Town prepares to turn over Valentine Whitman House

Town prepares to turn over Valentine Whitman House

Lincoln officials have recommitted turning the Valentine Whitman House over to Preserve Rhode Island. Pictured in the spring of 2019 during a tour of the property are Town Council President Keith Macksoud, PRI’s executive director Valerie Talmage, and Town Councilors TJ Russo and Ken Pichette. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – The Valentine Whitman House, one of the oldest surviving homes in town, is ready for another chapter.

After more than a year of planning and several delays due to the pandemic, Lincoln officials are close to officially turning the home over to Preserve Rhode Island, the nonprofit organization interested in saving the property.

Preserve Rhode Island’s final report on the circa-1696 Valentine Whitman House calls it one of Lincoln’s most significant historic landmarks, “a rare and substantially intact First Period ‘stone-ender’ house” at the corner of Great Road and Whelan Drive.

After decades of private ownership, the home was purchased by the town in 1991, and the volunteer group “Friends of the Valentine Whitman House” opened a museum there to share the property’s rich history.

In need of more comprehensive repairs than the town or volunteer group could muster, officials began exploring a new future for the home in recent years, eventually agreeing to partner with Preserve Rhode Island

“After almost three years of research, construction bidding, and financial planning, PRI is in a position to acquire the Valentine Whitman House and embark on a full-scale rehabilitation project to ensure its preservation for generations to come,” the report states.

Preserve Rhode Island has developed a comprehensive plan for the property, which will undergo a $500,000 historic rehabilitation. Construction is anticipated to start in summer 2021.

The rehabilitation specifications are based on national and state preservation standards, according to the group.

The general floor plan will not change, but new bathrooms, a kitchen and a laundry room will be added to existing rooms “while carefully concealing all new plumbing and electrical components.” The house is also set to receive a new HVAC system and landscaping improvements.

The plaster walls will be stabilized and repaired, wood floors refinished and bathrooms tiled where the original floors were removed. In the basement, the floor will be leveled, moisture will be remediated, and the foundation will be repointed as-needed.

Outside, the scope of the exterior work includes a new wood shingle roof, removing non-original shingles on side walls and reintroducing clapboard siding, and a full window restoration.

The nonprofit also plans to re-cap the chimney, repair and paint wood trim, and repoint the home’s significant “stone-end” facade.

Preserve Rhode Island is exploring three options for the final outcome of the Valentine Whitman House, once work is complete.

The first is to partner with The Landmark Trust USA to offer short-term vacation rentals at the home.

Preserve Rhode Island said this is their preferred option, since it gives the public access to the property, but the financial feasibility is unclear at this time given the impacts of the pandemic on the hospitality industry.

The other options are to establish a long-term residential rental property with PRI as the landlord, or to sell to a private owner.

The latter would be subject to a permanent preservation easement intended to protect the historic and architectural features of the historic building. The easement includes language allowing public access from time to time.

The decision on reuse will be made later in 2021.

After sitting in the ordinance committee for the last year, three communications related to the conveyance of the property will be looked at more carefully in the coming months.

The Town Council recommitted the communications (a real property conveyance agreement, PRI’s final project summary, and a draft preservation easement) to the ordinance committee last week.