Skate House May Be Transformed Into A Shed With A "Heart" 

By Kristen Arute, Hingham Current Staff, Updated June 2, 2020

In spite of being condemned by the Building Commissioner in January, the East Street Skate House, which has been part of Hingham's winter traditions for generations, has lived to see another day.  On Monday night, after much careful deliberation, the Historical Commission voted unanimously to identify the Skate House as a building of historical significance and delay its demolition.  The Commission stopped short of invoking the Demolition Delay Bylaw which would have prevented any action for six months and exercised its right to take 60 days for further study, noting that its mission is to preserve historic buildings in town. 

One proposal that was discussed at great length was to demolish part of the building while keeping the “heart” of it, which is the stove and the portion that extends to the west, and transform it into a 400 sq. ft. storage shed.  However, that suggestion was met with some pushback.  At issue is the fact that although the building has been deemed historic, it is owned by the Recreation Commission ("Rec"), and Rec has determined they have no need for an accessory building of this nature.  "We don’t need the shed," said Rec Chair Vicki Donlan, "and the cost long term is too high."

Keeping the aesthetic of the historic red Skate House would require moving the structure out of the water and back onto the property, demolishing 2/3 of it and securing the rest to ensure that it is safe for people to be in and around.  That could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars - money that a self-funded organization like Rec just doesn't have.  "We have done our due diligence and spoken with anybody and everybody," said Vicki. "We exhausted every study to see what we could do with this building, but the costs are just too high."  The possibility of applying for Greenbush Preservation Trust funds for the renovation was raised, but ultimately it would be difficult to cover the cost of maintaining the structure - something that hadn't been done in years.  "The biggest problem is that something comes to us when it’s too late," said Stephen Dempsey. "We need to figure out a way to save these building before it’s too late."  Robert Stansell agreed with this assessment.  "If repairs were done all along," he said, "we would have had a better chance of saving this structure."

Transforming the building into a shed was described as a nostalgic "placeholder," keeping the memory of all that the building represents alive in the hope that someone might be able to transform it back into a skate house.  "People may wish to go back to it at some point," said Chair Kevin Burke. "Making it a shed allows it to be preserved."  Other proposals were put forward too.  One was to reduce the size to 400 sq. ft. and maintain just three of the four walls which would allow the structure to have an open feel.  A complete demolition was also discussed.  If that were done, the benches could still be preserved.  "That’s what people remember," said Vicki. "I would like to find a way to secure those benches."  Administrator Andrea Young suggested that the Skate House could be documented with photographs that could be archived and also included as part of signage on the property.

The next step is for a Historical Commission subcommittee to go before Rec with a recommendation to wait for a review of a demolition plan and see if that will be accepted.  The Commission will then identify the costs for various proposals and negotiate with Rec to see if an agreement can be reached.  In the meantime, the Historical Commission will continue to pay the monthly fee for the protective fencing around the building.  "My big issue is letting this structure go without looking into Greenbush funds," said Sarah Carolan. "I’m hoping (this potential funding source) might change Rec's opinion on this."

Historical Commission:

Kevin Burke, Chair

Sarah Carolan, Vice Chair

Signe McCollough

Jim Conroy

Elizabeth Dings

Stephen Dempsey

Robert Stansell