Historic USCG Boathouse Demolition Delayed

By: Tim Wood

A huge crane was used to move the Stage Harbor Coast Guard boathouse onto a barge for transportation to Quincy in 2009. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Demolition of the historic Stage Harbor Coast Guard boathouse, scheduled for Monday, has been put on hold.

Officials in Hull, where the structure has been for more than a year, agreed to hold off on enforcement orders requiring the removal of the boathouse from a shorefront property by Jan. 1.

Earlier this week it appeared that the boathouse, built in 1936 and once sheltered the historic CG36500 Gold Medal lifeboat used in the 1952 rescue of the crew of the Pendleton, was destined for the wrecking ball. The attorney for the owners of the property where the boathouse currently sits returned a check to local resident David Doherty, who had agreed to buy the building and find a way to return it to Chatham. For all intents and purposes, it appeared as if the deal was off.

But after having further discussions with the owners, Doherty said, it appears the return of his deposit was the result of a miscommunication. Over the past several days, he has worked with the owners and both Chatham and Hull officials to save the building. On Wednesday Hull filed a motion to extend a court order to remove the boathouse to Jan. 8, Doherty said.

“There's real cooperation going on,” he said, lauding officials from both towns for their efforts. Doherty plans to hand-deliver a building permit application Monday to remove the building from the Acushnet Marine property where it has been stored for 18 months. Depending on when the permit is issued, the boathouse could be on its way to temporary storage in the next week or two. Doherty said Jay Cashman, a part-time Chatham resident who moved the boathouse from its Stage Harbor location to Quincy in 2009, has agreed to allow it to be stored at his Quincy shipyard for a few months while Chatham officials decide its fate.

At their meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m., the Chatham Board of Selectmen will hear the status of the boathouse from Doherty and discuss using the structure to house a new shellfish upwelling operation at 90 Bridge St. Plans for a new building to house the upweller are at the 35 percent design phase, with cost projections of $3.2 million for both site work and new construction. The project's engineers inspected the Coast Guard boathouse last month and found it to be in “fair condition,” according to a draft report. The preliminary cost to relocate the building to Chatham, store it while site work is done and retrofit it to house the upweller was put at $1 million, including a 20 percent contingency.

However, comparing apples-to-apples construction costs, a new building would run an estimated $400,000, while retrofitting the boathouse would be $440,000, according to a memo from Health and Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

“There is an intangible value, unable to be monetized, in having the historic USCG boathouse saved and back in Chatham,” Duncanson wrote.

Doherty said he has had no indication how selectmen feel about saving the structure, but there has been a lot of support in the community.

“I feel a lot better than I did Tuesday night,” he said. “It's been a rollercoaster.”