NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 22, 2013

Troubled bar or historic hotel?

Preservationists say Beverly building should be saved

BEVERLY — To most people, it will always be known as the Press Box, a former bar and rooming house so notorious for trouble there was a metal detector at the door.

To historic preservationists, it’s the stately Hotel Trafton, one of the last remaining landmarks of the “high iron” era when the railroad first came to town.

However it is viewed, the building at 9 Park St. is slated for demolition. Its owner, Windover Construction, plans to knock it down to build apartments and shops.

The company has applied for a demolition permit from the Beverly Historic District Commission, which has scheduled a public hearing for Jan. 31.

The commission has the authority to delay the demolition for up to a year if it considers the building historically significant. But after that, Windover would be free to proceed with its plans.

That, local preservationists say, would be a big mistake.

“People will always remember the Press Box, but this building is a lot more than that,” said Matt Pujo, a former Beverly Historical Society volunteer.

The building is a former railroad hotel, a term used to describe the hotels that sprung up near train depots as the railroad expanded across the country in the 19th century.

The Trafton was a smaller version of the big resort hotels in Maine and New Hampshire, like Wentworth-by-the-Sea, that were built in the same era when train was the major mode of transportation.

“They were the forerunner of hotels that surround airports now,” said Stephen Hall, the former executive director of the Beverly Historical Society. “They were providing short-term places for people to live who were visiting the area on business or staying for the summer.”

The Trafton opened in 1886 under the ownership of Darling Trafton, a native of Maine who bought the building in 1884 when it was a house and store.

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