Woods Hole to SSA: New terminal doesn’t fit

Residents at odds with size and style of proposed building.


It’s better suited for the mountains. It doesn’t fit in with Cape style. And it blocks the view of the body of water the village is named after.

Those comments were among the feedback, most of it negative, on a new terminal design for the Steamship Authority in Woods Hole.

“The name of the town is Woods Hole, and I don’t see it anymore,” Rebecca Truman told representatives of the Steamship Authority and the project architects, after seeing the design of a new 37-foot tall terminal building. “You’re taking away the view of Woods Hole from Woods Hole. Although the SSA will have a great view.”

Truman was not alone. At a meeting that drew about 60 people to Falmouth Public Library Tuesday night, speaker after speaker offered feedback on the new terminal design, with only two of them saying they have no issues with the proposal.

“It looks like a lovely building. For those of us in Woods Hole, it’s not lovely. It does look a little like a ski lodge in Aspen,” Nawrie Meigs-Brown of Woods Hole said. “Why do we need such an enormous waiting area here?”

SSA general manager Robert Davis told the crowd that he and the architects were gathering feedback in Falmouth — and at a separate meeting in Vineyard Haven on Wednesday from 4 to 6 pm at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse — and would consider whether any changes would be made.

But architect Chris Iwerks of BIA Studio repeatedly gave the impression the alternatives have been considered and the plan presented is the best option.

“There were compromises involved,” Iwerks told the crowd, ticking off the objectives the designers attempted to meet, such as improving pedestrian safety and traffic flow. “We couldn’t solve all the problems.”

Several speakers picked apart the design — complaining that stone siding should be replaced with shingles to fit in, and that a massive cathedral ceiling in the waiting area had too much glass.

“They weren’t even taking notes,” Perry Cappola of West Falmouth said after the nearly two-hour session.

Davis welcomed people to email him or Sean Driscoll, the Steamship spokesman.

Beth Colt, owner of several Woods Hole businesses, including the neighboring Quick’s Hole Tavern, was one of the lone bright spots for the SSA. “I just want to say in this process I was heard,” she said commending architects on the attempt to make a connection with nearby businesses and to build in a parking area for bicycles.

The design and location of the building is limited by the amount of space available, Bill Cloutier, SSA project manager, said. Cloutier appeared frustrated at times with the public comments, even waving dismissively while a speaker was making her point about wasted space on the second floor of the building. There was audible laughter when Cloutier said there had been no more than a 2 percent increase in vehicle traffic in recent years.

The building will be 100 feet from the slips, and is smack-dab in the middle of what is now the area buses traverse and the pickup/dropoff area. The temporary terminal must go because it’s in the floodplain. The SSA received a variance from the town’s building department.

The new terminal will be built 17 feet above flood level, in part by raising the grade four feet and the building floor 2½ feet, Iwerks said.

There are other buildings in Woods Hole that reach 35 feet into the air, Iwerks said.

The second floor will hold offices for the terminal manager, terminal agents, locker rooms for workers, and a training space that has perhaps the best view of Great Harbor.

Several people asked why the building could not be moved at a 90° angle so as not to block the view; another asked that the top floor be lopped off and added to a separate building on the site, and one outside-the-box idea was to design the terminal building so it would float in a storm. Others pleaded for a terminal more in keeping with the ones in Vineyard Haven, Oak Bluffs, and Hyannis.

One of the slides presented by BIA Studio showed the eclectic mix of buildings in Woods Hole, but Matthew Bumpus implored the SSA to reconsider using cedar shingles, like the buildings in close proximity to the terminal.

His wife, Catherine Bumpus, a former selectman and a frequent attendee at SSA meetings, said the administration and architects haven’t listened to past feedback.

“This view is cherished by the community, and it’s been falling on deaf ears,” she said. “This community still cherishes that view. It’s still going to be a huge problem looking at it every day.”


  1. There is a term is the design world and it fits this building: ” Architectural Masturbation ” Getting what the designers envision,,,,,,,,,,,but not what is needed !

  2. What a shame. Once again the SSA comes up with an idea that embodies the ugly, the expensive, the inappropriate, the bad design, the insult-to-the-community project. If the reporting in the article can be believed, the SSA could once again care less about input from the people it is supposed to serve. Not to mention that the Vineyard’s public comment meeting comes with relatively little advance notice and at a time when working people cannot attend.

  3. It is a silly ego driven building. If only the same amount of thought was given to the customers that the SSA was developed to serve.

  4. Oh gosh, where do I start….this proposed building is too over the top. Does the SSA really need all that space to sell tickets, and provide waiting area, rest rooms? I think not. How about purchasing or leasing a high speed passenger ferry?

    • Original cost estimates were $60 million? they could buy enough fast ferries to line up all the way across the sound. How can they not understand this? move the people faster! don’t make places for everyone to congregate!

  5. I must be getting old, my memory must be going, all those hundreds of times I departed the Ferry in Woods Hole I had to drive up a hill to get to Falmouth. A hill almost surrounds the proposed ferry terminal, being a skier I understand elevation being a frequent SSA passenger I never had a lack of a view of the terminal area or harbor when returning to Woods Hole from Falmouth. Are they building the new terminal on the hill?

  6. WILL IT EVER END?? – Only with a radical change at the top!
    I’ve always wondered why the employees get to use such $valuable $ land for parking while the customer has to take the bus? They have never offered an answer except something about the union – Maybe the Customers should form a Union?
    If NOW is not the time to remedy the situation?- when would be??
    Why would employee training need to be done at this site and not at their OTHER BRAND new building at Palmer? If it wasn’t planned for there , then my concerns are even elevated.

    Maybe the “temporary” building could be used for staff locker rooms if moved to Palmer!

    The entire culture of the SSA is in need of serious review and change.
    And it needs to start at the top- I seriously question if any of the Board members would design and pay$$$ with their money – for such a building that effectively met so few of the truly well thought out requirements?

    Where is the required Vision to successfully manage a $100,000,000 ?

    • You’ve bracketed the problem. The failure does start at the top in that there is no “line (or deck) officer” running a boating operation, but rather an office dude.

  7. Looks like they forgot the first rule of dealing with the locals.Nothing must ever change or be different and any plan put forth is inadequate.

    • Hey! I resemble that remark. 🙂
      If the opinion was from east of nowhere would it be more valid?

  8. Have you lost your MINDS?????

    This is completely I N S A N E .
    Completely inappropriate.
    Absolutely WRONG.

    Stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
    Steamship Authority: There is something VERY WRONG with you.

  9. Wow! Can’t imagine a more “unfitting” design for Woods Hole!
    Then again, when did the SSA ever care to listen to ANYONE?
    With the worst service record in their history, they PRAISED Bob Davis! Praised for what?…….nobody dying?
    Authorities in this state are a stale, unfortunate joke.

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