OPINION: Moving Forward with Old Ship

Photo provided by: Nina Wellford

June 15, 2021, Submitted by the Old Ship Parish House Project Management Team: Dennis Hogan, Brian McPhillips, Diane Morrison, Ron Pollara, Nina Wellford, Tom Willson

Regarding the recent opinion piece on the Old Ship Parish House by some of its nearby neighbors, the Old Ship congregation appreciates their concerns and would like to allay them as much as possible. Here are the facts:

  • Old Ship is selling the Parish House at 107 Main Street because it cannot afford to maintain it. While the Old Ship congregation is a vital one, it has been unable to keep up with the increasing costs of maintaining such a large antique building as the Parish House (15,222 square feet).
  • A lengthy and careful evaluation process determined that it would take more than $2 million dollars to repair and restore the Parish House for the church’s needs–far beyond the fund raising ability of the congregation, especially in light of the congregation’s greater priority to maintain the Old Ship Meeting House.
  • As a result, in October 2020 the congregation voted reluctantly but overwhelmingly (92%) to sell the Parish House. At the same time, the Parish voted to sell a portion of the property to Hingham’s Affordable Housing Trust, to enable the expansion of the affordable Lincoln School Apartments.
  • The proposed buyer, Atlantic Development, has publicly indicated that it will work within existing zoning regulations for the property. Its work will be subject to all town zoning and historic requirements. The property is zoned Residential A. Allowed uses can be found on the Town of Hingham website under Zoning By-Laws.
  • The new Parish House adjacent to the Old Ship Meeting House will be aesthetically and functionally appropriate, green, energy efficient, ADA compliant, much smaller than the current one, and designed to minimize maintenance. It will also be built within existing zoning and historic regulations. In the 1830s, the property was the site of Willard Academy, followed by a larger lace and tassel manufacturing building that burned in 1847. A house was built on the lot after the fire; the land was conveyed to Old Ship Church in 1949. According to Old Ship Church records, the parcel was acquired “in case future parishioners would want to build a parish house there.”

The Old Ship congregation is highly attuned to historic considerations and has carefully maintained its historic 1681 Meeting House for more than three centuries. In 2015, Old Ship Church received the Massachusetts Historical Commission Historic Preservation Award as “a testament to its congregation’s commitment to preserving a 17th-century historical and architectural treasure.”

The congregation is committed to the same level of historic sensitivity regarding the design and building of its new Parish House. The goal is to have a Parish House that complements the Old Ship Meeting House, enhances Hingham’s historic downtown, and is a more efficient and functional Parish House for the congregation’s needs.

Atlantic Development has spent one year doing due diligence on the property, and is now beginning the process of receiving community input. DJ MacKinnon has shared his cell number with anyone who would like to speak with him directly. He is holding a site visit on Tuesday, June 22 at 6:00 pm for anyone who would like to walk the property and ask more questions. At a Zoom meeting in July, all suggested options that are allowed under current zoning regulations will be discussed in detail. 

Old Ship’s Project Management Team is likewise available to discuss with anyone the history of these properties, the rationale behind our parish’s votes, and our plans as they evolve. Please call the Old Ship office at 781-749-1679 or office@oldshipchurch.org for our contact information. We hope that our neighbors and Hingham residents will take these opportunities to understand this project, so that we can move forward together.  

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