, Newburyport, MA

January 18, 2012

Facing demolition

Plans to tear down historic Federalist home raises concerns

By Michelle Pelletier Marshall

NEWBURY — By right, Brian and Tara Patrican can do what they want with the $1.6 million, 12-room Federalist home at 1 Little's Lane that they bought in October.

But their decision to demolish the 19th century home and adjacent carriage barn abutting their residence at 53 High Road has ignited a wave of protest from local historians and residents.

The carriage barn was torn down yesterday, Newbury Town Planner Martha Taylor said. Repeated calls to Brian Patrican to confirm the remainder of the demolition schedule were not returned.

Patrican secured a demolition and removal permit for the property in November, a move that Taylor said has resulted in a lot of inquiries from concerned citizens.

But Taylor said the town has no jurisdiction over the demolition, since there is no defined historic district in town.

"We also have no demolition delay bylaw in town, which would allow for the project to be temporarily halted to provide an opportunity for people to explore options other than demolition, such as moving the house," she said.

Town officials may gain some answers about the Patricans' plans tonight when the couple is expected to come before the Planning Board with a request to change the lot lines between their High Road house and the Little's Lane property. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.

According to town assessor records and information available on the website, the 6,500-square-foot home at 1 Little's Lane was built around 1800 and is said to have been recently remodeled. It features six bedrooms, five baths and nine fireplaces, with bucolic views from every angle, including a distant glimpse of the ocean. It sits on a 5.16-acre lot, which abuts conservation land.

The 4,276-square-foot barn on the property, which was most recently used as an office/workshop and was listed in sales material to be in "great shape," was demolished yesterday.

The Patricans bought the abutting 1.4-acre property at 53 High Road in 2006, and built their 10-room Colonial in 2007, according to town records. That property is valued at $1.4 million. Brian Patrican's family owns Ipswich Bay Glass in Rowley, and he is an executive with the company.

The possible loss of the circa 1800 home on Little's Lane has caught the attention of Historic New England, which operates the neighboring Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm at 5 Little's Lane. Officials say the organization has concerns because of the property's relationship and proximity to the farm as well as its history.

Susanna Crampton, public relations officer for Historic New England, said the 1 Little's Lane home was built by a member of the Tappan family, which was connected to the Boardman family that once lived at Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm. The Little's Lane property served as Noyes Dairy Farm during much of the 1900s.

"We prefer historic buildings remain in their locations," Crampton said of Historic New England, a museum of cultural history that collects and preserves buildings, landscapes and objects dating from the 17th century to the present. "No community likes to see their historical properties torn down."

Crampton declined to comment on the specifics of the demolition of the Little's Lane property, saying Historic New England was "still researching the situation."

But Mary Baker Eaton, leader of the Save Newburyport advocacy group lobbying for the creation of a Local Historic District in downtown Newburyport and along High Street, saw the impending demolition of the Little's Lane house as an indication of things to come in Newburyport if protections aren't put in place.

"I worry that somebody will do the same thing on High Street in Newburyport — take down one of the beautiful mansions," she said. "Unless we have a Local Historic District, it's just a matter of time until this happens on High Street."