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Hingham Historical Society plans to rebuild steps in front of Old Derby Academy property

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  July 24, 2012 03:30 PM

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The Hingham Historical Society is hoping to raise enough money to transform the landscape in front of its headquarters at Old Derby Academy and make the building more accessible to pedestrians.

Currently, a retaining wall in front of the yellow building leaves the elevated house out of sight to passersby on Main Street, and access is restricted to a steep driveway that runs up the side of the building.

The building initially had stairs on the property that were 10 feet wide; however, that access was buried in the 1980s.

Rather than unearthing the original steps, the society hopes to build a new set of stairs, ones that will echo the symmetry innate in the architecture of the building it leads to.

Although there are no definite plans, the hope is to separate that retaining wall with a symmetrical, grand, double staircase that would meet in the middle and head up at one point to the building.

“Currently people just walk by the building and the steep wall and embankment, people don’t see it. But a staircase out front would bring the visual flow of the building down to street level where people would be more likely to notice it,” said Suzanne Buchanan, executive director for the Historical Society.

Buchanan said the society isn’t yet sure of the cost of the project or a projected timeline, but said it would definitely cost less than $1 million and the money would be raised.

Although the construction would need the necessary building permits, the historical society already has permission from the Historic Districts Commission.

Because the property is within the Lincoln National Historic District and is on the State Registry of Historic Properties, the certificate of appropriateness was a necessary first step, Buchanan said.

Overall, the project is just beginning, but already hopes are high.

“Rather than the scruffy embankment we have now, we want something more visually inviting than what we have, and also safer and more inviting civicly. The current [access] we have now is treacherous to walk up that steep hill, and we’ve joked about putting in a chair lift, it’s so difficult. But if we have some nice, safe stairs it will be nicer for people of all ages,” Buchanan said.

There were no complaints or concerns about the project brought up at the meeting, Buchanan said.

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