WEST NEWBURY — The Board of Selectmen is contemplating whether the Park and Recreation Building may have served its useful life.
In recent years the space has been used for meetings of non-municipal groups in town, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, as well as to store equipment for local sports teams and to house an antennae for a local short wave radio club. Currently contractors working on a renovation project for the Page Elementary School are utilizing the space as an onsite base during their workday.
Public Works Department Director Gary Bill told the board this week that the building, which is located near the elementary school on Pipestave Hill, is in serious disrepair with a leaking roof. His recommendation is to demolish it.
Selectmen Chairman Bert Knowles, Jr., noted that the building was originally used as a kitchen and food processing facility by Boyhaven orphanage. Given the site’s historical status, he wondered if any decision to demolish the building would require approval from the local historical board. Town Counsel Michael McCarron said a letter to the state Historical Commission stating the board’s intention should be enough.
When reached after the meeting Jane Wild, chairwoman of West Newbury’s Historical Commission said her board had concluded “the Cow Barn, the apartment building and the dam at Mill Pond fell under that umbrella as original buildings or structures on the working farm there before the Archdiocese bought it. In my opinion that does not include the Park and Rec Building.”
In 2010 the Massachusetts Historical Commission deemed the Page School property as historically significant. In its letter of determination the state commission wrote, “The property has a complex history that began when it was known as Pipestave Hill, owned in the late 18th century by the Dalton family. In 1795, Joseph Stanwood of Newburyport built a mansion house here. After a series of owners, the property by the early 20th century belonged to William Rogers. In 1925, the Brothers of Charity, a Catholic organization of religious brothers that had founded an orphanage in Boston’s North End in 1851, bought it. In 1947, the Brothers’ orphanage in Jamaica Plain was combined with the West Newbury facility to become Boyhaven, serving more than 200 orphan boys. The orphanage provided boys with shelter, a Catholic education and vocational skills. In 1963, ownership of the orphanage was transferred to the Boston Archdiocese, and Cardinal Cushing Academy, a college preparatory school, opened here. Closed in 1972, it was purchased by the town and in 1974 reopened as the Page Elementary School, which remains the town of West Newbury’s only elementary school.”