MVC to review historic home

The historic home that looks out on Edgartown Harbor was built in 1916. — Martha's Vineyard Commission

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission will review the proposed demolition of a colonial-style home on Katama Road.

The historic structure, located at 189 Katama Road in Edgartown, is a 2½-story, 8,000-square-foot home built in 1916 that sits on Edgartown Harbor. Owners Stephen and Ellie Wise propose demolishing the structure to rebuild a new home in a style “consistent with other houses on Edgartown Harbor,” according to the commission’s staff report.

Due to being over 100 years old, the demolition triggered an automatic concurrence review by the commission. MVC staff scored the house as 8 out of 13, or not historically significant, on its matrix scoring for DRI demolition review.

While not part of the town’s historic district, the town’s historic district commission wrote a letter to the MVC detailing the historic nature of the home. 

“It is viewed by this commission as a historically relevant property that sits in a commanding location on the harbor,” the letter reads in part. “The house, built in 1916, was part of one of the first land grants of the 1600s. The building contractor, William W. King, left his name and the date in the concrete foundation of the dining room chimney. This property remained in the original owner’s’ family for 104 years.”

A presentation of the home’s current condition showed well-preserved areas of the original construction intact, such as windows, doors, maple flooring, wainscotting, and some intricate plaster molding. Other photos showed extensive water damage, mold, and warped flooring. The Wises also stated in a letter to the commission there are issues with long-term leaks, asbestos, lead paint, no heat or AC, and one shower for nine bedrooms. 

The Wises wrote they do not plan to restore the home.

“We believe investing our time and money in a new structure, one that will benefit the town and the harbor economically and aesthetically, is the best option,” the letter states. “The new home will provide energy efficiency that cannot be achieved with a renovation, and will surpass the goals of current building codes.”

The commission voted to make the demolition proposal a full DRI review. The final vote was 10-3, with commissioners Josh Goldstein, Brian Packish, and Ted Rosbeck voting to not have a full DRI review.


  1. I propose that the house be moved. Offer it to anyone who can show that they have a lot of land and can restore the house. If it can’t be moved then they should be told no. This should be the protocol when anyone requests to demolish a house. We should not be destroying houses, historical or not. The housing shortage is too critical here not to mention we don’t need all of these houses going to the dump. #awasteofaperfectlygoodhouse

  2. This home adds character to the harbor and is a breath of fresh air from all the stale Gambrell style homes that have polluted the landscape. The harbor landscape does not need another monstrosity and this home and vista should be saved.

    • If you don’t want gambrel style architecture, stay away from Patrick Ahearn. 90 percent of what he does is just some bastardized version of a gambrel

  3. This 100 year rule is stupid. It means every year new houses could be added. Each town should simply send in a list of homes they want protected, age only being one criteria.

  4. It would seem that anyone with the financial means to have purchased this beauty and to be able to rebuild new, would have the means to restore!
    We need to stop allowing our history to be taken to the landfill!

  5. Please don’t allow this home to be destroyed. Little by little the character of the island is being lost. So very sad.

  6. I propose we allow the owners to do what makes sense rather than insisting they “preserve” a home that is in extreme disrepair. Building energy efficient homes is vital for our environment. The current home, while old, was NOT deemed historic. The entire third story (1/3 of the home) was added in the 1980s. In my opinion, the top floor windows and dormers completely change the character of the original home. Perhaps rather than assume a “Gambrell style”“monstrosity” will be built, we should allow them to propose a new energy efficient home that would need to pass the proper commissions regardless.

    • Why would anyone assume it will be a “gambrel style monstrosity”? Because, we’ve seen the same well known architect do this again, and again, and again and again……

  7. I’m curious as to what makes this home historic other then it being old. Did something important happen there? Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s historic. Sometimes old is just old.

      • I’m sure it does,but architectural details can be copied. I do it pretty much every day. Why is the house historic? It’s not old enough to have been a secret meeting spot leading up to the Revolutionary War. Or a stop on the underground railroad. Unless something along those lines happened in that house, it’s not a truly historic house. It’s just old.

        • Being historical should not be the only reason to save a house. It should be about what kind of shape the house is in. Can it be moved to provide housing? If it can every effort should be made to allow someone to move it.

  8. For the MVC to be involved in this is dumb. The owners have every right to not live in an unsafe house and build a new one. Do people want to owners to sit in a house that is degrading just to preserve some romantic vaguery of history?

  9. Andrew– a rare moment , but I agree with you.
    I hope they allow some time for salvage. Those maple floors, for instance.
    My experience is that flooring is pretty easy to take up, de-nail and use again.

  10. Those who want to control other people’s property, please consider: what if *your* home is impaired by an arbitrary committee? This home is not in the historic district. The cracking walls make it significant? If this justification can be used, who knows how far they will expand their purview. This committee has immense power, so we need to weild it carefully

  11. This house has been in disrepair and not invested in for many years. The wonderful lady who owned it had to build another house next door so she could have a usable place to live. It was owned by a wonderful family and now owned by another wonderful family.
    They will take care of the property and the old house with it’s current mold, leaking roof, cracked walls and trim and windows and doors that partially work
    Let’s be kind, and give the new owners a chance to figure out how to repair this house

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