Consultant says Stop & Shop should preserve old house

The view from the back of the house on Cromwell Lane that is the focus of MVC concern. — Photo courtesy of MVC

Stop & Shop has hit the first hurdle in its plans to dramatically reconstruct and expand its nondescript Water Street, Vineyard Haven, market.

A report by consultants hired by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) concluded that a house tucked in behind the supermarket at 15 Cromwell Lane, a small dirt road that runs between the Mansion House parking lot and the back of the Stop and Shop, is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. If state officials agree, the supermarket company may have to consider options that include preserving the house where it is, or moving it to another location nearby or off-site.

The Stop & Shop Supermarket Company purchased the house in February 2012. That followed an earlier purchase of the adjacent property and building that formerly housed the Golden Dragon Restaurant.

In February, the Stop and Shop announced plans to utilize its expanded property to construct a new, modern 28,000 square-foot, two-story market with 43 parking spaces on the ground level, below an upstairs retail area.

MVC staff raised the question of the house’s historical significance in preliminary discussions with Stop & Shop representatives and the MVC’s land use planning committee (LUPC) in preparation for MVC review of the company’s building project as a development of regional impact (DRI).

Stop & Shop agreed to an MVC staff’s recommendation for a historical analysis. MVC executive director Mark London selected the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL) to complete a Massachusetts Historic Commission (MHC) inventory.

The consultants said the building, known as the Caleb Prouty House, was likely constructed between 1844 and 1851, based on deeds, but that more research would be needed to determine the original construction date. They recommended that the house be listed in the National Register of Historic Places at the local level of significance. Their report also concluded that the property is archaeologically sensitive and that if any ground-disturbing activities are proposed for the site, the MVC consult with the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) regarding an archaeological survey.

“The MVC has forwarded the report to the Massachusetts Historical Commission and we expect to hear back from them in a week to 10 days to see whether they concur or not with the analysis,” Mr. London said on Wednesday. “What happens then will be up to the commission and up to Stop & Shop.”

Mr London said he prepared a draft memo that outlines the options, which include preserving the house where it is, moving it to another location on the property to minimize the impact on the new development, move it off-site, or possibly allowing its demolition.

MHC’s opinion about whether a house or building should be historically preserved is not legally binding unless a project is benefiting from state or federal funds, Mr. London said. However, the commission could include one of the options for preserving the Caleb Prouty House as a condition of the DRI permit.

Mr. London said a public hearing on the Stop & Shop project would likely be scheduled in mid-May. “We’re trying to work with the applicant collaboratively to deal with as many issues as we can before we start the formal process,” he said.