FALMOUTH – It is painful to see the current state of the historic Nimrod building in Falmouth.
For six years—and six long winters—the owners of this building have let it remain open to the weather until the town authorities—police and fire—demanded it be boarded up this winter. The rotting structure, used as a shelter by vagrants, has been declared a hazard.
A for sale sign has been on the building since last fall.
Now the builder who owns the property has come before town boards to ask for a waiver of the town’s demolition delay bylaw—a 12-month delay required before demolishing historic structures—saying it is too far gone to be saved.
Yes, perhaps it is. Though anyone who has lived in Falmouth for more than 20 years may remember what Highfield Hall looked like before the community rallied to save the old mansion. It also looked like it was falling down and had been home to various critters and vagrants for years. The owners asked to demolish it because it was too far gone to be saved. The community said, “No, we want to save this piece of Falmouth history.” Now Highfield Hall is an elegant showplace, one of the town’s cultural crown jewels.
So saving historic structures can happen if there is the will to do it.
But it is very challenging when a building is privately owned by an owner who has no interest in saving it, but a decided financial incentive to tear it down.
With the Nimrod, this is a classic case of demolition by neglect.
This building is an important piece of Falmouth history. The Nimrod is so-named after the British ship during the War of 1812 that fired 300 cannon balls at the town of Falmouth. There are only three buildings left in town which received cannonball fire from the battle. One of those three buildings is the Nimrod, which was moved twice from its shorefront location and had been a restaurant for several decades before it went out of business in 2012.
While the actual cannon ball from the Nimrod building is long gone, the hole remains.
As a friend recently put it, “Pretty soon, all that will be left of that building is the hole.”
When the longtime restaurant that had been in the building closed back in 2012, momentum to save the building was so strong, folks concerned about the building started a new organization in town, Falmouth Preservation Alliance.
But at last night’s meeting of the Falmouth Historic Commission, there were only a few people who turned out to speak about the building’s historic value. Caleb Rawstron, who was involved in the efforts to save the building back in 2014 and wore his SavetheNimrod.org T-shirt (a website that no longer works), showed an impressive presentation with photos of the building from back in 2014 when developer who had purchased the building promised to save historic pieces from it and incorporate it into the new building.
The current owner, a builder who was working with that developer, said at last night’s meeting that the building was too far gone to save and he needed to demolish it. He said he would rebuild it to look just like it did.
I’m sure the new building will be a very attractive mixed-use building. A strip mall with erstatz Colonial features, perhaps an attempted replica of the historic facade. But it will not be the same. It will not be a momento from the War of 1812. It will no longer be a real piece of history, a reminder that there was a time in Falmouth history where our town was under attack by 300 cannonballs from a British warship stationed off what is now Surf Drive Beach. That aspect will be lost when the building is torn down. And there will be another hole in place of Falmouth’s rich history.
Laura M. Reckford is executive director of Falmouth Art Center, which abuts the historic Nimrod building.
Read Cape Cod Wave’s previous articles and essay about the Nimrod:
Nimrod Property for sale . . . Again (November 20, 2019)
Nimrod Fans Hope to Save Historic Building (July 19, 2013)
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