Historic Seven Seas Building Reopens In Downtown Nantucket After Condemnation

JohnCarl McGrady •

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The Seven Seas, with its doors open to the public, pictured on Saturday in downtown Nantucket.

After three years of standing empty and condemned, the Seven Seas building at 46 Centre Street has finally reopened — and one of the most historic buildings in downtown Nantucket is now filled with shoes.

Owner and shoe designer Vanessa Noel is staging an exhibition from her New York-based Noel Shoe Museum in the building at the corner of Centre and Broad streets through August 11th, according to a poster inside the front door of the former gift shop. Haute Magazine reported last February that Noel was planning a summer exhibit on Nantucket and several outlets have covered her search for a new location for the museum. The museum’s website claims it is the “first and only shoe museum in the United States.”

Noel could not immediately be reached for comment.

Vanessa Noel

The old gift shop has spent the last few years slowly deteriorating after it was condemned by the Board of Health for numerous violations including a non-functioning alarm system, dangerous electrical wiring, a lack of fire extinguishers, and a hole in a sewage pipe. During that time, the Historic District Commission and Nantucket Preservation Trust noted the building’s disrepair, with some wondering if Noel’s intent was to allow the building to deteriorate to the point where restoration would be impossible and she would be allowed to demolish it, a process known as demolition by neglect.

Noel denied the allegations at the time and it appears she has now made the necessary renovations to lift the condemnation order and re-open the building.

The 46 Centre Street building is often considered one of Nantucket’s most historic. For many years, it was owned by George Pollard, captain of the whaleship Essex - the doomed vessel that was attacked and sunk by a sperm whale in 1820 in the Pacific Ocean. The tale would later become the inspiration for Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” The brick-red exterior and the Seven Seas name painted across the front, a holdover from its time as a gift shop, makes the building instantly recognizable.

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