Harborside ‘fish house’ demolished

Warehouse at RM Packer terminal a vestige from when Vineyard Haven was the third biggest fishing port in Massachusetts.


An iconic, but deteriorated “fish house” on the Vineyard Haven waterfront was razed Saturday.

Tisbury selectmen ordered its demolition last week on the recommendation of building inspector Ken Barwick, but made it enforceable only if Ralph Packer, the building’s owner, didn’t keep his word about taking the building down.

The wood and steel building dated from the 1970s, according to Packer, and was a fish storage and processing facility. Behind New Bedford and Gloucester, Packer told the selectmen, Vineyard Haven was once the third biggest fishing port in the state.

With the decline in the fishing industry and no new occupant for the building, it fell into disrepair to the point that Barwick declared it a hazard.

In three recent storms, the building has “really been damaged,” Packer said.

On Saturday, with a hawser line secured around its steel frame to prevent a collapse into the harbor, it took an excavator most of the day to rip down the building and transfer it in chunks onto an adjacent barge.

“When you go to church Sunday, it will be gone,” Packer told selectmen Thursday. He kept that promise.

Reached by telephone on Monday morning, Packer confirmed the remains of the building were taken to New Bedford on Sunday.

The same morning, an excavator could be seen tidying up the site.

Packer told The Times he hopes to eventually erect a new building on the footprint of the old one. The new structure would house equipment for his expanding barge business.

At Thursday’s meeting, selectmen said what happens next with the property is out of the board’s purview.

“I am willing to assist Mr. Packer any way I can to get it removed and prepared for the next structure, whatever that is,” Barwick said during that meeting.

George Brennan contributed to this report.