Historic Rye home offered for free: Preservationists look for someone to save it


RYE — A group of town preservationists are working to save a historic residence on Locke Road from the wrecking ball as its owner attempts to redevelop the property.

The owner of 237 Locke Road, where a two-story colonial home sits close to the road, is offering to give away the vacated house for free. But the new owner must remove the structure from the parcel either in full or in pieces. Owner Kurt Jackson resides in the house directly next to the old home and is seeking to construct a larger house on the property.

Rather than see the early 19th century home demolished, however, locals interested in preserving history are working to find a new owner. 

David Choate, New Hampshire executive vice president for Colliers commercial real estate firm, is chairperson of the Rye Demolition Review Committee and a member of the Rye Historic District Commission. He and Alex Herlihy, of the Rye Historical Society, promote the preservation and protection of historic homes in the oceanside town through their group, Rye Advocates, which has compiled a list of all 315-plus Rye residences built before 1905.

“We’re interested in finding someone who will take it away or most likely dismantle it and rebuild it on another site in Rye. It’s unfortunate because the whole appeal is where it sits on the road and how you see it when you’re coming down Locke Road. But we can’t tell him what to do with his property,” Choate said.

Jackson plans to keep an old, multiple-stall barn on the property as he works to get his development proposal approved. Jackson’s plan will go to a public hearing before the Demolition Review Committee on Thursday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. in Rye Town Hall.

The history of 237 Locke Road home in Rye

Capt. Gardiner T. Locke, a schooner sailor out of Rye Harbor and descendant of Capt. John Locke, was the former owner of the home, as shown in an 1851 town map, according to the Rye Historical Society. The home is located on the Gardiner Towle Locke Homestead, on land that its namesake purchased from Thomas J. Parsons in 1843.

Original features in the home include three fireplaces, exposed beams, molding and a curved center staircase. Above the second story is an empty A-frame attic with nails sticking down from the ceiling. Additions to the home in unknown years brought a sunroom and kitchen to the residence, both of which are positioned closest to the large backyard. Sunlight beams into the residence, lighting up the home and its first-floor floral wallpaper with illustrations of major cities in the United States.

“There’s just no question about it: These are the houses you want to preserve,” Herlihy said. “This is what makes the heritage of any community.”

Home was purchased for $1.5 million

Town property records note Jackson purchased the colonial residence in June for $1.5 million from the Mullaly Family Trust. Jackson has owned his adjacent 231 Locke Road home since March 2018.

The 237 Locke Road home was most recently assessed by the town at $810,600.

Multiple parties have emerged as possible future owners of the home, though none have struck a deal to take the residence from Jackson at no charge. One party has since bowed out of the process, telling Choate he estimates the cost to take away and reassemble the home on land he owns, then replace all the plumbing, electrical, HVAC, siding, septic and the foundation, would be between $500,000 and $700,000.

Herlihy believes that estimate may be too high. The historian is seeking a second opinion to relay to interested parties who come and view the home.

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Owner can’t be denied demolition of home

Locke Road gained prominence years ago for being one of the only routes that could go from the center of town down to Rye Harbor.

For a home to be considered for demolition review in Rye, it must be greater than 500 square feet and over 50 years old, Choate said.

“We basically review them. We do not have the ability to stop somebody from demolition,” he said. “All we really have is the bully pulpit to try to convince somebody that they should do something different with it like (Jackson). This is probably the most significant building that’s come to us since I’ve been chair, which has been for about four years.”

The new home Jackson wants to build would not go in the exact place where the existing residence stands, but on a back corner of the lot, according to Choate and Herlihy.

The two preservationists’ shared mission is to find a new owner that would remove the old home and move it to a new location, preferably in Rye.

“This road is really a historic road,” Choate said. “It’s too bad that the house can’t stay in this location but it’s better that it be erected somewhere else.”

Abutters and other Rye citizens are invited to speak at the Jan. 25 Demolition Review Committee public hearing.



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