Project details, next steps

Future of Tobey Homestead, demolition delay discussed

By Jaime Rebhan | Apr 13, 2017
Courtesy of: Southcoast Health The blue area of this drawing shows the current Tobey Hospital. The orange area is the proposed expansion. The outline in the orange area is the historic Tobey Homestead.

Town historical committees and residents expressed concern and frustration on Wednesday, April 12, about Southcoast Health's proposed 25,000-square-foot expansion of the Tobey Hospital emergency department, which will raze or relocate the historic Tobey Homestead on the property.

The nonprofit health system announced plans for the multi-million dollar project in March. Representatives say that the current emergency department is designed to serve 15,000 patients annually, but patient volume has increased to more than 30,000 per year in recent years.

The announcement immediately ignited concerns of residents who don't want to see the landmark home, built in 1825 and located adjacent to the hospital on Main Street, demolished. It was owned by Alice Tobey Jones, who was the benefactor of Tobey Hospital.

A decision on whether to begin a process that would delay the demolition of the homestead was itself delayed on Wednesday, as some Wareham Historical Commission members lamented the lack of information available about the structural integrity of the former home.

The "demolition delay" process

The Town of Wareham has two town-appointed volunteer committees that deal with historic properties -- the Historical Commission and the Historic District Commission.

Per the town's bylaws: The Historical Commission becomes involved when an alteration or demolition is considered for any building older than 75 years old. The Historic District Commission deals with those buildings located in any of the town's three historic districts: Center Park, in the area of upper Main Street; Parker Mills, in the area of the former Tremont Nail Factory; and the Narrows Historic District, which includes lower Main Street, around Tobey Hospital and the waterfront in the area of Besse Park.

These committees are engaged even before official building plans are filed with the town and permits are secured. First, a property must be determined to be "historically significant." By definition, Tobey Homestead is considered historically significant -- it's on the National Register of Historic Places.

Once a property is determined to be historically significant, a demolition delay is invoked. The vote for the delay begins a timeline during which committee members determine whether a particular property should be preserved, rather than demolished, and if so, what might be done to preserve it.

Both historical committees held a joint meeting on Wednesday. The Historical Commission was charged with determining whether to begin the demolition delay process. From there, the Historic District Commission would take the reins, as the homestead is located in the Narrows Historic District.

The discussion became emotional at times, with committee members arguing that Southcoast has not done enough to maintain the homestead.

The Historical Commission opted not to vote on the demolition delay, instead voting four in-favor, three against tabling the discussion until Southcoast Health could produce a full report on the homestead completed by a structural engineer, which the nonprofit has already engaged.

The three members who voted against the measure argued not against the delay itself. They instead noted that any information necessary for further discussion and an eventual decision would simply become available during the delay process.

"I do appreciate the fact that the ER needs to expand," said Historical Commission Chair Angela Dunham, who was one of the "nay" votes. "We don't want to stand in the way of what Tobey Hospital needs."

The hospital expansion

The design for the new emergency department is in the preliminary stages. Southcoast Health representatives say the expansion has a planned footprint of 25,000 to 28,000 square feet.

The current emergency department is on the Main Street side of the hospital. That would not change. The renovation would expand the current department onto the land that currently includes the Tobey Homestead.

Southcoast Health considered various options when determining which direction Tobey Hospital might expand, said Paul Crawford, the nonprofit's vice president of Support Services.

"We settled on this one because it's connected to imaging, ICU, and OR," he told the historical committees. "It's a good linear flow through the hospital. ... It's the best flow for patient care."

Residents expressed concern on Wednesday about the size of the expansion, including the fact that three levels are planned, and worried that it wouldn't fit in with the historic character of the area.

"It won't be any higher than Tobey is now. It's not going to be a tower," Crawford said, noting: "It's going to be a challenge to incorporate the aesthetics. We are still going through the design. We're not going to make it obtrusive."

Why hasn't the hospital used the homestead? Can the building be incorporated into the expansion?

