Tabor justifies decision to remove Tenbrook House

Oct 9, 2019

To the Editor: 

After many years of ownership and study, Tabor Academy has decided to remove the structure at 192 Front Street, a property commonly referred to as the Tenbrook House. According to John Quirk, Head of School, the school purchased the house in 2008 and almost three acres of land, extending from the harbor to Spring Street, in order to consolidate the campus and provide options for growth in facilities, as has come to pass. After the purchase, the trustees began to assess the home on the property, holding many discussions about its possible use over the years. The home has been used most recently as a faculty residence for some years as ideas were considered.

Quirk said, “Since Tabor Academy took possession of the Tenbrook property a little more than a decade ago, there has been ample consideration of the viability of renovation or restoration of the house on the site. These efforts have been conducted by balancing the competing interests of the home’s historical value, its extremely poor condition at acquisition, the manner in which the original building has been altered over the years, its physical presence along Front Street, and a wish shared by all to mesh the building’s past with the school’s discovery of a suitable purpose for it within its program. At one point, the school developed preliminary plans to incorporate some part of a renovation of Tenbrook House into what eventually became a free-standing dormitory nearby. This idea was set aside, however, when it became clear that a disproportionate part of the cost would be tied up in the renovation portion of the project, as opposed to the dormitory space that was to be the focus of the building.”

He continued, “as it has become sadly evident that a renovation of the building is feasible neither from a fiscal nor physical standpoint – meaning that it would be quite costly to restore the building and would result in a building of only very modest programmatic value to Tabor – the school has recently determined that it is most appropriate to take the building down. The Sippican Historical Society has been a major proponent of saving the building given its cultural value as the product of famed American architect H.H. Richardson. Members of that group have also recently explored alternative options, such as moving the building to a different site. Regrettably, no feasible alternative options have been discovered at this time.”

With no alternative solutions in sight, the school has decided to take the building down, and the permitting and scheduling of this process are underway. While firm timelines have not been
established, it is expected that the project could be completed in the early winter.

“I know some members of the town will be sad to see the building go, especially as Mrs. Tenbrook and her family were such valued members of the community. I am saddened by this, too, and aware that the loss of Tenbrook House will feel for many like the loss of a friend along Front Street. That said, the sensibility and practicality of other options are severely limited, and it feels appropriate to make this difficult decision and move forward before further deterioration of the structure makes the building truly unsafe,” said Quirk.

Kerry Saltonstall 
Tabor Academy Director of Communications