Time for Lincoln to protect its history?

Time for Lincoln to protect its history?

Above is an image of the historic farmhouse at 205 Old River Road in Lincoln that was razed last week, leaving the lot next to Kirkbrae Country Club, which owns the property, vacant. The site’s future use has yet to been determined.

LINCOLN – What can be done to save historic buildings in a town that has no preservation society, or formal protection for these structures?

Jeff Emidy of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission says there are many moves that can be made, but the most significant and surest way of protecting these areas is establishing historic district zoning in towns and cities.

Residents in Lincoln, including Al Klyberg, a Rhode Island historian, and Elaine Smollin, who lives in Albion, said they were disappointed to see the historic home next to Kirkbrae Country Club demolished last week. It was built in 1880, according to Vision Government Solutions.

Currently, there are 18 municipalities in the state with some form of zoning created to preserve historic villages or areas in towns, and Lincoln is not on that list, Emidy said, while neighboring Cumberland is.

“I know there’s some people in Lincoln that care about preservation,” he said, but added that it seems the “status quo” is that there isn’t enough interest in the proposal to have it passed.

In a situation like the demolition of the historic five-bedroom farmhouse at 205 Old River Road, which was dismantled by DCI Construction last Tuesday, Emidy said it’s possible for building owners to obtain a special demolition permit that allows extra time before the structure is destroyed in the event that an outside company or individual comes in to save the building.

If the structure still isn’t able to be saved, he noted, the permit also allows materials inside the home, like a fireplace, windows or beams, for example, to be salvaged before the building is completely knocked down.

The historic house in Lincoln was in disrepair before it was demolished, said Robert Pielech, president of Kirkbrae Country Club, which bought the property in December.

Kirkbrae now owns the lot. Pielech said the building was in such a state of deterioration that the business could not transform it into a space for offices or another efficient use.

He said the building was “unsafe,” and said in the basement of the home, “you could poke your fingers through” the beams that were rotting away. The beams were held up by stone, he said.

Pielech described nooks, crannies and pantries throughout the home, and said, “It was a great old New England farmhouse,” that unfortunately had never been kept up. Kirkbrae purchased the property from James and Susan J. Gould, the former owners, last month. Online real estate firms list the selling price at $220,600.

In terms of what’s next for the lot next to the club, Pielech said, “Right now, the future is undetermined.”

Historic homes and pieces of property in Lincoln have frequented news stories in the last year, when the Whipple-Cullen farmland proposal was denied by the Planning Board in June, and the proposal for a Dunkin’ Donuts and condominium building at the corner of Twin River Road and Old Louisquisset Pike were also shot down.

Outcries from abutting neighbors and residents echoed similar remarks: Save these historically significant spots in town.

While the circa-1890 Chase farmhouse building is being restored through a historic curator program with Preserve Rhode Island, other buildings in town haven’t seen the same protection measures, like the now-ravaged Old River Road home.

Emidy said while “more people are coming around to the value of having historic district zoning,” there are misconceptions about what establishing this zoning means for municipalities and homeowners.

“That causes problems in some communities that have tried to pass it and have not been successful in the past,” he said.

It’s common for people to think with these zoning regulations, they’re “frozen in time,” Emidy said.

He noted that arguments that say historic zoning is costly and restrictive tend to be false.

“Really, it tends to result in better upkeep of the houses in the neighborhood and the property values actually go up,” he said.

Emidy said there’s cost-saving alternatives for owners of historic homes available, such as a loan program that offers low-interest rates through the commission’s office.

There’s also a way for folks to get a tax break, should they decide to grant an easement through the commission on their property.

For municipalities that want to adopt historic district zoning, Emidy said, the work has already been done. The National Park Service, he said, has already established boundaries for these districts, and towns are able to simply enact those perimeters.

How towns and cities interpret guidelines of maintaining buildings in a historic zoning district is different in each municipality, though, Emidy said.

Emidy, who has been with the commission for 11 years, said there are likely other historic farmhouses in the state that have no land holdings associated with them.

Comments

The Town of Lincoln should be ashamed for allowing this historic homestead to be demolished and so should the owners of Kirkbrae County Club. There are many historic buildings in the Town and for this Town not to have a proper Historic Commission so that this does not happen again is a shame.It's too late for this one but shouldn't be for the next one, which will happen sooner than later.