many aspects this association has presented to the public over the years I offer my humble opinion that this property represents an era of Nantucket that is increasingly hard to envision given all the development, even in just the past 20 years. Thus, retaining 1800 House allows for a true enriching of the present of NHA and for the people on Nantucket by its recalling of a more humble past.
Hi – thank you for the opportunity to comment on the proposal to deaccession the 1800 House. I live in Australia, am a Member of the NHA and am a Whaling Researcher who has had the privilege to stay at the 1800 House on a number of occasions (usually for two weeks at a time and usually in the Off Season (ie October or November)). It has been a great privilege, one I have treated with respect and treasured as it has so greatly assisted my research into the hundreds of Nantucketers who sailed with the British Whaling Fleet. In return I’ve contributed articles to Historic Nantucket and other NHA publications as well as contribuetd finacially and in kind through donation. There is no doubt, that without the opportunity to stay at the 1800 House, I would probably not be able to as successfully pursue my research. From the point of view of both of living costs on Nantcuket but also the serendipity which comes with browsing Collections rather than having to use them online. I doubt the greatest discovery I’ve made at the NHA Research Library could have be made digitally. It was a reference to a pitcher in a 1930s article and it was only when I realised it was a reference to Chinese porcelain rather than baseball that a whole series of events fell into place to enable me to locate something I had been looking for for over 20 years. Even as a professional librarian (Library Director, Griffith University) who specialised in big data and digital collections etc to the researcher there is still a difference when one works with digital and paper based collections. So, the convenience of being able to walk to the Research Library and shop for food etc each day has been invaluable. That said, I understand the value locked up inside the 1800 House and the great things that the NHA might do with any funds realised. So, if as part of deaccessioning the 1800 House NHA in some way might find a way to continue to support researchers like myself through some type of scholars accommodation so that we can continue to work with NHA’s rich collections in person as well as online and in turn contribute back to the story of Nantucket is all I would ask. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.
As one who just participated in a floral workshop under the aegis of the Garden Festival, I am deeply concerned that the 1800 house may be sold. Although the property is owned by the NHA, I personally consider it as a vital part of Nantucket history. One cannot diminish the value of retaining the original finishes and the structure of the building .It is an amazing facility for workshops with the barn and the charming garden. To sell it would be one more indication that Nantucket is falling prey to money rather than the original mission of the Nantucket Historical Association to preserve and foster our history and heritage. Please reconsider the decision to sell the 1800 house – I fear it is a shortsighted wrong decision.
I feel the 1800 House should remain an NHA Property. Having taught there for a number of years now, I have watched & assisted the facility in its evolution into a dynamic & well-functioning arts & crafts school. A lot of effort by many individuals have gone into this & many wonderful students have passed through. I feel the 1800 House has served to bring different elements of the Nantucket community together in a positive educational experience.
There have been ups & downs & challenges for sure, but to see the property sold & become a residence or whatever would be a loss to the community. Personally I have gained much & made many new friends by teaching there & sharing my knowledge & skill of ship model building. Working there has been good experience & I’m hoping it will continue.
I assume this magnificent house was donated to NHA for use and safe keeping as well as to maintain its historic presence on the island. I am not certain why the creation and presence of the HDC is a variable in your decision to sell. The HDC is an important municipal commission. It protects yours and others properties from changes that are not consistent with Nantucket’s sense of place and the architectural history of the island. It would seem that given what treasures you have in storage, the house could be used as exhibit space. Given the many changes on the island, I would expect that you would work to not add any change but to maintain the neighborhood.
The 1800s house is such a beautiful property… I would prefer that the NHA no sell it.
I’m Jotham Tausig and a life-member of the NHA. I was surprised that the 1800 house is being considered for sale. Given the Mission of the NHA I would expect that the Greater Light would be considered for sale long before the 1800 house. Why? Because the Greater Light represents a much more narrow slice of Nantucket History than the 1800 House. Doesn’t the NHA exist to explored, educate and share the history of the Island? Given that, isn’t the “Artist Colony” time-period adequately served by the displays in the Whaling Museum?? Over my lifetime (am in my 50’s now) I have visited both properties countless times for many reasons. In that time it has always struck me that the 1800 House was more “Nantuckety” and on-point with the other properties that the NHA maintains. Conversely Greater Light always seemed to be a stretch. It doesn’t lend itself as a demonstration of CENTURIES of life on Nantucket. And it has never had adequate artist displays to begin with – in fact did well known Nantucket Artists even live there?? If the NHA board has its heart set on selling something, I respectfully submit that Greater Light be considered. It’s location, narrow focus on an already short time in Nantucket History and its location doesn’t add much to the Island’s Historical Narrative. The 1800 House and Gardens does exactly the opposite — fitting in nicely with the Hadwen House and other NHA properties. Please reconsider the idea of selling the 1800 House — and explore what selling Greater Light might really do. Thank you for your time. Respectfully,
I believe the 1800 House serves a purpose, education/ teaching important island crafts. I do not believe Greater Light is an appropriate space to provide this service. I would like to think the Monaghan sisters left that beautiful piece property to the NHA for what it is, not a workshop.
I think proceeds from the sale could be put to better use. For instance more interesting programs for school age children. Possibly bringing programs right in to the classroom. I hope the members will be able to work this out together.
1800 House is an extremely useful property to the NHA for its burgeoning crafts programs. There is currently not enough room for all the programs that could take place. There is certainly enough interest. As other nonprofits struggle to find earned income streams, NHA has one firmly within its grasp. NHA could have an even more prosperous earned income stream in which the 1800 House becomes a jewel. It should not be deaccessioned.