Emergency funds may help shore up Derby Summer House

By November 15, 2018 May 28th, 2019 News

By Ethan Forman, Satff Writer, Salem News
Jul 10, 2016

DANVERS — Danvers Historical Society officials and two North Shore lawmakers met with representatives of Secretary of State William Galvin’s office in Boston this week to find a way to save the once squirrel-infested Derby Summer House.

The nonprofit is seeking emergency funds from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which Galvin’s office oversees, to shore up the rapidly deteriorating 222-year-old piece of Danvers history.

A family of squirrels chewed their way inside the house and took up residence last year, creating holes in the structure that have let water in and rotted its timbers.

It appears the historical society may be poised to apply for $50,000 from the state to make emergency repairs to this unique, two-story summer house built in 1793-1794 for the garden of the wealthy Salem merchant, Elias Hasket Derby. The society would have to match this grant.

The cost to fully repair what is also known as the McIntire Tea House would be $143,120, according to an estimate by Thomsen Construction LLC, an Essex construction company.

Among the extensive exterior work, the job includes replacing rotten fascia and soffit boards, removing and replacing rotten siding and sheathing, and repairing rotten sills as needed.

The building is historically significant as it’s on the National Register of Historic Places; however, that was of no concern to squirrels who made a hole in the roof gutter. That allowed water to get in and damage a corner beam of the building. Last year, the historical society raised $3,400 to merely seal up the structure.

Last week, state and local officials met at the Danvers Historical Society’s Glen Magna Farms, where the Derby Summer House is located in the garden, to inspect it and discuss options to restore the house.

The meeting in Boston

George Saluto, the vice president of the Danvers Historical Society, said an official from Galvin’s office was “very forthcoming and helpful about ’emergency funding’” during the Boston meeting.

That official was Michael Maresco, Galvin’s designee on the state historical commission and the assistant secretary of state.

Among those at the July 6 meeting were state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, state Sen. Joan Lovely, D-Salem, Danvers Historical Society President Tom Page, Saluto, the historical society’s Trustee-at-Large John Call Jr., and David McIntire, registrar of the Massachusetts Society of the Order of the Founders and Patriots of America. He’s also a descendant of Samuel McIntire’s brother, according to Saluto.

“I thought it could not have gone any better,” said Speliotis of the meeting.

He noted there are two options for the historical society to apply for a state grant — emergency funding or a capital construction program.

The deadline for the capital program, the Massachusetts Preservation Projects Fund, passed in March. This is a state-funded, 50-percent reimbursable matching grant program meant to preserve properties, landscapes and sites listed on the state Register of Historic Places.

The emergency funding may be the way to go, for now. Both Speliotis and Saluto said the $50,000 amount was mentioned during the meeting.

“But this would be emergency money that could be released in August or September to help out or stabilize the building and to ensure that there is no further deterioration,” Speliotis said, “especially in that corner beam that is rotting because of the water leakage due to the squirrels creating all those holes.”

“They had a good meeting on the Derby House,” said Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Galvin’s office. “They laid out what is available.”

McNiff said the commission recognizes the importance of the Derby Summer House.

“This house has not only been on the National Register since 1968, it’s a National Historic Landmark,” McNiff said of the National Park Service’s program to recognize “nationally significant historic places.” Such landmarks include the House of the Seven Gables and the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.

The Derby Summer House was not always nestled among the manicured garden of Glen Magna Farms. In 1901, it was moved to Glen Magna from its original location where Route 114 and Route 128 intersect — the current site of the Northshore Mall. The tea house was bequeathed to the Danvers Historical Society in 1958.