IPSWICH — The historic value of a former firehouse in Lord Square is being raised as a possible obstacle to a plan to demolish the building to make way for a larger Dunkin’ Donuts with a drive-thru.
The proposal, still in the preliminary stage, calls for knocking down the current Dunkin’ Donuts building and two adjacent properties, including the vacant yellow building at 4 Lord Square, which served as one of the town’s early firehouses. It was built in 1865 and used most recently as a retail and apartment building.
“I don’t think most people are aware it was a firehouse,” said Gordon Harris, chairman of the town’s Historical Commission. He said the commission hasn’t officially reviewed any plans but would likely support a one-year demolition delay as allowed under the town’s bylaws, which applies to any building in town over 75 years old.
Such a delay would allow the developers and others time to explore options to preserve or move the building, Harris said.
Lord Square is a tricky intersection of Central, Linebrook, High, Short and Liberty streets.
Harris said the square, named after the prominent Lord family, was the most important intersection in town back in the 1880s. Asa Lord owned a market, which was near where Prime gas station is now. The store was moved to make way for a service station to be built and improve the intersection, Harris said.
“A lot of the streetscape has been lost, but that doesn’t mean we should continue to take the last remnants of the square,” he said. “Do they think having a bigger Dunkin’ Donuts is worth taking away a part of our town’s history?”
A boxy addition was added to the firehouse at some point, making it unrecognizable as a fire station to many. The volunteer fire station had a bell tower in the front and a tall hose-drying tower in the rear, according to the Historical Commission. It was known for housing Neptune, a horse-drawn pumper that the town bought from Newburyport in 1889.