Originally published in The Weekly Packet, February 8, 2018
Renovation plan for 1794 Blue Hill building sparks concerns
New owners to open café
The Blue Hill Historical Society has concerns about a plan to renovate this building at 40 Main Street. Built in 1794, it is considered the oldest house in Blue Hill. The new owners plan to open a café.
by Anne Berleant
A permit issued February 5 for renovations to 40 Main Street in Blue Hill, including a one-story covered street-side porch, has prompted citizen concern.
The first beams of the Federalist-style building at 40 Main Street were laid in 1794, making it the oldest building in Blue Hill, according to Blue Hill historian Brad Emerson.
“The house has survived 220 years; it’s a local landmark,” Emerson said. While the house itself is not listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Blue Hill Village is, he said, and 40 Main Street is one of about 30 buildings considered part of the village district.
The National Register of Historic Places is an official federal list of districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation for their historical significance.
But there is no local ordinance addressing historical preservation in Blue Hill.
“We only have a voluntary historical district, not a mandatory one,” Code Enforcement Officer Judy Jenkins said. With no safety or health concerns arising from the permit application, Jenkins notified abutters and, about three months later, issued the permit.
The house was purchased by William and Sandra Fletcher after being on the market for several years. The couple plans to open a café, said Blue Hill architect Matt Elliott, who designed the renovations. The renovations will try to save and re-use as much of the original interior paneling as possible to help preserve the building’s historical integrity, according to Elliot, while the new porch will span most of the building’s width and extend out about eight feet.
“We would hope what we were doing is sympathetic to the building and adds to the building,” Elliott said. “In our view, a building has a life of its own. They change over time.”
Blue Hill Historical Society voted to send a resolution to the Fletchers of its opposition to the renovation plans, board member Rick Sawyer confirmed, as will the board of the Jonathan Fisher House, of which Brad Emerson is a member.
“It’s a terrible business plan to enter a town and immediately alter an important building,” he said, adding, “The village is just paved with the corpses of those…café startups.”
Elliott said construction should occur over the winter and spring, with plans to open the café in early summer.
Editor’s note: This article was changed from the February 8 print edition to clarify how the renovations will affect the building’s interior paneling.