In 2014, when a local newspaper article announced a plan to demolish the iconic Pink House in Newbury, it sparked an overwhelming community desire to keep it standing. By January 2016, group of dedicated locals formed Support The Pink House (STPH).
Our mission became to keep the house standing and help find a solution that would ultimately see the house restored, forever pink, and in its unique and stunning setting.
Experts in various fields stepped in to offer guidance. As we began working on solutions with the owner, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), we started see how complicated accomplishing our mission would actually be. But, with the help of a lot of wonderful people, we kept working on various steps, one after the other, cto move forward.
One of the biggest questions was - how do we make sure that the house will stay what it is: a nearly 100 year old Foursquare with a low profile use, and a signature roofline and silhouette that has become an identifier to this area? How do you restore the house and paint it anew, but retain the appealingly faded charm? How can we make sure the shade would stay the same from decade to decade, not hot pink one time, Pepto pink another?
Also, how can it be prevented from being built into a mansion, converted into condos, or torn down entirely once in new ownership? How do we ensure that The Pink House, now a well-known icon, will stay visible to (and inspiring) the public, as it has always been when occupied by family after family, throughout it's history?
Preservation and restoration advisors said the way to do this was to create a perpetual Preservation Restriction (PR). Stephanie Niketic, STPH Advisory Board member, who tirelessly works for local preservation, led the way.
Nick Cracknell, Portsmouth City Planner, had recently come aboard. Among other contributions, he, worked on a first draft of this PR with Stephanie as STPH board member Kelly Page combed through every word, adding details as she went. Once Stephanie thought it had reached a point that a professional should work on it, both she and Nick agreed it should be in the hands of Eric Dray, Preservation Consultant.
To aid the public understand what we learned through this process, STPH went to Eric to ask him to explain the basics - Preservation Restrictions 101! He kindly agreed.
“Preservation planning at the local level is a three step process," Dray explained. "You identify, evaluate and protect a property."
He continued, "The approach toward preserving The Pink House is very similar to what you'd do with a historic district, but in this case, it is done for one building. So the ability to change the outside of the building must be reviewed and approved by the local historical commission." Thus, The Pink House's perpetual Preservation Restriction would be held and enforced by the Newbury Historical Commission.
But before it can be so, the Preservation Eric composed using the points we provided, has to go through a series of approvals, ultimately with Mass Historic. We asked Eric some basic questions:
WHAT IS MASS HISTORIC?
The Mass Historical Commission is the state preservation planning agency. One of their responsibilities is to review and approve Preservation Restrictions. Much of what they do is governed by sState statue, including their obligation to review and approve PR’s at the local level
CAN YOU ELABORATE ON THE THE 3-STEP PATH TO A PR?
1. IDENTIFICATION: "This first step requires documentation to research the architecture and history of a given property. Dray said, "We would gather any photos, a history of the house, what the owners may have meant to or contributed to the area, and also make a case for the architectural style and age of the house. And it is put on various building forms -- specifically a Form B in the case of The Pink House."
2. EVALUATION: "This second step is done to understand the relative significance of that property within that town. Upon our submittal of the Form B, MHC did that with The Pink House, and indeed recognized it as historically significant as a rare example of a Foursquare house in this area."
3. PROTECTION: "Now decisions can be made about whether and how a structure can be protected. In the case of The Pink House, that would be through a Preservation Restriction (PR)."
STPH learned a Preservation Restriction can be attached to the deed for a number of years, at which time may be able to be renewed, or lapses. A perpetual PR is also available, which does just what its name says. In this case, we of course were pursuing a perpetual PR, to effectively prevent the house being developed into condos, heavily adapted to become a mansion, painted another color, or
be torn down.
The PR must go through a series of reviews and votes of approval. First, the Newbury Town Counsel and Historic Commission review our draft, and vote to agree to hold it. It them moves on to Mass Historic (MHC), for any changes and ultimately, approval. Once that is done, it comes back to the Newbury Historical Commission, as well as the town Select Board for their votes of approval, and signatures, along with SPTH's Board. It then gets filed by the state and is forever on the deed.
STPH is half way through this process, and are excited to be on the way to a fully approved PR.
Update: You can read more about our first steps in this blog post written by Stephanie Niketic.