Streetscapes are an important component to historic preservation. What people seldom realize is that alterations anywhere in their yard or on their land will alter what a historic view has been. This has happened all over Nantucket – and throughout the U.S. – and I often wonder what a person from the nineteenth century might think when houses have been demolished, moved on the site, or small ancillary buildings have been removed. It really changes how a place looks – not just one particular lot – bit the whole historic feel of a street. One things that we have lost a lot of on island is the secondary or ancillary buildings – outhouses, sheds, chicken coops, small barns. Nantucket was not all lawns – yards had multiple uses and I believe I have written about this before. They served as barnyard – for chickens and other small animals and sometimes even a cow; laundry washing and drying; candle manufactory; work yards ̶ if a shop such as a boatbuilding shop, carpentry shop or some other small shop was located on a house lot; play yard; schoolyard; fish drying yard; etc. The list goes on.
Each neighborhood on island functioned as a small village with coopers, cobblers, blacksmiths, boat or carpentry shop, shops in houses run by women out of their front sitting rooms, small factories – if you lived on Gay Street you had a straw works at the top of the street! – it was a cacophony of sounds and smells!
And so it brings me to this image. A house on Main Street was recently renovated and a small garage – that likely was an old carriage house at the rear of the yard – was removed. What it did was open a view shed to the back of the Maria Mitchell Observatory that was never this exposed ever before. You could see a piece of the dome at a glimpse over the old carriage house but not like this ever – the MMO was built in 1908. Interesting how now, that view from Howard onto Main, has been altered.