No injuries in Windemere porch roof collapse; problems revealed

The porch roof detached from the side of the building and collapsed while a workman was installing a new window as part of a renovation project. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

A workman installing a window in the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital’s Windemere Nursing and Rehabilitation Center was standing on a porch roof when the roof ripped free from the siding and collapsed Wednesday morning. The workman was able to scramble through the open window aperture to safety.

As the roof fell, it broke two exterior water sprinkler heads, causing considerable water damage to two long-term care apartments and setting off a fire alarm.

“It’s a mess,” Tim Walsh, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief executive officer, told The Times in a telephone conversation Wednesday.

An examination by the Oak Bluffs building inspector and a structural engineer hired by hospital officials determined that the porch roof had not been properly connected to the Windemere building, which was constructed in 1994.

“It appears that it was never attached right,” Mr. Walsh said.

The hospital this morning closed off access to all the wrap-around porches enjoyed by residents, until the integrity of the roofs can be guaranteed.

“We were very lucky,” Mr. Walsh said. “In a way it’s a blessing. Nobody was hurt and we discovered the problem. This could have happened when somebody was sitting on a deck.”

Windemere is currently undergoing extensive renovations. In February, the hospital announced that Windemere would receive a major facelift. Together, health care giants Partners Healthcare and Mass General Hospital (MGH) have contributed $3 million to their Island subsidiary to fund a complete overhaul of the nursing home’s deteriorating wooden facade and depleted rooms and furniture.

The replacement of windows and siding is part of that facelift. Columbia, builders of the new hospital, is responsible for the project.

Ken Chisholm, Windemere administrator, said he has great confidence in Columbia.

“Everybody is safe, the workers, the residents, and we are thankful for that,” Mr. Chisholm said. “We are going to make sure that all the other porch roofs are structurally sound. Fortunately, Columbia is here and can make any immediate repairs that are necessary. We have every confidence that it will be done right.”

The wooden building that welcomed residents and a crowd of well-wishers in March 1994 has not held up well against the ravages of Island weather. Trim and window sills show obvious evidence of rot.

About four years ago, an architect brought in to examine the building presented a series of recommendations that included replacing all the windows.