New Plan for Old Home: Proposal Would Change Lebanon House Into Apartments
Dana Seguin purchased the Lebanon home of the late Dr. Myric Wood, the last single family home facing Colburn Park, in 2012. In an effort to keep the property residential, Seguin has applied for a variance with city to convert the building into several apartments and make his own home in the property's carriage house. Sunday, March 23, 2014.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Dana Seguin purchased the family home of Dr. Myric Woods on South Park Street in Lebanon in 2012. Seguin has applied for a zoning variance to convert it to a multi-family building with several apartments. Sunday, March 23, 2014.
(Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — When Dana Seguin bought 4 South Park St., he wasn’t sure what he was going to do with the 5,500-square-foot, historic 19th century home facing Colburn Park in the city’s center, but he was clear that it “should be lived in,” he said.
Now, a year and a half after Seguin took ownership, Lebanon’s Zoning Board of Adjustment is considering his 41-page application for a zoning variance that would allow him to convert the single family home, office and nearby carriage house into eight apartments. The house is located in a zoning district where multi-family homes are not allowed.
“It needs a ton of work, but it’s sound,” said Seguin during a tour of his mostly unheated historic home on Sunday. “For whatever reason, it called me.”
He said he plans to keep the home’s four fireplaces as decorative, not functional, touches and that he hopes to retain most of the building’s hardwood floors. In addition, the structure’s slate roofs will likely stay as they are relatively new, having been replaced following a 1988 chimney fire.
In order to transform the home’s large living spaces into 700 or 750-square-foot apartments, Seguin will need to move walls and reorient stairs, he said.
The renovation, if approved, will likely include replacement of all the single-paned windows, and upgrades to the plumbing, wiring and heating.
Residential use is an idea supported by the home’s previous owner Lois Wood — widow of Lebanon legend Dr. Myric Wood Jr. who died in 2006 at the age of 79 from prostate cancer.
“I’m very pleased with Dana’s plans for the house,” said Mrs. Wood in a phone interview from her home in Hampden, Maine. “I want the next chapter to be a good one.”
The Woods lived and worked in the South Park Street house for approximately 50 years from 1962 to 2008.
They raised four children in the main house, while Dr. Wood, famous in part for delivering 2,500 Upper Valley babies, operated a medical practice from an office, a laboratory and two exam rooms located in an ell-shaped adjoining structure in the rear.
Mrs. Wood recalled the bustle of her four children and later grandchildren; their friends and classmates. The house was the site of many a cast and team party, she said.
She particularly recalled opening the door one day to a knock from a boy she didn’t recognize. It turned out a friend of one of her sons had sent him over to take a shower. She gave him a clean towel and showed him to the bathroom, she said.
The Woods’ oldest son, Lebanon’s Assistant Mayor Steve Wood, credited the house’s character to the people who lived there, not to the house — which he described as “just a house.”
His parents kept their doors open to friends, family, and really to the entire community since they rarely locked them, he said.
“Nothing that can happen to it will destroy my memory or resemble my memory,” said Wood. “I don’t really deeply mind what happens to it.”
He was relieved when Seguin’s purchase removed the burden of maintaining the home, he added. They had previously struggled with rot on an east-facing porch, which has since been removed, as well as frozen pipes, he said.
After stating his ambivalence about his childhood home’s future, however, Wood did say he feels a tug of regret when residences are converted.
“I’m always kind of sorry when a house ceases to be a house,” he said.
Wood, who lives on Poverty Lane, added that downtown housing enables residents to take advantage of the city’s amenities, such as stores, restaurants, the Opera House, and Storrs Hill.
“It’s a wonderful place to live,” he said. “If we weren’t running the farm, we’d be trying to live in town.”
Seguin said he hopes to draw young professionals to the upscale seven units he plans to create.
“I feel that residents will be good people; patronize local businesses,” he said.
He comes to the project with some background in development and property management, having remodeled a three-family Summer Street residence in recent years.
The plans are a divergence from other buildings in the area surrounding Colburn Park, which have been converted to offices.
“It’s a shame to convert to offices,” said Seguin. “Once it is, that’s it.”
The property is one of four located in the city’s Professional Business Zoning District. Multi-family homes are not permitted in this four-building area, so Seguin is obliged to apply for a variance.
“It doesn’t come up often,” said Lebanon Senior Planner David Brooks.
Brooks said the Zoning Board of Adjustment will likely examine the number of units Seguin has proposed — seven in the main building and one in the carriage house — to determine whether the proposal is of “reasonable” density.
He added that most of the changes Seguin has proposed are to the building’s interior and won’t affect it’s appearance to passersby and Seguin has agreed to retain the familiar facade.
Exterior changes will take place toward the less visible rear of the building where Seguin plans to eliminate the room where Dr. Wood had his office and add decks and external stair cases. He also plans to transform part of the lawn into 12 parking spaces and landscape the remaining green space, he said.
The only testimony provided to the Zoning Board during last week’s hearing on Seguin’s application came from abutter Dee Ward. Ward’s property is located to the south of Seguin’s property. She requested that Seguin continue to maintain an existing privacy fence between them, which he agreed to do.
Ward expressed support for the project in her note to the Board.
“Best of luck on this exciting project!” she wrote.
Brooks anticipated that the Zoning Board will make a decision at its April 7 meeting.
Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3213.