MVC reviews another historic demolition

The Beecher Park home proposed for demolition in Oak Bluffs. The owners want to build a similar home in its place. — Courtesy MVC

The Martha’s Vineyard Commission closed the public hearing on a historic demolition proposal at 9 Beecher Park in Oak Bluffs.

The project proposes to demolish the existing 2,029-square-foot, six-bedroom home and construct a 3,593-square-foot, four-bedroom home in its place. The existing garage would also be replaced with a new one that has a second-floor office. The new building is intended to be the year-round residence of the Callahan family.

The existing home was built in 1877 in the Campground style, with many additions made over the years. The building is listed on the Massachusetts Cultural Resource Information System (MACRIS). According to MACRIS, the building is a “significant as part of the Vineyard Highlands, an area laid out in 1869 as an alternative to the Wesleyan Grove Campground by a group of Camp Meeting Association directors fearful of the encroachments by the Oak Bluffs Land and Wharf Co. on Wesleyan Grove. The area includes the highest land in the resort, overlooking Lake Anthony [Oak Bluffs Harbor] and the Vineyard Sound [Nantucket Sound], and is closely identified with the Baptist Camp Meeting, which met there beginning in 1875.”

“We bought in the neighborhood because we like the neighborhood. We want to build back in kind. We want to use as much of the existing house as we can. We’re not trying to change the neighborhood,” William Callahan, one of the owners, said.

Barbara Baskin, a member of the Oak Bluffs historic commission, told commissioners she personally restored a Campground house as her year-round residence. 

“To take this thing down makes me very nervous. It’s setting a precedent that I think you all need to think about carefully, because it’s going to keep happening. These houses are old, they’re weak, but there are ways to make them strong again, as opposed to losing them entirely,” Baskin said. “Once they’re gone, they’re gone.”

In other business, the commission once again continued the written decision for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School athletic fields to alter language written by commission staff in the drafted written decision.

Citing a desire to respect each commissioner’s opinion, commissioner Ted Rosbeck motioned to have commission staff revise language in the decision.

“I’m trying to say on each one of these, don’t use those words ‘The commission finds this is a detriment, a slight detriment, a slight benefit,’” Rosbeck said. 

Commissioner Douglas Sederholm said the bolded benefits and detriments in the written decision would stay as is, but the language underneath them would be revised. “I think we need to go back and check them all,” Rosbeck said.

Commissioners voted 10-3 to have staff revise the language.

The commission made quick work of a modification review for Big Sky Tents and the written decision for Star Propane.

Big Sky was approved to add three new storage units to its property. Star Propane was approved to add a 30,000-gallon propane tank, for a total of 80,000 gallons, to be stored onsite with 110 gallons of methanol at its property in the Airport Business Park.


  1. If someone wants to preserve a house they should buy it. The Callahan Family will improve , the neighborhood OB and the island. Let them!

  2. Beyond sad that people buy a historic house and then immediately want to demolish it! Disgraceful! They say they don’t want to change the neighborhood but yet apply to nearly double the square footage and add second stories to single story garages. We need to tell these people, “No, not allowed”! They are totally changing the character of the island and wasting ancient hardwoods (that actually last longer then new wood!). We must stand up to these destructive folks! Go buy a new house somewhere if that’s what you want! Stop destroying our island history. Makes me sick!

    • As I’ve said before, old does not mean historic. Architectural detail is not historic. It can very easily be replicated. What important happened in this house?
      As for the other stuff, if you don’t like the direction the island is heading, move. After 40 years here, that’s what I’m in the process of doing.

    • Counter point – these people just paid 1.4m for this property. Maybe they should be permitted to enhance it.

  3. Biden’s wasteful infrastructure spending should be used to tear down these rickety old rodent infested hovels and replace them with clean modern steel reinforced low to mid-rise condos. Properly inspected and maintained this type of construction can for decades……

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