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Bed-and-breakfast planned for Hingham's Hersey House

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  February 26, 2013 04:46 PM

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Hingham’s Hersey House has sat untouched for decades, white paint peeling off the historic façade, columns decaying beneath the weight of an aging roof.

Yet now, the historic building could soon have a new identity, as its owner is hoping to turn it into a renovated bed-and-breakfast and a single-family home.

The building, located majestically on the precipice of a historic downtown at 229 North St., was constructed by a member of the Lincoln family in 1750 and given to the town by Ira Hersey in 1948.

The town attempted to sell the building and 3.2 acres of land to developer Tom Hastings in 2004, and after back-and-forth discussions on what kind of housing should be put on the property, the town eventually backed out of the agreement.

After binding arbitration, Hingham paid an undisclosed amount of money to settle the case in March 2011. That agreement cleared the way for the town to do something with the aging property, which was sold to neighbor John McDowell for $1.25 million in May 2011.

Since then, plans have emerged to make the property a business while maintaining its architectural integrity.

“The proposal is to have a three-bedroom B&B, in conjunction with the single-family house,” said Mary Savage Dunham, director of community planning. “There is an addition under way that received some approvals from the historic commissions last year. There are improvements going on to the residence at this time.

"The B&B would be in the original part of the house, and the single-family use would be in the newer portion of the house.”

The plan still needs to be vetted by the town, including going through the Zoning Board of Appeals, which will will have its first meeting about the project on Wednesday.

Planning Board members, who heard a presentation from the builder on Monday, may also reconvene to discuss the proposal.

McDowell did not return calls seeking comment, however the direction is in keeping with earlier statements from the Lincoln Street resident.

“I have consistently made efforts to preserve the residential and historic character of this beautiful property,” McDowell wrote to selectmen prior to the sale. “My fervent hope is that whoever buys this property will bring it up to standards that will make the community proud.”

Dunham said there weren’t any residents at the Planning Board hearing on Monday night, but she suspects the town will be supportive of the project.

“Hingham is very proud of its historic resources, and this is a certainly a historic building in our historic downtown area, so opportunities to reuse and preserve our historic resources are typically supported,” she said.

Dunham did not have a timeline on potential construction or on how quickly the project might move through the town’s approval process.

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