Southcoast Health representatives say the building is not suitable for treating patients in its current form. An estimate from approximately five years ago put a price of $1.2 million on a renovation, Crawford said. He noted that the number is probably higher today.

Crawford expressed understanding of residents' concerns for the property, but also noted that the nonprofit is not equipped to deal with such a project.

"We are not in the business of restoring historical properties," he said. "We are building a hospital."

Claire Smith of West Wareham, who also serves as town moderator, asked whether the nonprofit would consider rehabilitating the homestead and using it as a connecting corridor to the expanded emergency department. She explained that Community Preservation Act funds, which are generated by a property tax surcharge and can be used to renovate historic properties, could mitigate costs.

Crawford said that Southcoast is "on a very accelerated route" to complete the expansion, but "I can entertain that with our CEO."

Making the situation trickier, Peter Cohenno, public information officer for Southcoast Health, later noted that as a medical facility, the hospital is beholden to building codes that limit the types of buildings it can occupy. This is particularly relevant in the area of fire resistance.

" of hospitals must be non-combustible/protected and structural building elements must have minimum fire ratings," Cohenno said.

Tobey Homestead does not meet that requirement.

"The Homestead would be considered a 5B construction type, which is the lowest rating available," Cohenno continued. "Combustible, non-protected."

It is not clear whether the hospital would be allowed to work around such code requirements if not providing medical services in the homestead.

The next steps and options for preservation

Southcoast Health will allow members of the historical committees to tour Tobey Homestead in the near future. Ideally equipped with information from the tour and the report of the structural engineer, the Historical Commission will meet on Wednesday, May 3. If a vote is taken in favor of delaying the demolition, a 12-month timeline begins.

During the 12 months, the Historic District Commission must determine whether the homestead should be preserved, and if so, how.

If the Historic District Commission determines that the homestead should not or cannot be preserved, the town can issue a permit for Southcoast Health to have the homestead demolished.

Some of the questions that will likely be asked: Should the building be moved? In its current structural state, can it be moved? Where would it moved?

"We are looking for alternatives to move the building and we will continue to work with town officials to achieve that goal," said Chris Saunders, a New Bedford attorney representing Southcoast Health.

Saunders said there may be other locations on Main Street -- not owned by Southcoast -- that could accommodate the homestead. He emphasized, however, that Southcoast Health would not finance a move.

"If a site can be found, we're willing to sit down with whoever wants the structure ... to work with them to move" it, the attorney said.

Comments (41)
Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 13, 2017 17:16

Having attended the meeting last night And what I don't see here is that the building is to be 3 stories high and built up to where the steps in front of the homestead are. That is one Hugh structure right as you cross the bridge and decimates what will use to have been the feeling of coming home to Wareham Village.

Posted by: Jaime Rebhan | Apr 13, 2017 18:41

Yes, uptohere, I will clarify that.


The response to that concern, in case there is any confusion, is in the story in this quote:


"It won't be any higher than Tobey is now. It's not going to be a tower," Crawford said, noting: "It's going to be a challenge to incorporate the aesthetics. We are still going through the design. We're not going to make it obtrusive."

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 13, 2017 18:58

Dibs on the wood !!! I could do some sweet remodeling projects with that old stuff.

In all honesty, I'd vote to save it or move it to another location but that would be quite costly.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 14, 2017 08:05

You got it Cranky, you can start demolition right away if you like. Please start on the left side.

Posted by: thoughtful | Apr 14, 2017 10:57

Perhaps the question that should also be considered is whether Tobey Hospital hasn't outgrown its' location? Access remains limited to High Street and Main Street, and neither can be readily expanded to accommodate the projected increased patient traffic. The area remains residential on the High Street side, and with the river, the only side Main Street could expand on would take hospital property. And there's always the risk that a hurricane could make it inaccessible at a time when it's needed most.


My suggestion would be for Southcoast to invest in the future and build a new state-of-the-art hospital near the highways, still in Wareham. It'LL have to happen eventually, so why not now. Let Wareham retain its' coastal New England Village atmosphere which the 8 historical homes along that stretch of waterfront provide the town. Those properties and their residents, their history are as great a source of pride for the town as is the hospital. The best solution for all would be to have both maintained.


