Giving an old house a cutting-edge extension

Giving an old house a cutting-edge extension

A New England practice blends a restored 233-year-old farmhouse with a new facility that offers all the perks of the 21st century. The next chapter for both the historic home and the practice team: Growth
Nov 01, 2004

A look at the numbers
Combining history with innovation is a hallmark of New England. And Gardner Animal Care Center pays homage to that tradition by building its modern, high-tech veterinary hospital adjacent to a 233-year-old restored Massachusetts farmhouse.

It wasn't easy for practice owner Dr. Michael McTigue to blend what's possibly the oldest home in Gardner, Mass., with a modern animal care facility. The team tackled the building as a three-part process: developing the new 7,848-square-foot veterinary facility in 2000, adding boarding in 2001, and completing the renovation of the 1,840-square-foot historical home in 2003.

Joining the modern with the treasured: Dr. McTigue says the TV show, This Old House, was interested in his unique project, but unfortunately Gardner was too far away from the show's operating base out of Boston.
The result is a building that he says offers "endless possibilities to improve and grow." The icing on the cake: The design won a merit award in the 2004 Veterinary Economics Hospital Design Competition.

Zoning woes "Although I'm thrilled with the result," says Dr. McTigue, "had I known how difficult it would be, I might have reconsidered." He searched for land for more than two years. When he finally found a site he liked, it was in a district that was zoned only for private residences. But the threat of other buyers interested in the property and the lack of other viable options forced him to purchase the $235,000 property before obtaining a building permit.

Lower Level
To convince the necessary boards—including the local planning, health, and conservation boards, among others—to allow a veterinary practice on the site, Dr. McTigue hired a team to design and present the plans. "We had a veterinary architect, a project manager who was a permit specialist, a general contractor, and an engineer working on the design, and they put together a book that explained what we were planning to do and why we should be allowed to proceed," he says.

Although the various groups liked the plan, they couldn't approve it because there was no legal precedent for allowing a business in a protected watershed area. So the doctor and his team told the boards that if he couldn't use his property for a veterinary hospital, he'd divide the nine acres of prime real estate and build a subdivision of seven houses. "They had to ask themselves which is better for watershed protection, one veterinary hospital or seven houses. They actually got a kick out of that," he says. Finally, the boards had cause to approve the building of Gardner Animal Care Center.