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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Local group showing interest in restoring historic cottage in Waterford

    The Nevins Tenant Cottage in Waterford. (Amanda Hutchinson/The Day)
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    Waterford ― A group of residents are starting a nonprofit organization to raise money to restore the nationally recognized historic Nevins Cottage, Parks and Recreation Director Ryan McNamara said last week.

    The Friends of Nevins Cottage would be similar to the Friends of Harkness group that supports Harkness Memorial State Park.

    Last week, McNamara met with town officials met to discuss the group’s plans to restore the cottage

    “It looked to me like a great opportunity,” McNamara said. “The people involved have a great energy.”

    The town-owned cottage, located at 57 Rope Ferry Road, was built around 1890. It was at one time part of the 350-acre Shaw Farm that belonged to descendants of 18th- century New London merchant Nathanial Shaw II. In 1990, the cottage was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places as a contributing resource to the Jordan Village Historic District.

    Last inhabited in by a town employee over a decade ago, the building has since sat vacant. Throughout that period, town officials had discussed a range of outcomes for the historic building, including demolition, McNamara said.

    Town Historian Robert Nye said the proposed Friends of Nevins Cottage group is willing to “invest some time, and apparently some money” into fixing up the cottage.

    Finance Director Kim Allen said Monday that the town still has $100,000 that was previously designated for repairs to the cottage.

    If that money were to be used for repairs to the cottage now, it would have to be approved by the Board of Selectman, Board of Finance and Representative Town Meeting, she said.

    “I think the town wants to preserve the building,” planning director Jonathan Mullen said Monday, adding that the building is in serious need of repair.

    In 2012 and 2020 the town hired an engineering firm to prepare cost estimates for the repairs. Those reports, which recommended several repairs for the building, have been sent to the Friends of Nevins group. The 2020 study placed the cost of the project at $376,978.

    Historic Properties Commission chairman John O’Neill said past critics of the restoration have questioned how the restored building would be used.

    The commission had proposed using it to house the town’s historic archives, where the public could look at those documents, he said, but that idea proved to be costly and impractical.

    The cottage is one of two local historic properties that fall under the purview of the town’s Historic Properties Commission said Nye, who is also an alternate member of the commission, with the other being the Jordan Park House.

    “We treat them basically as local historic districts,” O’Neill said. “So anything structural or any improvements would have to go through the Historic Properties Commission for a certificate of approval.”

    According to the town’s code of ordinances, the commission’s powers are dictated by state law, which states no building or structure within the boundaries of a historic property can be erected or altered without first filing for a certificate from the commission, who will determine whether the modifications to the exterior architectural features are appropriate.

    Both O’Neill and Nye said the commission would be open to a partnership with the Friends of Nevins Cottage groups to restore the cottage.

    “But it’s going to be our commission’s job to make sure it’s up to preservation standards,” Nye said.

    “It’s a lot better than tearing it down,” O’Neill said.

    O’Neill said the group will attend the next meeting of the Historic Properties Commission on Jan. 17 at 5:30 p.m. in the Appleby Room of the Town Hall.

    d.drainville@theday.com

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