Two other points ... first, it's doubtful that Alice Tobey Jones could have foreseen Wareham and the surrounding towns with populations 5 times what they were when she lived here and gave the property for a hospital to be established, and so couldn't have imagined the size that Tobey Hospital has grown to. Secondly, as to her will, it actually states that all Wareham residents will receive care at no cost. The actual establishment of the hospital was accomplished by judicial interpretation of her will. Further interpretation of the will in regards to permission to destroy the homestead, particularly when its'present condition is entirely due to neglect by the current owners, is perhaps in need of judicial intervention.

Posted by: Dick Paulsen | Apr 14, 2017 11:13

Let me see if I understand this correctly. We are going to allow the destruction of an architecturally attractive feature to the town and yet throw even more money at trying to find some use-make that, any-for the Tremont Nail Factory.


We have a lawyer paid $15,000 a month to keep track of legal matters.  T would seem to me that the Selectmen, in their collective wisdom, could say that we, the Selectmen, don't agree with tearing the building down, so what avenues are available to us?


The hospital states that they can't use the building in its "current form." What does that mean?  We can throw another $50,000 at a study for Tremont-and for those who forgot, there was another study completed seven years ago, with the same goal in mind, what to do, that also cost $50,000-but we apparently can't get people in the town to stop what the hospital group is proposing.


And by by the way, that other study, gathering dust, just more money wasted, then and now.


Think about this for a moment.  If you drive down Main Street, there is very little of architectural interest, little that stands out, that says, "Ah, New England." But this building, anchoring as it does one end of town, stands out. People just don't seem to care.  Well, they should.





Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 14, 2017 11:44

Why doesn't Makepeace build a new hospital ? They've polluted enough wetlands and converted bogs to residential...

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Apr 14, 2017 14:57

As horrible as it is, I have to take a guess that being that the homestead belongs to Tobey hospital (Southcoast Hospitals Group), they can and will do what they want with it.  I would expect the same consideration if I owned it and wanted to change it.  There is nothing in it for them to stop this project.  We can complain all we want to but we will STILL go to the hospital.  Personally, I prefer BID in Plymouth, but in an emergency, I am hauling my ass to Tobey whether or not there is a homestead to greet me.  It will be a sad day when it is moved or torn down, but I don't think that anyone can stop it other than Tobey (SCHG) themselves.

Posted by: totellthetruth | Apr 14, 2017 19:43

If mymemory serves me right; Several years ago CPA hired local preservationist Paul Pearl to restore the interior of this building. Where does that money go?

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Apr 14, 2017 20:47

If the hospital used CPA funds to restore the building, that may bring up an interesting dilemma I would think.  It appears as though it was awarded a MHC Preservation Award in 2002, but finding anything about CPC funding being used on the homestead is harder than finding Trumps taxes online.  The town website only lists CPC reports back to 2014.

Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Apr 14, 2017 20:51

Paul's work predated the Town's adoption of the CPA..  I specifically recall him being engaged in the  project in 2000 and 2001.

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 14, 2017 21:03

Paul Pearl, one of the nicest guys you could ever meet. A true gentleman.

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 14, 2017 21:13

Just because the town website only lists back CPC Projects to 2014 doesn't mean the information isn't there. Ask them, they will give it to you. And they have to.

Paul Pearl is a gem. We spit on his kindness and skill by even entertaining the thought of tearing down the Tobey Homestead

South coast should fund part of the move.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Apr 14, 2017 21:16

What I would like to see is a list of everything that we have spent CPC funds on since 2003 or whenever we started funding the accounts with the tax monies.  Maybe I can get that from them, but I can't get it online, at least not at this time.

Posted by: WantToSeeChange | Apr 14, 2017 21:17

And I do agree about Mr. Pearl.   An absolutely great guy!

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 14, 2017 21:19

I'll get that info for you.


Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 14, 2017 23:17

Am I seeing this correctly?  Is the current homestead the dotted line figure sitting inside the propose orange section? If that is the case, this new structure is going to be huge compared to what is there now. It looks too  close to the side boundaries, and there is no room for plantings and hospital grounds around the building. Are there rules about the relative size of the structure to the size of the property? I love to sit in the window at the Narrows and look out at the pretty waterfront of Wareham. This is our waterfront. Once you lose something beautiful and special, it is gone. I agree with "Thoughtful" that the hospital should be on a bigger lot, leaving room for further expansion in the future,and highway access would make a lot of sense.

Posted by: Dick Paulsen | Apr 15, 2017 01:36

I have talked to several people about this, and the universal reaction centers on the word "travesty."



We seem to let things happen, shrug and get on with our daily affairs.  Perhaps we should organize to stop this.


One question comes to mind.  On the surface, the hospital is trying to make the case that they have experienced a significant increase in the number of patients who were treated.  And, following on, they say that the they need more space.


Statistics would be helpful.   If my car gets dented in a parking lot, it may look unattractive, but still function. If a tree were to fall on it, then I would have to call a wrecker and deal with a different situation. My question is what are the statistics for the emergency room, are they they of the dent in the door variety, something that could be both deferred and treated elsewhere?  Or, at the other end of the spectrum, how many have-to-do-it-right-now issues do we face?  To put this in simpler terms, what is the batting average?


Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 15, 2017 14:09

It would have been nice to see more people actually attend the meeting. There was a question period for the few who went. I would estimate less about 15 besides the board members and south coast reps. I believe there will be another meeting so if you want real answers to your questions you should try to attend.

Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 15, 2017 16:56

Uptohere, I work nights.

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 16, 2017 09:58

Cranberry, while 1 voice can change many things there are still others who don't work nights.

Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 18, 2017 10:49

Just a thought, they have a large parking lot across the street from the Hospital, why not build a parking garage there to handle parking, then expand in the area of the second parking lot on the side of the Hospital then there would be no need to touch the Homestead.

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 18, 2017 15:44

Steve, that's a good idea. The problem is that in the last 20 years, The hospital has seen the Homestead as useless. And it has been rendered useless by their non use of it. They've been wanting to get rid of it for quite some time and use their water view land with downtown frontage for something profitable. They claim to be a non-profit, but my gut tells me otherwise. Or they say they care about the people of Wareham, yet trash our history and beauty.

Along the same lines as Steves excellent idea, there is a huge tract of vacant land on high street (on the same side as the hospital) next to the side parking lot. I'm sure it's  owned by Tobey. Why not expand there and keep the Homestead? Because Southcoast doesn't want to.

Posted by: Peter Cohenno | Apr 18, 2017 16:32

I'd like to respectfully attempt to clear up a few things that I've read in the above comments:

- The Tobey Homestead was not intentionally neglected by Tobey Hospital. You may remember that it burnt almost entirely to the ground in 1985. In that fire, the roof was destroyed and so the interior was left open to the elements. From that time until Tobey merged with Southcoast Health in 1996, Tobey Hospital was struggling financially to stay afloat and could not afford to put any money into the Homestead. By the time the restorations were made to the exterior of the house, significant damage was already done to the infrastructure.

- The cost to build a new hospital would be astronomical, not to mention the difficult process of obtaining permission from the proper regulatory agencies. Here is a recent article to show the potential cost:

- Funds for Mr. Pearl's restorations came from private funding raised by the Tobey Homestead Restoration Trust.

- The structure will be three stories but it will be built from street level so the new height will not exceed the current Tobey Homestead.

- The emergency department was built to serve 15,000 patients and it currently serves 31,000.

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 18, 2017 16:48

Again, why can't Makepeace build a new hospital ? They've built up everything else and helped increase the population of Wareham...

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 18, 2017 20:12

Cranky - Regarding your question, "Why can't Makepeace build a new hospital?  Is that a serious question??? If so, I have a question for you: how much do you think a new hospital would cost to build?



