Capping a lengthy and at times emotional process, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission begrudgingly approved the historic Mill House demolition 13-1 on Thursday night — but at a price. The applicant will be required to contribute $100,000 toward causes that promote historic preservation.

The Mill House, believed to be one of the oldest houses on the Vineyard Haven harbor, was torn down in the spring without prior review by the commission, as required for houses more than 100 years old. The MVC conducted a subsequent after-the-fact development of regional impact (DRI) review this summer.

As recompense for what they considered a premature home demolition, commissioners agreed on Thursday that $25,000 will go toward creating a database of historic houses in Vineyard Haven; the other $75,000 will go to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum “to fund the exhibit and studies of historical homes and people in Vineyard Haven, and on the Island,” commissioner Josh Goldstein said.

“When this house was torn down, Vineyard Haven lost a huge part of its history. That’s gone, we’re never going to get that back,” Mr. Goldstein told commissioners during a dramatic moment at the end of the nearly three-hour meeting. “But we have this wonderful, new building in Vineyard Haven that can help recover it and prevent it from happening again,” he said, referring to the new museum campus. “And with the amount of money being spent there, I don’t think this is an outrageous sum.”

Parts of the former Mill House dated to the 18th century and were determined to have served as a sailor’s tavern during the Revolutionary War. The home, which is owned by Lise Revers, was demolished in late April by her contractor Peter Rosbeck. All that now remains of the sprawling, historic gabled structure is the mill portion of the house — and a cavernous hole in the ground.

Commission meeting Thursday capped a process that was heated and at times emotional. — Noah Asimow

Over the past three months, the commission has attempted to piece together both the literal and figurative debris of the teardown. Ms. Revers submitted plans for a $2.7 million renovation with the town late last year, listing Mr. Rosbeck as the contractor and Patrick Ahearn as the architect. In spring of 2019, after examining the condition of the home, Mr. Rosbeck changed his initial plans to merely lift the structure and requested a broader demolition. Building inspector Ken Barwick gave verbal permission for the demolition, according to a timeline submitted to the commission by the applicant’s attorney Sean Murphy.

In an unusual turn, the commission decided to conduct a retroactive review and examine the tear-down as if it had not yet happened. Since then, Mr. Rosbeck and Mr. Ahearn have worked with the MVC and the Tisbury historical commission to redraft plans for a new home that reflects the historic architecture and character of the one that was lost. Historical commission chairman Harold Chapdelaine said the new plans were unanimously accepted by his board in August. Mr. Rosbeck also offered to contribute $25,000 to create a database of historic homes in Vineyard Haven.

And while no one ever took full responsibility for the misstep — Mr. Barwick the building inspector, who has since retired, eventually apologized and Mr. Murphy the attorney cited confusion over the MVC’s checklist — throughout the review, members of the commission were blunt in their pique over what had transpired.

The frustration bubbled out during deliberations Thursday night, as commissioners tried to put a price tag on the loss of history.

“We don’t impose penalties and fines . . . but there is a value to the loss,” commissioner Joan Malkin said. “And I think we have lost having that structure to look at and appreciate. We have lost everything that was inside that structure because it was demolished without any effort to save any floorboards, joists, mantelpieces, including the treasures and relics that may have been in there. And those are valuable to us as a culture and a people.”

MVC chairman Doug Sederholm added that the commission’s analysis of benefits and detriments allows it, and often forces it, to quantify intangibles.

“I would observe that our legislation requires us to preserve and conserve the unique values of the Island, including the unique historic values,” Mr. Sederholm said. “It is just what we are bound to do.”

Mr. Goldstein felt that Mr. Rosbeck’s $25,000 offer was not satisfactory, and made a motion to increase the sum to $100,000, with $75,000 going to the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. The motion was approved in voice vote, but commissioner Clarence (Trip) Barnes 3rd dissented in the strongest terms.

“What are you trying to do? Kill the summer colony? It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of in my life and I’m embarrassed to sit with this board,” he said. “This place has gone down the elevator to the basement in my mind.”

A sharp exchange followed between Mr. Barnes, who felt the $100,000 was unfair, and other commissioners. It ended with a stern gavel thump from Mr. Sederholm.

In the end the vote was 13-1 to allow the project with conditions, but it was clear that commissioners saw it as a bitter pill to swallow.

“I just want to say that we’re approving the demolition of something that has already been demolished. And there’s a problem with that,” commissioner Kathy Newman said. “It’s not about the money,” she added.

Commissioner Jim Vercruysse expressed similar thoughts. “I have a really hard time voting to approve this,” he said. “There was a blatant disregard for our regulations, and there’s no excuse for not knowing the checklist. These are experienced people who have been working on the island for a long time. They should have known better.”

In the roll call vote, Gail Barmakian, Leon Braithwaite, Kathy Newman, Joan Malkin, Ben Robinson, Linda Sibley, Ernie Thomas, Jim Joyce, Jim Vercruysse, Christina Brown, Robert Doyle and Richard Toole voted in favor. Mr. Barnes was the lone no vote. Mr. Sederholm abstained.

Other conditions include leaving the old mill unaltered and ensuring its continued preservation, as well as a condition that any changes to a potentially historic barn on the property must come before the commission for review. Commissioner Ben Robinson also proposed three environmental conditions on the project, including that no PVC be used on the home’s exterior, that the house achieve a HERS rating of 20 or below, and that the house is all-electric. Despite protestations from commissioner Jim Joyce and Mr. Barnes, those conditions were also approved.

Mr. Chapdelaine, who attended the meeting, summed up the difficult tenor of the proceedings.

“There was nothing easy about the last four months,” he said. “And while I know Trip has some objections here, it is still representative of the community coming together . . . and there are a lot of people who have a greater appreciation for our historic heritage on behalf of this.”