LACONIA — Cafua Management Company, LLC, the Dunkin' Donuts franchise owner of the historic Hathaway House at 1106 Union Avenue, is in the process of seeking a demolition permit to raze the Victorian mansion built in 1870.
As of Monday, Greg Nolan, director of development at Cafua, has distributed applications for a demolition permit to some — Public Works and Fire — but not all of the appropriate city departments. The process requires applications, which can be downloaded from the city website, to be signed by officials of the Department of Public Works, Water Department, Fire Department and Planning Department as well as the gas and electric utilities servicing the property then submitted to the Code Enforcement officer.
A Planning Department representative said Monday it has not seen a copy of the application as of yet and Code Enforcement reported the same.
Because the Hathaway House is of more than 700-square-feet in area and 75 years old, as well as visible from a public right-of-way, the application must also be presented to the Heritage Commission for review. Pam Clark, who chairs the Heritage Commission, said yesterday that she will decline to sign the demolition permit and instead will schedule a public hearing in an effort to preserve the building. She said that despite repeated attempts she has been unable to reach Nolan, who has also failed to return calls from The Daily Sun.
Once the commission schedules a public hearing, the owner is required by ordinance to post a sign to that effect, along with the date, time and place of the hearing, on the building in plain sight. Should the public hearing close without agreement on an alternative to demolition, the Heritage Commission shall meet with the owner within 10 days to seek agreement on an alternative. Without an agreement to preserve the building, the owner may proceed with demolition while the Heritage Commission, with the consent of the owner, shall photograph and document the building as well as encourage the owner to salvage any important architectural features.
On Saturday, members of the city's Heritage Commission picketed at the Dunkin' Donuts store next door to the Hathaway House protesting what they said was the deliberate neglect of the Hathaway House. Carrying banners that read ''Dunkin' Donuts Lied'' and ''Anywhere But Here'' the protesters passed out leaflets explaining why they were picketing and urged customers to boycott Dunkin' Donuts at a number of locations, including both Union Avenue and South Main Street as well
as the Mobil Mart and Airport Country Store in Gilford and near the traffic circle in Alton.
''This is demolition by neglect'' said Clark, who said that it has been obvious that Cafua has been preparing to demolish it for some time. ''They promised to maintain it and lease it or sell it five years ago. But they haven't. The roof is leaking and they hired a crew to knockout the windows, remove asbestos and board up the building a few weeks ago. But it's not too late to save it if people will speak up,'' said Clark.
She said that in addition to the boycott a petition drive is being launched in opposition to the building's demolition.
Dorothy Duffy of the Heritage Commission said that she is disappointed in Laconia for not acting more aggressively to preserve older buildings. "We should be paying more attention. Just recently we've lost the Tilton House, the Putnam House and the Baker House. It's sad to see these buildings which were such a big part of our city's history lost,'' said Duffy.
Mary Jane Hoey, another member of the commission, said that the owners have made no attempt to sell or lease the building and that there were no answers to telephone inquiries made about the property.
Charlie St. Clair, whose parents operated the Hathaway House clothing store from 1957 until the 1970s at the property, said ''the city should have learned from what happened to O'Shea's (the former Moulton Opera House building which was demolished during "urban renewal" in the 1970s). This is our history and it shouldn't be torn down.''
The controversy surrounding the Hathaway House began in 2008. Cafua, the largest Dunkin' Donuts franchisee in the Northeast, acquired the property in 2000. In 2008 the firm proposed razing the house and constructing a Dunkin' Donuts store and strip mall on the property. However, after a series of meetings with city officials and concerned citizens, Cafua agreed to preserve the Hathaway House and build the Dunkin' Donuts outlet on the remaining 0.75-acre parcel.
When the project was approved, Nolan assured the Planning Board that the Hathaway House would be repainted as well as fitted with a fire alarm and fire suppression system. He said the company had no plans for the building other than to preserve it. In July 2010, when the The Citizen published a story implying that Cafua intended to relinquish control of the building, Nolan told the Planning Department, according to former Assistant Director Seth Creighton, that although the company sought to sell or lease the property, "there will be a condition that the house cannot be scrapped." He repeated that he intended to paint the building, but conceded that the work had yet to be scheduled. He also said he had demanded the newspaper apologize for its story or risk litigation.
The fate of the Hathaway House led to the establishment of the Heritage Commission in 2008. The commission, consisting of five members, is charged with surveying and inventorying the city's cultural and historic resources, including buildings of historic and architectural significance and advise the Planning Board and other agencies on managing and protecting them.
The home was built in 1870 by Samuel C. Clark, a prominent attorney in Lakeport, then known as Lake Village. Clark was born in Lake Village on January 9, 1832, when Andrew Jackson began his second term as president of the United States. He was schooled in Gilford and at the New Hampton Academy then studied law with Stephen Lyford of Laconia and Asa Fowler of Laconia. In 1857, Clark was admitted to the New Hampshire Bar and named Clerk of the Court in Belknap County, a
position he held until 1874.
Clark served two two-year terms the New Hampshire House of Representatives, the first in 1867 and the second 10 years later. Meanwhile, he was named assistant Clerk of the House in 1870 and 1872 and clerk in 1873 and 1875. Perhaps his initial political success went to his head, because Clark, who was called "Squire," had begun to fancy himself a future governor and intended the house would be his official residence.
Although he never became governor, Clark earned notoriety and respect in the the community. He was a promoter and director of the Laconia and Lake Village Horse Railroad and during the Civil War served as deputy provost marshal, overseeing the military police. Later he was a director of both Laconia National Bank and Lake Village Savings Bank.
All the while he maintained a lively law practice at the Clark Block on Elm Street. Clark died unexpectedly on March 19, 1897 after a brief bout of pneumonia.
Clark and his wife Clarissa had three children. A son Samuel Clarence, born in 1857, died in infancy, but three years later Clarissa gave birth to twins, Samuel Clarence, known as Samuel, Jr. and Claribel.
Samuel, Jr. married but sired no offspring. He died in December, 1901, eleven months after his mother passed away at the age of 66. Claribel, who never married, lived in the family home while traveling frequently and widely, until her death at 93 in 1953. Local legend has it that her ghost has stalked the mansion ever since.
Four years later, the St. Clairs acquired the property. In September 1957, The Laconia Evening Citizen reported that the St. Clairs, Constance and her husband Richard, had restored the house to its "Victorian splendor" inside and out to house a clothing store called the Hathaway House.
"All Laconia has watched with interest and appreciation the work as it has progressed," wrote City Editor Ebba M. Janson, "and the couple have received many letters from persons who visited the house years ago thanking them." The exterior of the house was painted a gray beige, setting off the distinctive white woodwork, while the interior was decorated with Victorian wall papers and period hues and graced with elegant chandeliers. The weathervane and cupola, sold earlier to an antique dealer, were returned to the barn.
In the 1970s, the St. Clairs sold the property, which became home to a string of businesses before it was acquired in 2000 by an affiliate of Cafua.
CAPTION Charlie St. Clair, whose mother once owned the Hathaway House (background) and operated a woman's clothing store in it, pickets in front of Dunkin' Donuts Saturday to protest neglect of the building, which the owner wants to demolish. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)