Once the address of choice for whaling captains, North Water street in Edgartown is now home to captains of modern industry, a handsome boulevard of stately white mansions and manicured hedges that runs from Main street past the Edgartown Light.
Handsome, that is, but for Number 62, the so-called Captain Warren House — the now-decrepit building next to the Edgartown Free Public Library — which has become the most public of eyesores as the town of Edgartown continues its search for a buyer who will take it off its hands for a reasonable price.
The town paid three and a half million dollars for the property nine years ago as part of a plan promoted by the Edgartown Library Foundation to rebuild and expand the library at its current location. Since the town decided on a different site for the new library, the jilted building has slid into neglect.
This week, the selectmen considered and rejected the only bid it received in its latest effort to sell the property, from a small consortium with a plan to restore the home then re-sell it. Edgartown businesswoman Maggie White, along with seasonal residents Christopher Celeste and Nancy Kramer, had offered one and a quarter million in cash or one million in cash plus forty per cent of the profits.
Ms. White, who owns the Hob Knob Inn and has overseen at least one other fine renovation in the historic district, would surely have improved the neighborhood. Still, it is hard to fault the selectmen for turning down the offer. Distasteful as townspeople no doubt find the peeling paint, loose shutters and sagging porches at the old house, the idea of taxpayers shouldering a two and a half million-dollar loss is even harder to swallow.
With an assessed value of just under four million, just under three million for the thirteen-thousand-square-foot lot alone, the Warren house really should be able fetch more than a third of what town assessors estimate it is worth, especially in what seems to be an improving real estate market. Town administrator Pam Dolby said several new offers of interest came in after Ms. White’s bid was made public. The town now plans to re-advertise the property.
Perhaps those who championed the idea of rebuilding the library at its current location could take up the cause of finding a buyer to claim a bit of Edgartown history and restore it to its former lustre. As it happens, the eponymous Captain Warren was actually an accountant, but the house, dating to the late eighteenth century and just up the hill from the Chappaquiddick ferry, has a great site and a rich history.
Who will save the Warren house? The town can’t wait forever to take action on what has become a white elephant, but with summer comes the hope that this unloved property will find a new owner.