Resident to give away historic home for free

By Douglas McCulloch | Sep 27, 2016
Courtesy of: Dartmouth Historical Commission 7 Eliza Lane dates back to at least 1817.

The owner of 7 Eliza Lane is giving away his home free of charge. The only catch: the buyer has to front the cost of moving the building off of the property.

David Mitchell’s 1,175-square-foot home predates 1817. He’s lived in the two-bedroom house for the past 20 years, and having a background in historical studies, Mitchell said he enjoys the building's appearance and, as he recently learned, its past. Former residents include descendants of the Mayflower.

“It’s a really neat house,” Mitchell said. “It’s well built. It’s sturdy. We just want something different now.” Mitchell added that his wife has allergies. While the home has served him well, he said old houses and allergies don’t mix.

When Mitchell began looking into demolition and building a new home on his property, he realized that a town by-law requires a hearing before the Dartmouth Historical Commission. Commission members convinced him to accept a six-month demolition delay and offer the building free of charge in the interest of historic preservation.

“We reviewed this, and we decided it’s historically significant and it should be preserved,” said Judy Lund from the Historical Commission. “We decided we should institute a six-month demolition delay. This was with the agreement of the homeowner.”

Lund said she began looking into the history of the building after Mitchell filed for the demolition permit. Although the town assessor listed it as being built in 1900, Lund realized that the date was likely a placeholder. It is common practice that the assessor’s office labels buildings as a 1900-build when official records don’t exist.

Lund said she realized the home dated back much further than 1900 because it featured eyebrow windows, a style common in a much earlier period. When she researched further, she connected the house to descendants of the Mayflower and dated it to at least 1817.

“I have some experience looking at houses built in the 1900s as opposed to the 1800s,” Lund said. “Our job is to identify old buildings in town and see that the important ones are preserved.”

Lund added that the commission has had mixed success with giving away historic buildings to avoid demolition. She pointed to the recently opened Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust headquarters at Helfand Farm as the most recent success story. The 1871 building faced the threat of demolition, but saw new life as a visitor center and conference space for the organization.

“[The DNRT center] really shows what you can do with an old house,” Lund said.

When there is no interest from the public, historic structures face demolition. Lund said the commission made great efforts to preserve the Almy House, a historic building that dated back to 1740, but it was ultimately torn down. The old radio tower at Round Hill, once owned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suffered a similar fate.

“It happens, but we do the best we can to save historic buildings,” Lund said. “We have a few triumphs and a few losses.”

Those interested in the house can contact Mitchell via email at david.mitchell7371@comcast.net.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.