Hope For Saving the Pink House

Tuesday November 28, 2023

Pink House 1

NEWBURY — The standing room only crowd of supporters for the Pink House who gathered last week at Pita Hall were given some reason not to abandon hope that the iconic house might be saved.
“It’s not over yet,” said Matt Hillman, manager of the Parker River Refugee, who is the decision maker on whether to demolish the Pink House.
Hillman announced on Nov. 1 that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (F&WS), which owns the Pink House, would demolish the vacant house on the edge of the salt marsh on the Plum Island Turnpike after a 30-day public comment period ends Nov. 30.
The plan is to build a parking lot and platform for viewing the marsh on the 9.2 acres where the Pink House stands. The Pink House ranks as one of the most painted and photographed buildings in New England.
When asked by a supporter how he slept at night after announcing the Pink House would be torn down, Hillman said he sleeps fine.
The F&WS has been working for eight years to find a solution. “I have poured my heart and soul into finding a solution for the Pink House. I have exhausted every option,” he said.
Several of the Pink House supporters disagreed.
At a meeting called by state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, whose district includes the Pink House, Craig Pessina, a local businessman, announced publicly for the first time that he is willing to finance the saving of the Pink House, if a deal can be worked out, and restore the house.
Pessina has been working with the Supporters of the Pink House (STPH), a volunteer group, to identify suitable land he could purchase and trade for the Pink House. The deal has not progressed because no tract of land, valued at close to $500,000 has been identified.
The F&WS bought the Pink House for $375,000 in 2011.
The terms of a trade for the Pink House are complicated under federal law. The land to be traded must be salt marsh or upland acreage, one mile from an existing National Refuge and be valued at almost half a million dollars.
Eric Rosenthal, a Plum Island resident, challenged Hillman’s claim that the F&WS could not own and preserve the Pink House. His research of the F&WS mission found that it includes protecting historically significant buildings, he said.
Specifically, the F&WS owns and preserves the North Light House on Thatcher Island off Cape Ann.
The Pink House, which was built a century ago for the wife and son by a disgruntled mother-in-law, may not be historically significant, but it has cultural significance. “It is part of our history,” said one supporter.
Another hopeful sign for saving the Pink House came from Salisbury selectmen who said they would be willing to consider trading marsh land the town owns across the Merrimack River for the Pink House.
And it was suggested that the F&WS could lease the Pink House on a short-term basis to an entity that would restore it.
When Hillman was asked to give the STPH and the government officials more time to save the iconic house, he said the decision to demolish the house might take until next spring or summer to review all of the comments from the public.
The F&WS has proposed demolishing the Pink House because it requires significant maintenance at a time when the F&WS has declining financial resources. Hillman said the Pink House is increasingly “a safety hazard.”
STPH leader Rochelle Joseph disputed that claim. While acknowledging that the house could be better maintained, she said independent contractors who have inspected the house have found it in good condition.
The meeting was well attended by local and state officials, including state Rep. Kristin Kassner, D-Beverly. State Rep. Dawyne Shane, D-Newburyport, did not attend. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, and other member of the congressional delegation were criticized for not attending the meeting or sending staff.
When asked if Congress could pass a law preserving the Pink House, Hillman said that was beyond the scope of his authority.
To read a letter from refuge management on the Pink House, see its plans for the acreage and to submit a comment regarding the Pink House to the F&WS before Nov. 30, visit www.fws.gov/refuge/parker-river

Subscribe To Receive Our Newspaper Every Wednesday Morning FREE

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and newspaper within your emails.

You have Successfully Subscribed!