HBDC OK's Demolition Of Five Monomoy Theatre Buildings

By: Tim Wood

The former Monomoy Theatre property. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – The historic business district commission last week cleared the way for the demolition of five buildings on the former Monomoy Theatre property, but the owner said that none of the structures will be razed until town boards issue final approval for six single-family homes on the 2.7-acre parcel.

Chatham Productions plans to divide the land into two separate properties. The 776 Main St. parcel will include the historic Washington Taylor House and the theater building, both of which will be renovated and restored. A second lot accessed off Depot Road will be subdivided into six parcels where single-family homes will be built.

The division of land will require approval by the planning board, as will the subdivision. The zoning board of appeals will also review the proposal. The residential subdivision will remain within the jurisdiction of the HBDC, which will be required to approve the designs of the new homes.

Greg Clark of Chatham Productions has said he plans to restore the two historic buildings along Main Street, but whether performances will ever take place in the theater again remains uncertain. An organization he had been in contact with that was going to run the theater could not commit due to the changes wrought by the pandemic, he said recently.

The long-running summer theater closed in 2018 after a dispute between the then-property owners and the University of Hartford, which sponsored the program. Clark bought the property in September 2019 for $3.65 million.

The HBC had previously denied demolition approval for the five buildings due to the lack of a plan for the property's redevelopment. Last months Clark and his daughter Victoria presented preliminary plans for the residential subdivision, which cleared the way for last week's hearing, at which demolition was approved for the former scene shop, the refreshment center/costume shop, a shed, residential building and a cottage. None of the buildings are historically significant and most are in poor condition, HBDC members agreed. There were some concerns expressed about two of the buildings: the cottage at 70 Depot Rd. and the former gas station that was used as dormitories and dressing rooms by the theater.

The cottage has a long, if anecdotal, history; it was said to have been used as an ice cream shop on North Beach and the Old Village. However, its condition does not make it worth saving, said Chairman Dan Sylver. Victoria Clark said the owners would be willing to work with anyone who was interested in relocating the cottage at 70 Depot Rd.

He was discouraged about the loss of the former service station, which was moved to the theater property from Main Street in the early 1990s.

“I'm sad to see this go,” Sylver said. “People put a lot of work into this, to get it back to that area back when. They thought it was worth saving.” It would not blend in with what is being planned, however, he said. “Time passes one,” he said.

Commissioner Steve DeBoer suggested that some of the material on the buildings could be salvaged and repurposed. The owners have been in contact with two companies on the Cape that specialize in repurposing elements of historic buildings, said Victoria Clark. “That is something we are looking into,” she said, adding that some of the material may also be used in the restoration of the Washington Taylor House and theater, or even the new single-family homes.

The Clarks did not have specific architectural designs for the six single-family homes proposed for the back portion of the property, which will be accessed from Depot Road. Victoria Clark said the homes will be either Cape or Colonial Revival style with traditional materials and elements. Photos of existing single-family homes that have been approved by the HBDC were submitted as examples of the types of styles and materials being considered. The preliminary plans showed that the homes would have footprints of about 2,000 square feet and be located on lots ranging from 7,086 to 14,948 square feet.

The planning board is tentatively scheduled to review the subdivision plan on Feb. 22.