Oldest Home in Dover Slated for Demolition
Nestled near the road at 6 Farm Street abutting the Springdale Field, one cannot help but notice the historic white saltbox. The Joseph Draper House was built in 1724 in what was then the center of town. On April 19, 1775 three members of the Draper family, a father and his two sons left that house on foot headed for Lexington and Concord. This structure is the oldest dwelling in Dover still in its original location. And its days are numbered because its owners prefer demolition to preservation.
The house, sometimes known as the Bagg house, has always been a sentimental favorite of the town and its potential rescue and preservation garnered a phenomenal level of support. The current owners, Anthony and Annette Oliva, acquired the house in 2003. Initially they favored the idea of preserving the house. In 2006 they agreed to the donation and relocation of the house intact or by dismantling and reconstructing it. Antique houses requiring relocation are customarily donated as an alternative to demolition, or sold for a nominal fee – often a dollar. Many historic houses in eastern New England languish for lack of interested purchasers, but this is not the case with the Draper House.
In 2010 following an initial offer of $5,000 cash, a fund-raising campaign by a group of dedicated Joseph Draper House aficionados produced a subsequent offer of $50,000. It was accepted, funds changed hands and all looked promising for a new chapter for the old house. Phase II planning activities commenced in an atmosphere of eager anticipation when after months of sweat and optimism, the deal was rejected.
Now, after five more New England winters, the structure stands visibly diminished by old age and exposure, but still a compelling structure. Local preservation architect, Bill Remsen considers the Draper House “an important intact First Period” example that “illustrates its long evolution within the same historic style.” Accordingly, its friends continue to pursue its rescue. Very recently a new offer of $12,500 was offered and rejected. At a recent meeting Elisha Lee, President of the Dover Historical Society characterized the current situation as “so sad and so totally avoidable. Citizens have made a persistent effort to save this treasured piece of Dover’s past. We are losing our architectural heritage at a tragic rate. Lost opportunities of this sort are lost forever. This doesn’t have to happen, but time is rapidly running out.”