Inside the Pink House

Tuesday February 06, 2024

Pink House Interior

PLUM ISLAND TURNPIKE — Driving to Plum Island, it is not unusual to wonder what the iconic Pink House, empty and alone on the edge of the Newbury Salt Marsh, looks like inside.
Speculation about the Pink House among its many supporters has always been rampant, but has become even more intense since its owner, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has threatened to demolish it.
Sandy Tilton, a board member of the Support the Pink House group, and Bill Barrett, a local contractor, are among a handful of people alive today who have seen inside the house.
Tilton, who posts photos on the group’s web site under the title “History or Mystery,” walked through the house and shot photographs four years ago. She said walking through the small house stirred her imagination its origins and about the people who lived there since it was built in 1925.
With just more than 2,000 square feet, the Pink House has nine rooms, including three bedrooms and one and a half bath. The half bath is on the second floor. The cupola is accessible from a staircase through a hatch to the attic.
Barrett, who may have been in the house more than any non-government employee since the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service bought it, found the house as recently as 2022 to be on solid footing and foundation and in great condition structurally. He found some water in the basement, which is not surprising since it sits next to a marsh and could be removed with a sump pump, he said.
There is a “minor” amount of asbestos and mold, which could be removed, he said.
The house needs a new roof and the front porch should be leveled. “In my opinion someone who is renovating this house would be installing all new doors and windows as well as replacing the siding and trim boards,” Barrett wrote.
What Tilton remembers best about walking through the house are the views. Each bedroom has windows looking out on the marsh. And the cupola at the top of a staircase offers spectacular views from two windows on each side, Tilton said.
One enters the house through an enclosed porch. The living room has a fireplace and a pass-through beside the fireplace to the kitchen and dining room.
Under the stairway is a closet that Tllton imagines once contained board games. She is certain members of the family sat on the blue painted floor of the cupola and played Parcheesi.
The Fish and Wildlife personnel have done minor repairs to the window openings and the one roof leak we detected, Barrett said. “At our suggestion they have also cleared out the brush and shrubbery that had grown up around the building.”
A lot more could have been done to keep the almost 100-year-old house in better condition, Barrett said.
“The building is worth saving given its current condition and the fact that it is a historic and iconic symbol for the Plum Island area. It is a viable structure that can easily be restored to its past glory,” Barrett said.
Tilton, who has done much of the historic research on the home, is equally fascinated with the people who bought, built and lived in the Pink House.
Gertrude Cutter, who owned a home on High Street across from Newburyport High School and ran a tavern with her husband on Inn Street, bought the land from Abbie Little. Tilton marvels that a century ago, these two women struck a deal to build the much-admired house.
The legend that the Pink House was built out of spite appears to be have stemmed from Cutter’s dislike of the woman, Ruth Morin, whom her son married and moved in the house. Largely because of Harry’s profession as a traveling shoe salesman, Ruth and her son, George Jr., often had to rely on Plum Island neighbors for food and transportation into town.
The couple divorced and moved out of the house in a matter of months.
The house was sold in 1947. It passed through several owners and then in 1955 to William and Julia DeHart, who enjoyed entertaining friends in the Pink House.
The Stott family purchased the house and lived longest in it, selling it to the Fish & Wildlife Service in 2011.
Tilton said the residents of the Pink House were noteworthy members of the community. “They were a part of us,” she said.

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