Valentine Whitman House

The Valentine Whitman “stone-ender” on Great Road, built in the late 1690s.

LINCOLN – One of Lincoln’s oldest homes is likely going on the market next month.

The historic house on Great Road was built in the late 1690s by Valentine Whitman Jr. It’s known as a stone-ender (one of the few remaining in the state), named after the stone chimney that extends across one side of the home.

The town took over ownership in 1991, and the property was shared with the public as a historic house museum for several decades.

Facing an uncertain future, the Valentine Whitman House was transferred from the town to the nonprofit Preserve Rhode Island last year.

The nonprofit launched a comprehensive rehabilitation from the top down. Ultimately, they hoped to reopen Valentine Whitman as a short-term vacation retreat, similar to a historic AirBnB.

Unfortunately, those plans aren’t going to pan out, Preserve Rhode Island director Valerie Talmage reported to the town on Monday. Instead, they’ll be turning to plan B, which is selling the home under a preservation easement.

When Preserve R.I. took over as stewards of the home, Talmage said they started by replacing the roof and 75 percent of the cedar shingles on the building’s exterior. They installed new windows and painted the house and garage in a historically-appropriate color.

Inside, contractors installed new electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, a challenge, Talmage said, considering the post-and-beam building has no wall cavities. They’re now in the process of installing a new kitchen, renovating one bathroom and adding a new one upstairs, repairing plaster and painting interior walls.

The final step will be refinishing the floors, and completing exterior landscaping. Several diseased and damaged trees have already been removed, including one that was blocking the public’s view of the stone end.

Considering the significance of the renovation, Talmage said it should come as no surprise that they’ve faced cost increases. The goal was to complete the work for around $500,000, but projections are coming in closer to $600,000.

They were hopeful about making Valentine Whitman a short-term rental destination, she said, but the nonprofit they had hoped to partner with has decided not to invest in Rhode Island.

Instead, Preserve R.I. will sell the home, subject to a preservation easement. Talmage said there’s a bit of work left to be done, but that they’re looking to hit the market in June.

As soon as the house sells, the preservation easement would be automatically assigned to Preserve R.I. The easement itself is comprehensive, she said. The new owners wouldn’t be able to demolish the home or make any major changes that would compromise its historical integrity.

Certain changes would need to go through Preserve R.I., and no new construction is allowed, except for replacing the current garage with a similar outbuilding.

If there were ever a dispute, the town has a right to participate.

“If we go get into a tussle with subsequent owners, the town may elect to chime in and ensure their interests are being served,” Talmage said.

The easement also provides for occasional opportunities for public access, through the nonprofit.

Talmage said the town has acted “really wonderfully in protecting this building,” starting in 1991 when they “saved it from the jaws of demolition.”

“That was a pretty extraordinary action for a town to take, to actually purchase the property in order to save it,” she said, adding that their renovations in the early 2000s saved the building a second time.

Finally, she said town leaders had the foresight to realize that town ownership might not lead to the best future for the home, and made the decision to pass it onto Preserve Rhode Island. Talmage said that decision put the house on a path to its next 300 years.

“This building is going to be a spectacular home,” she said. “It’s like a new house in an old house, it’s historic, but also up-to-date and really livable. Whoever gets this is going to get a gem.”

(2) comments

jNRI

Will the Town Of Lincoln get some money out of this? Or does the Preservation Society just get free money?

Ken Pichette

Preserve RI invested over $600,000 (double what they budgeted) of their own money into saving this historic home from its decay and demise. Unfortunately the travel/rental company that showed initial interest in adding this to their options for historic vacation rentals backed out of RI in general as an offering. This is the only way Preserve RI can hopefully re-coop their investment in order to save more historic properties in the State. There was mention at our meeting that if it sells for a profit, sharing the overage is on the table for discussion, but who knows what the home will sell for. There really are no comps and it takes a special owner to buy this with all the historic easements involved.

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