Posted by: Cindy | Apr 19, 2017 07:47

Two notes:  to Cranky, the Makepeace family is one of the largest donors ever, over time, to Tobey Hospital.  I served on one of their building committees during their second to last major renovation.  Much of their multi-generational support had been anonymous and therefore, many family members were unaware of it. We were close to making a matching grant goal and when the Makepeace family met with hospital admin and were shown the magnitude of the support over the decades, they were exceedingly generous.  In fact, I believe if you wander around in there you will find a wing named after them.

On an entirely different note, doesn't Tobey Hospital own the dirt lot across from Besse Park?  Perhaps some thought should be put into either using that to a better purpose or perhaps relocating the Tobey Homestead to that location?  While I do understand Tobey's need to expand to meet needs, they also must understand that from the get go, their location was going to have its limitations.  Time to move some things 'off campus' to another location.  Thoughtful had some excellent points on building a new building.  Perhaps emergency stays where it is and expands to the rest of the hospital and out patient surgery or extended stay options are moved elsewhere to a new building.

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 19, 2017 10:03

I'm not saying hold Makepeace responsible for building and outfitting the hospital with technology and doodads... I'm simply saying if they can build entire neighborhoods, medical and assisted living facilities perhaps they could be generous enough to donate land for a hospital.

Aside from that, I do appreciate the donations and community love they show.

I also agree that maybe we could jettison those ugly cranes and retired military equipment eyesore and drag the homestead there.

Either way, I'm not married to the homestead nor do I want to fund the move or preservation.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 19, 2017 11:21

Regarding the area on Main Street across the road, currently cluttered with tired equipment, military and's that area for flooding in the event of a hurricane?

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 19, 2017 11:41

Having actually attended  the meeting NO time was it mentioned that there was no or even a partial roof. What was mentioned was Toby not being able to find anyone interested in renting out the building, that suggests to me that after the fire it WAS habitable. It has been allowed to sit empty and I believe there was a reason for it. And that is so it can be torn down to make way for a HUGH structure front and center on main st. I suggest instead of speculating what might be happening you attend the next meeting.

Posted by: Doctor Deekas | Apr 19, 2017 13:40

Well to put it to bed, just google earth the site. The Tobey homestead roof is not only there, it is in excellent condition....

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Apr 19, 2017 13:53

Regarding speculation "that after the fire it WAS habitable."  Perhaps before investing in renovations, Tobey tested the waters to see what, if any, rental interest a renovated building would generate, before investing in costly renovations.

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 19, 2017 14:32

Cindy, love your idea! Best one I've read yet.  Expand hospital stuff to rose brook and keep Tobey as an emergency center

Posted by: totellthetruth | Apr 20, 2017 11:53

Just so everyone knows how much nonsense this whole issue actually is: As per the map at the beginning  of this story, virtually the entire area of proposed expansion is within the 100 yr.Flood Plain, Remember Hurricane Carol in 1954? The entire lower Main St. was shoulder deep in water.

Tobey owns plenty of land up in the area of the water tower,plus, a nice chunk of undeveloped land on High St.

Posted by: Peter Cohenno | Apr 20, 2017 16:29

Check out the photo of the Tobey Homestead in this article from the Standard-Times from 2000:

This is how the building sat for more than 15 years after fire in 1985. The roof on one half of the building was completely gone. 

Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 21, 2017 16:59


  1. Whether the homestead is salvageable or not, The hospital plan is too big for the lot.  That neighborhood cannot absorb the additional traffic. Has there been a traffic study? I think we don't realize how unusual it is to have the main street of town on the ocean front. We take these things for granted. But , along with Onset beach, this is something we should cherish and maximize the beauty of. A rolling lawn coming down from the current hospital would be appropriate. A huge modern wall of brick and glass would be a detraction from the scenic area. Maybe the hospital will need to have seperate campuses for seperate  functions, with a small new center over by the highway.

