In a letter to the Historic District Commission, the former chairman of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission called the Loring House “a piece of our national heritage” that is mentioned in every lecture on the era by architectural historians.
“If it is removed, its memory will come to haunt us like the old Pennsylvania Station in New York or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building in Buffalo,” James O’Gorman wrote. “It is a work of art as much as a painting by Homer or Eakins. Would we condone the willful destruction of one of Homer’s finest seascapes or one of Eakins’ powerful portraits?”
The house was taken care of for 40 years by Samuel Codman, a bachelor who lived there and gave tours of the home until his death, at age 100, in 2008. Descendants of Loring who live nearby on Hale Street repurchased the property for $4 million in 2009.
Last July, the Lorings sold the house to Greiner for $3.75 million. Greiner is a native of England and an MIT graduate who gained fame with iRobot, best known for its robotic vacuum cleaner called Roomba. She left iRobot in 2008 and started a new company, CyPhy Works, in Danvers.
Greiner’s original plan was to demolish all of the wings and additions that were added to the Loring House in 1906 and retain and renovate most of the original 1881 structure.
But Historic District Commission Chairman Bill Finch said he was concerned about some of the proposed changes, in particular the elimination of an ocean-side fanlight that he called “an essential characteristic of the house,” as well as the removal of a fireplace, chimney and porch.
When Finch mentioned those concerns, Greiner said, “I am concerned about which building I wish to live in for the rest of my life.”
Three members of the Loring family, as well as several other neighbors, spoke in support of Greiner’s original renovation plan. Jonathan Loring said the house was on the market for four years, but none of the people now advocating for its preservation stepped forward. He said the house has deteriorated over the years and is in “atrocious” condition.