Hawkins House is no more

Hawkins House is no more

The 1800 Hawkins House on Abbott Valley Run Road in Cumberland, shown here, has been demolished.
Town researching drafting ordinance similar to Pawtucket’s

CUMBERLAND – The Hawkins House, an integral part of the history and character of the early Abbott Run neighborhood, is gone.

Neighbors at Franklin Farm on Monday lamented as wreckers tore down the home that was once part of that property, according to local historian Craig Johnson.

“Saying goodbye to a house built in 1800,” posted Denise Mudge, of Franklin Farm, which is located directly next door.

Johnson contacted town officials last Friday, Nov. 1, after seeing equipment set to be called into service near the home at 140 Abbott Run Valley Road.

“This is a vital visual, historical, and architectural element of the Franklin Farm/Abbott Run historic landscape,” he wrote. “This place should not go!”

Town Planner Glenn Modica responded that there was nothing the town could do.

“Unfortunately, the building is not a locally designated historic district, so the Historic District Commission has no jurisdiction,” he said.

The house itself was torn down on Monday, and the rubble of an adjoining barn shed was being taken away Tuesday. Attempts to locate the owner of the property, listed as 140 Abbott Run Valley Road LLC, were unsuccessful.

Mayor Jeff Mutter said town officials have been working with Johnson since the summer when the Henry A. Bishop House on Nate Whipple Highway was demolished to try to draft an ordinance that might add a layer of protection for the town’s older homes. They’ve been looking at Pawtucket, where the Historic District Commission previously instituted a six-month demolition delay for the Hose Company No. 6, a former restaurant and firehouse. The commission was able to do that back in 2017 because of a city ordinance requiring that the city not issue a demolition permit unless the commission notifies officials before the end of six months that the applicant seeking the demolition has made a reasonable but unsuccessful effort to locate a buyer for the building or structure, or one who is willing to preserve, rehabilitate or restore the building or structure, or has agreed to accept a demolition permit on specified conditions.

According to Mudge, the demolition permit for the Hawkins House was issued last year.

Johnson also spoke up in April prior to the demolition of a Victorian-era barn on Diamond Hill Road, a building tied to one of the oldest families in Cumberland, the Carpenters. It was removed to make way for a new medical building.

Historically, a roadblock in the way of creating historic districts in Cumberland has been the fact that all residents have to agree to be part of it, and many don’t want to be tied to the restrictions that come with home improvements, say local officials.

Homeowners can petition individually to have their homes deemed historic. Former Mayor Bill Murray this week recalled creating a zoning overlay back in 2016 for a single home on Nate Whipple Highway, the 1720 Colonial Cottage. The town worked with the owner of that home, also known as the Walcott House, to create a special designation where the Cumberland Historic District Commission would have to approve any exterior changes.

The crux of the issue here is that there’s no protection for homes not in a historic district, said Mutter this week. He said he’s not yet sure whether the town will need enabling legislation from the General Assembly.

“We don’t have anything like that on the books,” he said. “At this point we don’t have a mechanism to do anything unless it’s in a historic district.”

An ordinance such as Pawtucket’s, though it eventually failed to save the Hose Company No. 6 as it was demolished last month, at least gives some time to explore other options with the property owner, said the mayor.

“We have definitely been looking into it,” he said.

Johnson said this week that he’s struggling mightily at the thought of all the old buildings being “senselessly” torn down of late.

The Hawkins House was attributed to the Hawkins family, which had a number of water-powered operations on the nearby Abbott Run. It could have been mill worker housing, having the unique setup of two back-to-back cooking fireplaces with beehive ovens, said Johnson.

The house was quite structurally sound at the time of his inspection a few years ago, said the historian. It had solid oak timber construction and a very good dry stone foundation.

“One of the most solid cellars I had ever seen for a 200-year-old building,” he said.

According to plot maps, the house and lot were quite obviously once part of the Franklin Farm property, he said, and could very well have been occupied by those employed with farm operation.

Previous requests to the Cumberland Historic District Commission for consideration of the property as part of the Franklin Farm historic landscape have received no response and no action, he said.

Crews clear the last of what was a shed next to the Hawkins House Tuesday.
All that remains at 140 Abbott Run Valley Road is a vacant lot.

Comments

The owner is a business man from North Attleboro, one of his ventures is real estate development. The "140 Abbott Run Valley Road LLC" had their certificate revoked by the RI SOS for failure to file an annual report in 2017.

So it's safe to assume they'll be a new house built on the lot come spring.

I am saddened that his historic property was demolished without public awareness until it was too late. As a neighborhood resident, I observed that the heavy equipment used to demolish the structure entered through property owned by 136 Abbott Run Valley Road which was recently cleared. This property is owned by historic commission member Dan Pedro. I hope Cumberland can come up with a solution to saving historic properties independent of the historic commission since a member of the commission was somehow involved in enabling the demolition. The picture posted of the vacant lot, taken by Ethan Shorey, shows primarily the area owned by Daniel Pedro. 140 Abbott Run Valley is visible in the right hand side of the photo.

To avoid the construction of the round-about, I travel Abbott Run to Chapel. I often wondered about this house and had no idea it was vacant. The Hawkins House is shown on the 1838 Map of Cumberland with a brief mention of the Hawkins family in Robert Simpson's 1975 book on Cumberland. The house is also listed on Page 23 of the RI Historic and Architectural Resources of Cumberland, RI. I surely hope that photos documenting this home were taken and would be made available at the Cumberland Library. It is sad to note from the above comment that a member of the historic commission would enable this destruction.