Before law school, I lived on Nantucket, an island 30 miles off the Massachusetts coast. I worked for an organization dedicated to preserving and interpreting Nantucket’s history. The entire downtown area is a National Register of Historic Places historic district that reflects Nantucket’s evolution from a colonial agricultural community to an eighteenth and nineteenth century whaling capital to a twentieth century art colony and resort. The historic district is composed of homes, businesses, municipal buildings, ferry terminals, boatyards, museums, a lighthouse, places of worship, and cobblestone streets. Several cemeteries—some with graves dating to the late 1600s, and some with native Wampanoag graves—lie just outside the historic district boundary. Thanks to building and land use regulations that strictly control development, redevelopment, and renovations, many of these historic resources have endured for centuries and coexist with the infrastructure necessary for modern life and a growing population.
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