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July 29, 2013

Plum Island landmark to be torn down

NEWBURYPORT — The last surviving “old hotel” at Plum Island Point will be torn down following the approval of a demolition permit voted last week by the Historical Commission.

The Oliver House at 245 Northern Blvd. will be taken down for safety reasons, city officials say.

The empty structure is visibly sagging on the outside and apparently collapsing on the inside.

“We’re not happy about approving a demolition,” said Linda Smiley, who chairs the commission. “It’s a piece of history, and we voted reluctantly.

“The owners looked into how it could be saved and preserved, but it just wasn’t feasible. The weather on the island is tough, and even from the street it’s clear that there are major problems with the structure.”

The property is owned by Kevin and Deborah Raftery of Newburyport, who purchased it in 2008, according to the municipal assessor’s office. They did not returns calls requesting comment.

Historical Commission members said they do not know when removal will take place.

The Oliver House opened about 1900 as a guesthouse and hotel, but has been empty for several decades. It represents the last “old hotel” on the island, which had numerous overnight venues a century ago.

Local historians say Oliver House was built in Salisbury and transported by barge across the Merrimack River. Among its notable visitors was Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion (1908-1915).

Owners until recently were trying to sell the property. Indeed, a “for sale” sign still stands in the front yard. It was hoped that it could be restored.

Square footage of the 13-room hotel is 3,298. Cost price for the total package was $999,000, according to the website of the listing agency, but no buyers came forth to acquire the wooden structure.

Vote on granting a demolition permit was 6-0, a unanimous sentiment since there is currently one vacancy on the panel.

Members of the Historical Commission include Smiley, Margaret Welch, Ned McGrath, Bill Todd, Stephen Dodge and Sarah White.

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