Church Vs. Ara Charder In Feud Over Condemned Historic Home

The fate of a condemned historic house on Fair Street has been the subject of a lawsuit in Nantucket Superior Court that has been pending for more than two years, as the First Church of Christ Scientist has been feuding with island tour van operator Ara Charder for control of the property. 

Late last month, a judge ruled in favor of the church and terminated Charder’s life right to the property, and ordered her to remove all her belongings from the home by next Tuesday. Charder has appealed the decision. 

Following the death of its former owner, Eric Pawley, back in June 2002, the property at 6 Fair Street was conveyed to Charder through a trust “for the duration of her natural life” after which ownership would be passed on to the church. The deed prohibited Charder from selling the property. 

But, according to its lawsuit, the church observed that the home remained vacant and sometime around October 2011 it alleged that Charder “ceased all reasonable care and maintenance” of the property. The home fell into disrepair, the church stated in its complaint, and it grew so alarmed over the condition that in 2019 it hired a private engineering firm to perform a visual assessment of the property. The assessment, which found the front wall of the home bowing, a sagging roof, rotting windows, exposed wires, and other issues, prompted the church to file a lawsuit seeking to have Charder’s life estate terminated. 

The Wannacomet Water Company turned off water service to the home back in 2014 and it has not been restored.

Both Charder and her attorney, Paul Revere (an actual descendent of the American Revolution figure Paul Revere) declined to comment on the judge’s decision. 

“We filed an appeal and the appeal speaks for itself,” Revere said. 

In their original response to the complaint, Revere and Charder told the court: “The action is nothing more than a bold attempt by the Church to bully a seventy three year old woman out of her rights in the property.”

They contend that the church was never able to establish its case by proving Charder had allowed the home to fall into disrepair with documentation of its condition when she became owner. According to their response filed with the court, Charder lived at the home from 2003 through 2017, and has been paying property taxes on the property. 

But on January 19, Judge Robert Cosgrove entered a final judgement in the case, ruling that Charder’s life estate “is terminated due to waste” and awarding all right, title, and interest in the property to the church. 

An attorney for the First Church of Christ, Scientist, did not return a phone call seeking comment. 

According to the Nantucket Preservation Trust, the two-story bungalow style home at 6 Fair Street was constructed sometime in the early 1900s by Nathaniel Lowell (the great grandfather of current Planning Board member Nat Lowell) and is considered “contributing” to Nantucket’s National Historic Landmark District.

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