Martha’s Vineyard Hospital buys Admiral Benbow Inn

The purchase is part of an ongoing effort to create housing for hospital employees.

The Martha's Vineyard Hospital has purchased the Admiral Benbow Inn for office space and housing. – Photo by Sam Moore

The Martha’s Vineyard Hospital has purchased the Admiral Benbow Inn, a seven-room bed and breakfast on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs, for $1.375 million. The Victorian-style inn will be used for housing and administrative offices.

In a conversation with The Times on Tuesday, Tim Walsh, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital chief executive officer, said, “It’s really all about housing.”

Mr. Walsh said the hospital currently spends approximately $1.4 million to rent housing for hospital staff throughout the down-Island towns. The hospital also has working partnerships with Massachusetts General Hospital, which staffs an oncology program, and provides anesthesiologists who rotate short-term between Boston and the Island.

“We have a lot of people coming and going year-round,” Mr. Walsh said.

The largest transition occurs during the summer months, when the hospital takes on between 70 and 80 additional staff, which includes doctors, nurses, and technicians.

“It is almost like two different hospitals,” Mr. Walsh said. “We are a small rural hospital in the winter and a fairly decent-sized community hospital in the summer.”

Mr. Walsh said that the inn purchase will help alleviate part of its housing needs, and also lessen the impact the hospital has on the Island’s overall housing inventory.

The plan is to move the development office out of a three-bedroom house located on Windemere Road, a spur road that runs past the emergency room.

There will not be any structural changes to either the interior or exterior of the Admiral Benbow Inn, other than a possible handicap ramp at the rear entrance, according to attorney Sean Murphy, who represented the hospital at the Jan. 14 site-plan review with the Oak Bluffs Planning Board (OBPB).

The OBPB approved the change-in-use permit in a unanimous 5-0 vote on Jan. 14, conditional on the installation of a sprinkler system.

According to the site plan presented to the OBPB, the first-floor living room of the inn will become a reception area, and the existing dining room will become a conference room. The three employees in the hospital development office will also occupy the first floor. The five guest rooms on the second floor and the apartment on the third floor will house hospital employees and remain as they are. The kitchen will remain and be shared by office and tenants.

The hospital previously tried to purchase the Thorncroft Inn on Upper Main Street in Vineyard Haven to help fill its need for employee housing. That deal fell through when time ran out on an agreement contingent on town approval of a special permit that would allow a change in the existing nonconforming use as an inn to “accommodations for visiting medical professionals.”