The Salem News: Preserving the Pink House
September 30th, 2016
By: Dyke Hendrickson
NEWBURYPORT — If Rockport can have its Motif No. 1 from which artists draw inspiration, perhaps Newburyport can develop Motif No. 2 — the Pink House.
A spirited group of artists, nostalgia buffs and political figures gathered Wednesday night to further organize efforts to save a pink residence on Plum Island Turnpike from destruction.
What’s known as the Pink House was built in 1922 and stands on three parcels totaling 9.2 acres.
It has been owned by the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2011.
Travelers to Plum Island have a strong affinity for the structure; artists who have painted it over the years consider it an icon.
But federal officials have stated that residents cannot take possession of the uninhabited building, and thus early thoughts of it serving as a hub for artists or naturalists are not valid, organizers say.
Still, the dream to save the structure seems to be appealing to a growing number of residents.
About 60 turned out for the first formal meeting on Wednesday, and solutions are being sought.
Organizers say that a petition to save the building is nearing 2,000 signatures.
And it is drawing the attention of a growing number of legislators.
“Perhaps this could be our Motif No. 1,” said state Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives, D-Newburyport, one of several legislators who attended the strategy session at PITA Hall on Plum Island.
She was referring to a highly visible, red wooden structure on a jetty in Rockport, known as Motif No. 1, which has drawn artists for decades.
Also making brief remarks were state Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester; Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-West Newbury; Rep. James Kelcourse, R-Amesbury; and a representative of U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem.
“Working together can provide great results,” said Tarr, whose district includes Newbury. “Those in Newbury and Newburyport have worked together to get funds to rebuild the jetties and make changes that will help prevent erosion. This meeting is important as you plan the future together.”
The meeting was the first formal session of the STPH (Save the Pink House) group, and key leader Rochelle Joseph reported short-term success: no demolition now.
Federal officials had scheduled the building to be torn down, but Refuge Manager Bill Peterson has collaborated with Pink House partisans to delay demolition for at least a year.
Peterson has said supporters can move the house, but leaders have deemed this impractical for now. Plus, it would no longer sit on the scenic marsh.
Now the fleshing out of rescue proposals has begun, leaders say.
The Save the Pink House team signed up about 40 volunteers this week, and more meetings are planned.
The next is Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. at PITA Hall, and on the last Wednesday of each month thereafter.
A Pink House Art Show is slated for Nov. 17, and other events are in the works for 2017.
“This is a process,” said Joseph, who lives on Plum Island. “We’re organizing, and have found that there is a great deal of community support. Now we are researching possible solutions.”