Emily Clark eclark@wickedlocal.com @emilyOCM

A layer of green fertilizer covers grass seeds on the Simes House lawn, creating the illusion of a green carpet. The icon of a bygone era looms in the sea of green, dazzling in the June sunlight like a mirage from the past. The Simes House, for all the drama it has generated, has revived from its 150-year-old slumber like Sleeping Beauty, kissed awake by a community that decided it was worth the effort to save.

The Simes House looks just as it did back in 1863 when Joseph A. Simes built the home at the height of a Civil War that pit American families against one another.

The stately home and its 200-acre spread were dubbed a gentlemans farm in the English sense of the term, and construction followed suit. It was an act of faith at a time when no one really knew which side was going to win.

Community Preservation Committee Chairman Bill Keohan leads a tour through the grounds and restored interior, noting that, back in the day, the Simes property extended all the way to Taylor Avenue and into downtown Manomet.

Italianate Gothic Revival is what the historians call the design, with its mansard roof, sweeping porch and massive windows. Simes was a Bostonian with a British flair, incorporating striped wood floors popular at the time across the pond, as well as English tile manufactured by the same company that renovated the United States Capitol Building in 1856. The original finish of much of the woodwork was relatively untouched in spite of 150 years, such was the glorious isolation of the Simes House at 29 Manomet Point Road. Most fireplace mantels and surrounds in old houses have suffered the indignities of countless paint jobs, but most of the Simes Houses mantels boast their original varnish, just as the crown moldings were relatively untouched.

Paint analyses were performed with the aid of microscopes to determine the precise colors of walls and the exterior, Keohan explained. The results include the brown exterior and an interior of dusty rose hues, an almost indefinable purple and a room with decidedly pink walls. The Victorian Era, for its serious reputation, was replete with vibrant colors and elaborate and intricate designs.

This project was about balance, about historical preservation and adaptive reuse thats functional and financially self sustaining, Keohan said. For the first time, the three components of the CPA are represented with historical restoration, housing and open space coming together in one project.

The story of the Simes House is a rescue story, because this historic home was a whisper from the wrecking ball back in 2010 when the town took the property in tax title. In 2011, Precinct 7 Rep. Randy Parker assailed Town Meeting with pleas, and the local legislature agreed to spend $1.5 million in Community Preservation Act funds to shore up the aging relic as repairs were made. The Simes House Foundation was given the reins of managing this work, and Vereika Construction restored the exterior.

Infighting on the Foundations board of directors, however, slowed things down and led to the historic project being handed back to the town, which has managed the subsequent restoration, armed with an additional $2.5 million in Community Preservation Act funds Town Meeting approved for it in 2015. Northern Construction is in the process of completing restoration of the interior of the building, which includes first floor conference and function rooms, two handicapped accessible bathrooms and an elevator.

Rooms feature floor to ceiling windows and fireplaces with wood mantels. The dining room boasts its original pantry with built-in drawers for cutlery and utensils. Space is available for a kitchen, but it will be up to the group that manages the property what type of kitchen. There has been such debate over this issue, Keohan said, the town determined the best approach was to leave it up to the management team.

The sweeping central staircase takes you to the second floor where four office spaces await. Fireplaces are, once again, features as well as more large windows that broadcast views of the grounds.

During renovation they installed new heating and electrical systems that are based on a computer system that is voice activated, Keohan said. And you can see that that technology is complimented by a fire suppression system, cooling systems and lighting systems that are best suited for the 21st century. Also, all the technology someone would need for the office space is here.

A second staircase to the third floor was added as a secondary egress to bring the two third-floor affordable apartments to code. And the rear staircases, used back in the day for servants only, have been preserved. One of these stairs, which climbs to the third floor, has been blocked off due to necessity, but the staircase remains as a blast from the past.

They were going to get rid of the stairs, Keohan said. But Pilgrim Hall Museum Executive Director Donna Curtain advocated that they be saved. The stairs tell a story of how people lived at the time and how people worked at the time.

The second floor also features a handicapped-accessible bathroom, kitchenette and break room. The organizations that will occupy the four offices will share a reception area, conference room and kitchenette. Keohan stressed that the building is energy efficient with all the technological hookups needed for todays business.

These are Class A office spaces, he added. So its kind of an interesting project where youre combining 1863 Abraham Lincoln with George Jetson.

The town is hoping to attract nonprofits with community-based services like veterans, seniors or housing organizations to rent these office suites.

Another set of stairs leads to the third floor where one-bedroom, affordable apartments feature recessed windows, galley kitchens and bathrooms with shower and bathtub. Applicants that meet the income restrictions will be able to put their names into a lottery for these units. While the states income guidelines for these rentals maxes out at a rent of $1,100 per month, Keohan said the organization that winds up managing the property can opt to reduce that price.

Rents collected from the offices and affordable units are designed to cover the cost of maintaining the building. A management company will oversee these aspects and the use of the Simes House.

The only entity that has responded to a request for proposals to manage the property is Manomet Village Common Inc., a local nonprofit organization formed last year with Advisory and Finance Committee Chairman John Moody as president. Selectmen have yet to award the management, Keohan said, but noted that this time the town will maintain ownership of the property and simply lease it to the entity for increments of five years at a time.

Another staircase beckons as Keohan gestures to a metal hatch above that leads to the widows walk atop the Simes House. Spectacular views greet the climber as Race Point and the Provincetown tower are clearly visible on this glittering June day. Its hard for Keohan to contain his excitement as he notes the powerful force behind this restoration project and Manomets new and glorious jewel.

It is a great example of a community getting behind a historical building that was scheduled to be demolished, Town Meeting members like Randy Parker who rallied the community, who asked Town Meeting not to tear the building down, Keohan said. The exciting thing about the Community Preservation Act is it gives the legislative body the ability to do some very interesting projects throughout the town. They come from the neighborhood up. The residents of Manomet wanted this to happen.

Follow Emily Clark on Twitter @emilyOCM.

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Restoration of the Simes House is complete - Wicked Local Plymouth - Wicked Local Plymouth

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