Also, totellthetruth makes an excellent point about the flood zone

Posted by: bluebird | Apr 22, 2017 17:09

Far too many writers here have accused Tobey (aks South Coast Health) of letting the Homestead go unuesd so they can tear it down or worse. Whay part of THEY CAN NOT USE IT are you missing?? Check the above article again it clearly states that the Homestead does not meet the codes for a medical facility. "

Making the situation trickier, Peter Cohenno, public information officer for Southcoast Health, later noted that as a medical facility, the hospital is beholden to building codes that limit the types of buildings it can occupy. This is particularly relevant in the area of fire resistance.

" of hospitals must be non-combustible/protected and structural building elements must have minimum fire ratings," Cohenno said.

Tobey Homestead does not meet that requirement.

"The Homestead would be considered a 5B construction type, which is the lowest rating available," Cohenno continued. "Combustible, non-protected.""

I agree that the "BEST" Idea is to build a totally new hospital facility elsewhare in town, Tobey's needs have or soon will outgrow the current location. HOWEVER, that option, although ideal..... is cost-prohibitive compared to renovating the current location. Even if this was done, the question is what to do with the current facility..... Well, obviously the Tobey Homestead should remain and a suitable use found for it, preferably by it being purchased by a local group that could keep it maintained and 100% historical. But, what about hte rest of the then unused hospital?

The idea of building a new, second campus for the hospital elsewhere in town, keeping hte Emergency Department at the current location and expand into the part of the current building vacated by moving part of the hospital elsewhere, thereby eliminating hte need to sxpand the current footprint, is also good... but, brings new problems. First, the Tobey Homestead would still be a drain on Hospital funds if Tobey had to maintain it (despite having no way to use it), Selling (or donating) the Homestead to a preservation group might be posssible, and maybe a suitable use would be found by that group. Expanding hopital services by splitting the facility into separate buildings in different parts of town doesn't really work well as has been stated in earlier write-ups, needing to transfer a critical patient across town, instead of just across the building can be the difference between life and death sometimes. It is my understanding that the plans to expand in hte direction shown in hte plot plan above are not yet "set in stone" and represent just one possiblity.....! What kind of town (or State?) zoning and building regulations would need to be met to build a parking garage across High St from the main entrance to the hospital? What would be the feelings of the neighborhood? Is the land presently used as a parking area next to the Hospital along High St suitable to expand in that direction? How well would that link to the current Emergency Dept?? Could that be done without severely increasing the cost of this expansion?? Again, relocating the Hospital to a more open, less residential part of town seems best, allowing expansion without altering the historic look of lower Main St. But, again, the cost of that is ridiculously higher than expanding at the current location. I think the High St. side of the complex should be looked at closer, if that is a viable option! If that ca nbe done, then South Coast Health should expand that way and seriously (with help from the Town Historic activists) seek out a group or non-profit that could find a use for the Homestead and assume care and preservation of this Historic building, removing the burden of preserving the structure from South Coast, allowing them to devote their funds to providing top-notch healthcare to the local residents. Thier mission should be that top-notch care to PEOPLE not preservation of a building that while EXTREMELY historic, is of no use to South Coast due to restrictions on what kind of building materials can be used for medical facilities. Remember, the fact that they have not used it is NOT that they don't care, but that zoning regulations do not LET THEM USE IT!


Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Apr 22, 2017 21:20

Paragraphs are our friends.


No one expects SouthCoast to use the mansion as part of hospital operations.  That doesn't preclude other uses of the building, though.


SouthCoast is a New Bedford business.  Their interest in Wareham is how much cash they can suck out of our community through their little branch hospital.  They've demonstrated for decades their contempt for our history.

Posted by: Chaka | Apr 24, 2017 14:29

" Paragraphs are our friends." That was too funny. I needed a laugh this morning, thanks.

Posted by: bluebird | Apr 26, 2017 22:53

There were paragraph separations when I typed it, or at least it LOOKED like there were blank lines there. OH WELL!


Posted by: Chaka | Jul 01, 2017 02:28

Southcoast gave the Tobey Homestead a 99 year lease in 2001. What happened to thta?

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