Demolition Of Monomoy Theatre Buildings Proposed

By: Tim Wood

The Monomoy Theatre. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Next Wednesday, the historic business district commission will hear plans to demolish five of the seven buildings on the former Monomoy Theatre property.

Chatham Productions is proposing to raze all of the structures on the 776 Main St. property except the historic Washington Taylor House and the theater building. Included are the scene shop, apartment building, shed and costume shop/refreshment center. Also slated for demolition is a small cottage at 70 Depot Rd.

The applications filed with the HBDC include no indication of future plans for the property. At a special town meeting Oct. 3, voters rejected a zoning change proposed by the property owner that would have created an overlay district on the 2.7-acre property allowing up to 24 condominium units as well as other development not allowed under existing zoning. The housing was necessary to finance the restoration of the historic house and theater operation of a year-round performing arts center, Chatham Productions principal Gregory Clark said at the time.

In a memo filed with the HBDC applications, Clark writes that after researching the five buildings in the Chatham Historical Society archives, the Barnstable Registry of Deeds, and other sources, “we do not beliee that any of these five buildings are historic.”

According to the town's historic inventory forms, however, the small house at 70 Depot Rd. was built as an ice cream parlor on North Beach in the late 1800s, was moved to the Old Village in 1900, to Little Beach in 1936 and to its present location sometime later. The HBDC application says “rumors” regarding the origins of the building lack a factual basis. “None of the alleged history of this cottage is verifiable by historic documents and records available at the Chatham Historical Society archives,” the application reads.

The applications for the other buildings make similar assertions, acknowledging that most are more than 70 years old but lack historical significance as defined by the Massachusetts Historical Commission. The apartment building was a former Jenny Gas Station located nearby on Main Street that was moved to the property in 1990 and converted to housing and dressing rooms for the students who worked at the summer theater.

Some of the buildings, such as the shed and scene shop, are also in poor condition, according to the applications.

In each instance, the applications say that “nothing specifically will go in the exact location of this building” and the theater and Taylor House will remain in place.

“There is no solid evidence that this building is historic,” each of the applications reads, “so we did not explore options beyond demolition, however if anyone is interested in relocating this building, we are more than happy to oblige and let them take this building.”

At deadline Clark had not responded to an email seeking further comment.

The HBDC has the authority to prohibit demolition of buildings determined to be historically significant. The Nov. 18 hearing begins at 4:30 p.m. by remote participation; a link to the meeting can be found on the town's website.

The Monomoy Theatre operated as a summer stock program for theater students on the property for eight decades until 2018. After town inspections found health and safety violations, the University of Hartford, declined to renew its lease when the property owners, the Steindler family, declined to make the necessary improvements. Clark bought the property for $3.65 million in September 2019.