Tisbury fire deemed ‘unintentional,’ cause ‘undetermined’

The remains of the demolished home are now behind a chainlink fence. — Rich Saltzberg

The origin of a Feb. 7 fire that engulfed a 19th century Tisbury home commonly known as the Hackney House is “undetermined,” according to Tisbury Fire Chief Greg Leland. The only thing Chief Leland thought might shed new light on the cause is a finding by the insurer of the house.

“As far as we’re concerned, the investigation is closed pending anything they find,” Chief Leland said.

Chief Leland said one thing the Tisbury Fire Department did conclude is that the fire was “unintentional.”

The insurer doesn’t appear to have inspected the remains of the house yet, Chief Leland said. The site is now secured behind a chain-link fence, he said. 

Tisbury, Edgartown, and Oak Bluffs firefighters fought the fire for hours before a decision was made to raze the house. Video shot by former Oak Bluffs firefighter Rob Gatchell shows the house was still alight in places as an excavator began to claw into the structure. Chief Leland previously told The Times the house was demolished because it was in danger of collapse. Leland had previously said that due to its stubbornness, the fire inside the house couldn’t be completely extinguished without tearing the structure apart. 

Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer said the response provided a good example of Island fire departments working together. He concurred the fire was stubborn, noting it was “pretty well rooted in some of the heavier timbers.” 

The Hackney House was one of three houses moved by William Barry Owen in 1907 to provide space for Owen Park, Bow Van Riper, a historian with the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, previously told The Times. Van Riper noted the house appears in James Norton’s “Walking in Vineyard Haven.” in which it was considered “a good example of the three-bay Quaker-style architecture of the period.”

When the house was later owned by the Hackney family, among the notable people to dine and socialize inside it were Sec. Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton in the early 1990s. 


  1. “Edgartown Fire Chief Alex Schaeffer said the response provided a good example of Island fire departments working together.”
    Congratulations to our island fire departments for working together so cooperatively. Now, would it trouble the Oak Bluffs, Edgartown, West Tisbury, Chilmark and Aquinnah Police Departments to assist the negligent Tisbury Dept in locating the still missing Glock they unleashed into the public realm?

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