Historic Preservation Commission approves parts of Wrenn House plan – Reuters
SALISBURY — Renovations to Wrenn House have been on Bell Tower Green’s agenda for months and on Thursday the Salisbury Historic Preservation Commission approved some of the changes to the historic building.
The most notable sticking point, and the part of the layout that did not gain approval, was the addition of an elevator encased in a brick column on the south side of the building.
Bill Burgin, agent for Bell Tower Green LLC, told the commission that moving the elevator, which would be required by the Americans with Disabilities Act, inside the building would impact interior spaces and noted that this would technically involve further compromising the building, including making large holes in the floors of the building.
Burgin said the elevator shaft would be removable in the future and it would be enough to lengthen the window ports to the appropriate size for the elevator entrances. He also noted that the two windows that would have been removed could have been incorporated into the masonry of the shaft.
During the public comment period of Thursday’s meeting, Salisbury Historic Foundation Director Kimberly Steig spoke on behalf of the organization and opposed the exterior placement of the lift.
“The Wrenn House is one of Salisbury’s most iconic historic structures, and now that Bell Tower Green is open, one of the most visible,” Steig said.
She cited an unattractive aesthetic and two violations of written standards for additions: that they be as unobtrusive as possible, and that additions be constructed with as little loss of “historic fabric” as possible.
Clyde, a Salisbury resident, also criticized the project, wondering if people would really be able to see the Wrenn House through the additions.
In the end, the commissioners all agreed that the exterior elevator shaft did not meet the written standards used to judge additions and refused to approve this version of the elevator installation.
Burgin asked the commission if the elevator could be moved to the indoor location it had previously approved without bringing the issue up for another meeting. City Attorney Graham Corriher said it would be fine as long as the elevator plan remained the same as previously approved.
The council had stipulations on another proposed addition: a small building that would replace an existing stone building next to the house.
The existing stone building was built in the 1980s and does not match the rest of the building. Burgin explained that in addition to the visual inconsistency, the floor of the building is several feet lower than that of the main structure and disconnected.
The new building would be roughly the same size as the old one and incorporate recycled stone from the 1980s building, but the floor would be at the same level as the main structure and it would connect directly to the kitchen, housing dry storage and cold.
Commissioner Marcelo Menza praised the effort to make an addition that better matches the building, but council requested that a window be added to the side of the addition to meet a standard recommending to avoid large sections of uninterrupted wall. He also requested roofing brick work that was more consistent with the rest of the building.
An updated plan with these changes shall be reported to the commission. The council approved the demolition of the existing stone building, a donor wall and a fence on the side of the building.
The ultimate goal is the return of a restaurant with rooftop seating to complement the rest of Bell Tower Green.