Botched Mill House process irks MVC

Commission to look at options for recourse after historic home is torn down.


Members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission were visibly irked Thursday after a historic Vineyard Haven building known as the Mill House was demolished without first being reviewed by the commission.

Executive director Adam Turner explained the historic home, parts of which date back to 1750, was demolished before the MVC could review it.

“There were no demolition permits, from what I understand,” Turner said. “The building was simply demolished.”

Turner said he instructed Tisbury building inspector Ken Barwick to bring the project to the commission before any demolition was done. Once Turner learned the building had been torn down, he reached out to Barwick, who said he didn’t give out a permit for demolition, but the town building permit, issued in November, allows for interior demolition.

“This is a major deal. This is an historic house; Revolutionary War activities happened in this location, and then somebody went around our regulations to demolish it and made sure there was nothing we would be able to do about it,” Turner said. “It’s pretty distressing.”

Work going on at the site Friday, with excavators loading material into a dump truck and a small Bobcat doing site work, was on different lots owned by Lise Revers, but are not part of the Mill House, Barwick said after going to the site Friday afternoon. He said the lot where the Mill House is located is chained off.

Both the builder, Peter Rosbeck, and Revers have been sent a letter telling them to stop all activity at the site. “I told them anything they do, they do at their own risk,” Barwick said. “I suggested they move their equipment off the property.”

Meanwhile, at Thursday’s meeting, commission officials pointed out this isn’t the first time they’ve been left out of the loop.

“This was an important building. It’s in an area — it’s right down the street from Santander — where this continues to happen,” Turner said, referring to the Boston-based bank that removed tiles dating back to 1905 from a historic building on Main Street, and was ordered to replace them.

The commission did not know what recourse to take. Turner said he will contact the MVC’s attorneys to explore options going forward.

“We’ll find out what our options are to remedy it, we’ll find out how it happened, and we’ll deal with it, and nothing will happen out there until we deal with it,” chairman Doug Sederholm said.

Commissioner Gail Barmakian asked who was responsible for the demolition, if it was the owner or the builder who also demolished it.

“They’re all responsible,” commissioner Jim Vercruysse said.

George Brennan contributed to this report.


  1. What realistically is the remedy? Probably limited to a large fine. Likely would be a rounding error relative to the cost of the whole project.

    • Very true. They should revoke or suspend the contractor’s license. The fact that any competent GC on this island is going to act like they don’t know about historical commissions is abhorrent

  2. It was always one of my favorite houses on the Island, hopefully the situation can be settled to everyone’s satisfaction and a beautiful house will rise!

  3. I smell a skunk. Looking at the real estate listings it dont look like it was falling down. What a shame.

  4. Is it just me or does anyone else find it strange that the contractor Peter Rosbeck hasn’t been reached for comment. Seems to me, if I were his client, I would want him to speak out

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