Crew demolishing fire-damaged Newburyport home

DAVE ROGERS/Staff photoWorkers tear down the charred remains of an attached home on High Street in Newburyport.

NEWBURYPORT –  When a fire ravaged a mid-19th century home on High Street in January, it was unknown whether the building could be saved. The answer came Wednesday morning when a yellow crane began tearing down the attached house at 155 High St. 

The final pieces of the building are expected to be carted away by Friday morning, according to Building Inspector Bob Armstrong, who said the city's building commissioner, Peter Binette, issued the demolition permit April 29. 

Despite the presence of heavy machinery and a large dump truck, traffic flowed regularly on one of the city's busiest streets with a police detail there to assist.

Armstrong said tearing down a building attached to others presented a challenge for the demolition company but workers did a great job not only taking down the house but protecting adjacent 157 High St.

On Jan. 14, an industrial accident sparked the fire that threatened to consume not only 155 High St., owned by Jeremy Cole Healey, but an entire row of 18th and 19th century attached homes and commercial buildings.

More than 100 firefighters from across the region fought the fire and saved the other structures from the same fate. The adjacent house at 157 High, however, remains uninhabitable, according to Armstrong. 

Following the fire, quickly determined to have been caused by a plumber's blowtorch, Newburyport fire officials said the fate of 155 High St. was up in the air.

"It's pretty close to a total loss," Deputy Fire Chief Steve Bradbury said at the time.

While tearing apart 155 Main St., the same crew was shoring up 157 High with plywood until renovations begin there. Next door, 159 High St., which is closest to nearby Route 1, sustained smoke damage. 

The house was built in 1850 and last assessed at $457,000, according to city assessor records.

Healey obtained permission from the city Zoning Board of Appeals last year to convert an unfinished attic into livable space for his family, according to city records.

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

Editor's note: This story corrects the streets address which was wrong in an earlier version.

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