West Harwich Residents Want to Save Holy Trinity Home from Demolition

WEST HARWICH – Residents in West Harwich are expressing concerns with a plan by the Fall River Diocese and Holy Trinity Church to demolish an unused century-old house on the property.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Fall River, Edgar da Cunha, filed a notice of intent seeking to demolish the Victorian style home located next to the church. The structure was built in 1914.

Joseph Nolan, a volunteer with the church and resident of West Harwich, recently described the deficiencies of the former rectory and thrift shop before the historic district and historical commission on behalf of the church.

“This structure is a tired structure,” Nolan said. “It’s in need of some upgrades to say the least.”

Nolan said there is cracking in the beams making it structurally unsound.

The septic system is no longer in use and would need to be replaced.

Nolan also said there is major termite damage and other pest issues in the basement.

“It was decided that this structure would be better off if it was removed,” Nolan said.

The plan by the church would include planting grass after tearing the building down.

“There is no intention of putting up any other structure,” Nolan said. “There is no intention to pave this lot. It is strictly going to be removed and grass would be placed there.”

The structure has not been used for the last five years. It was last utilized as a thrift shop, which was moved to the other side of Route 28 and relocated to a former Catholic school site.

Commission member Robert Doane said the core portion of the home is a significant architectural piece and is a gothic revival of the Victorian period, and asked Nolan if there was any effort to have the main structure moved or relocated.

Nolan said the church would sell the building for $1 to anyone or any organization who is willing to move it off the church property.

“I don’t think it would be able to make the trip structurally. I think it would have some serious challenges,” Nolan said. “I am not an engineer, and strictly a volunteer, but I don’t think it would make it very far.”

Doane said the home is in very good shape for the age of the home.

“I think it is in far better shape than most that come before us,” Doane said.

Commission member Jeanne Steiner was able to tour the home and said the inside was lovely. She wondered if the church has considered using the home for some type of community outreach program.

“I know it would take some dollars invested in it, but I wonder if there is not some other use where it could be made to be a part of the community and stay as part of the community,” Steiner said.

Nolan said community outreach space would be more feasible in the structure which currently houses the thrift shop in the former school.

He also said the church is not in a position financially to be able to afford the upgrades needed and continued maintenance of the house.

Several local residents expressed concerns with the demolition request.

Dan Goodin, a neighbor of Holy Trinity Church, asked the commissioners to deny the request and asked the church to be good neighbors and withdraw its application.

“We are concerned about the history here in Harwich, the character and charm of our neighborhood,” Goodin said.

Lou Urbano, a West Harwich resident, said the local residents do not just want the commission to issue a year demolition delay, and wants the bishop and the church to work with the community to save the home.

“The body is saying help us. There is no reason to demolish this building. We all know that,” Urbano said.

Urbano said it is a beautiful home.

“Sell it. Lease it. Work with the community,” Urbano said. “Have a weekly offering at the church to fix it. Has that been done? Over the last 10 years has that been done?”

The commission issued a continuance on the public hearing for the request until December 18 to give the affordable housing trust time to discuss a possible use.

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