Edward Marks Jr. Building

Adaptive Re-use and Restoration of Poorhouse

Location: 744 Main Street, Falmouth MA 02540
Applicant: Town of Falmouth
Grant: $40,000
Year/Article: November 2006, A9

In 2006 the Town of Falmouth requested and was appropriated $50,000 from the CPFund in support of a $400,000 project to complete the restoration of the former Falmouth Poor House at 744 Main Street. The building is Falmouth’s oldest municipal building, with a long social history of commitment to assisting those in need in Falmouth. It was originally built as a tavern on Sandwich Road, in 1800 known as Peter Yost’s Public House. In 1812 Falmouth bought and moved the building to its present location. Its interior remains a physical record of its long history and multiple uses as a workhouse, almshouse, poor farm and town infirmary. Accepted on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997, it stands as one of the last remaining Poor Houses in Barnstable County and Massachusetts. Built in the 18th century with mortise and tenon joinery, the 6000 square-foot 2.5-story house rests on a granite foundation with paired interior chimneys and a gabled roof. Its design is typical of other late buildings in the Colonial to early Federal period. The 19th century outbuildings and barn are gone but its small neighboring 1806 Methodist cemetery remains. Together the two serve as a primary historic landmark in modern Falmouth.

For more than thirty years, the Falmouth Artists Guild leased the property, but in 1996 it was found to be not suitable for habitation. Some said it needed a steel superstructure, but the Falmouth Historical Commission (FHC) persuaded planners to seek historically appropriate wood solutions. The Commission worked with the Guild to develop the design, construction, phasing, budget, and schedule and conducted an archeological survey of the property. Town Meeting appropriated $250,000 for the work, which allowed completion of structural repairs for the entire building but architectural rehabilitation for the first floor only. Work on the first floor rendered it fully accessible to handicapped people and provided office space as well as architectural interpretation of the historic uses of the building. It was renamed the Edward Marks, Jr. Office Building in memory of a “native son” who served Falmouth as a fire fighter, a member of the Finance Committee and as a member of the Board of Selectmen. The Falmouth Retirement System and FHC leased office space on the first floor. The next step was to rehabilitate the second floor space in an historically appropriate manner for adaptive re-use as office space.

The 2006 $40,000 CPFund grant was used to prepare the building program for this work, the design, and bid-level specifications. The work was completed in 2008.

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