Westcott House set to be sold

Proposal ordinance seeks to create new historic district at site

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A historic home facing an uncertain future appears poised to be sold to a new owner, while an effort to preserve its exterior will soon be considered by the City Council.

The property at 150 Scituate Ave. – on which sits the Nathan Westcott House, built circa 1770 – has been designated as “under contract” in online listings. Until recently, its status had been “on the market.”

The property was seized by the U.S. Marshals Service earlier this year after its previous owner – now a fugitive from justice – was indicted on federal drug charges. The sale of the property was contracted to Colliers International and then subcontracted to Doorley Real Estate. Its price was listed as $126,500.

At press time, a message left with Rob Doorley of Doorley Real Estate had not been returned. The U.S. Marshals Service confirmed that the status of the property would be updated once a buyer had been selected, but no additional information regarding the sale was available Tuesday.

Reached by phone last month, Doorley said he had “been desperately trying to find someone to keep the house and renovate it.”

“I feel really bad. It should be protected, and it’s not … There are some offers on the table, and they’re being considered,” he said.

Sandra Moyer, president of the Cranston Historical Society, said she is aware of the property’s change in status. She said she has not yet received a response from federal authorities regarding the sale.

The property at 150 Scituate Ave. is zoned as A-6 residential, which allows for single-family dwellings on lots with a minimum area of 6,000 square feet. According to the city’s property records, the lot encompasses 7,280 square feet. The current valuation of the land and building is listed as $115,900.

The Westcott House is adjacent to Joy Homestead, and its namesake was part of a family that was among Rhode Island’s earliest settlers. In the late 1980s, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The site also sits along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route, which French troops used on their way to meet American forces led by George Washington in 1781.

The most recent owner of the property, LiQiong Zheng, acquired it in 2016 for $80,000, according to city property records. She was indicted earlier this year on federal drug charges after the discovery of scores of marijuana plants being grown inside the historic house.

As part of that illegal operation, the interior of the house was gutted and the floor separating its first and second floors was removed.

Due to the extent of the interior damage – as well as its need for a sewer hookup – Moyer believes it is likely the new owner of the property will demolish the house to make way for a new structure.

She said she has spoken with officials at the local, state and federal in an effort to find some means of saving the house, but those efforts have thus far proven unsuccessful. The society – which at one point owned the Westcott House – lacks the resources to purchase the property, she said.

Moyer previously said hopes of saving the historic house rested largely on two possible, if unlikely, outcomes – its acquisition by someone with the resources to preserve it, or finding a way to move the structure to the neighboring Joy Homestead property.

Since then, another possible avenue has emerged. Citywide Councilman Steve Stycos has introduced an ordinance amendment that would create the Nathan Westcott House Local Historic District, encompassing only the property at 150 Scituate Ave. The measure has been referred to the council’s Ordinance Committee for consideration at its meeting Sept. 12.

Stycos said he submitted the amendment based on discussions with Moyer. While he is unsure whether the effort will be successful, he said the proposal at least provides an opportunity for further discussion.

“It was the suggestion of Sandra Moyer that if we included [the Westcott House property] in the historic district, it might get some protection as far as not being torn down and maintaining the exterior look … I have not talked to the prospective buyer, I really don’t know anything about that at all. But we had to move quickly because there might be a buyer, so I asked the Planning Department to write something up, which they did,” he said.

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