June 20, 2024

There are big plans in the works for the dilapidated old boathouse on Shawme Pond.

There are big plans in the works for the dilapidated old boathouse on Shawme Pond.
Plans are underway to conduct a historical survey and restoration of the Wesson Boathouse on Shawme Pond, a now-dilapidated landmark under new ownership.
Since she purchased the property last month for $137,500, Bernice M. Wahler, a local landscape architect, has begun efforts to preserve and rebuild the iconic structure.
Like many Sandwich residents, Ms. Wahler had lamented the worsening state of the boathouse, which was constructed around 1903. When she learned the property was for sale, she decided to take on the project.
“We went to see it the next day and made an offer,” said Ms. Wahler in an interview. “It’s a classic New England view. It just has to stay.”
As a landscape architect, Ms. Wahler also feels the project will benefit the Shawme Pond ecosystem, which this summer suffered from heavy algae growth.
“It’s a land conservation piece as well,” Ms. Wahler said. “We’re doing our little part of making Shawme Pond healthier.”
At the meeting of the Sandwich Historical Commission Wednesday, October 5, Ms. Wahler explained the state of the project to the drone of heavy rain and cracking thunder, which disrupted the library’s power several times, interrupting proceedings.
“The goal would be to preserve as much as we can,” Ms. Wahler said. “A lot of the walls are in poor shape… We have to see once we can get into what we’re working with, so that we can document what it was, so that we can rebuild it how it was.”
However, even before funding or a rebuilding plan is put in place, the boathouse must be stabilized because it is in danger of collapsing, and part of the roof has already caved in. Ms. Wahler is working with David Wheelock, a local builder and historian specializing in historic timber framing and restoration.
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
Inside the crumbling boathouse 
“Our first phase is shoring,” Ms. Wahler said. “Once that’s stabilized, David will come in and deconstruct a portion of the roof to understand what we have, so that our structural engineer can get in there and see what is left and how we can best repair it.”
Ms. Wahler has contracted Mashpee-based Inghouse engineering services for the repair design.
The process is complicated by a lack of historical documentation of the boathouse’s original design and construction.
“The rebuilding aspect of it is somewhat nuanced because there’s not a lot to go off of,” Ms. Wahler said.
She has begun the process of collecting historic photographs and paintings of the boathouse from archives to help make historically informed design decisions.
A critical element of the restoration for Ms. Wahler is that the boathouse become accessible to the public as a museum or historical replica.
“In the past I’ve worked on lots of public projects, and there’s a certain joy that comes when you’re a part of something like this, and you can give back,” Ms. Wahler said. “I am motivated to have this be part of the community… I think the appropriate thing for it would be to become some kind of publicly accessed building at certain times.”
Ms. Wahler also wants to preserve historical traditions involving the boathouse, including a piano that was once used to entertain guests and a Christmas tree inside looking out over the pond.
“We’re looking forward to the day we can have a Christmas tree in those doors again,” said Ms. Wahler.
Ms. Wahler is also hoping to have parts of the reconstruction documented by Sandwich Community Television.
“I do think it would be such a shame for us to be working all day and to have it closed up and not available to people. It just seems like a waste of the building,” Ms. Wahler said.
Currently the project is in the planning phases, but Ms. Wahler is hoping to move forward with stabilizing the building before winter.
“I believe after we do the shoring, we may have enough to have a more intelligent conversation about what we have to do to preserve it, because right now we don’t have a lot to go on besides the few images,” Ms. Wahler said.
Despite the early stage of the project, members of the historic commission are excited by the prospect of the restoration.
“There seems to be tremendous interest from residents of Sandwich in the boathouse,” said Julia Blakely, chairwoman of the historical commission. “It’s very much a sentimental attachment.”
Ms. Wahler has launched a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to help finance the restoration and will be providing updates via the project’s social media pages like the Instagram account, www.instagram.com/thewessonboathouse.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the cause can donate at www.gofundme.com/f/the-wesson-boathouse.
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