BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — National Grid has begun demolishing four buildings on its River Street property that the Beverly Historic District Commission had deemed “historically significant” and “preferably preserved.”
The company has knocked down three of the buildings and plans to demolish one more in the next two weeks.
The brick industrial buildings were built between 1892 and 1916 by the Beverly Gas and Electric Co. They were cited as “historic resources” in a recent nomination for the area around the train depot to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
“They’re important,” said Bill Finch, chairman of the Beverly Historic District Commission. “They provide an architectural edge to the street. We were unhappy to see that they would be torn down. We thought they could be rehabilitated for office use.”
A spokeswoman for National Grid says the company no longer needs the buildings, which it inherited when it acquired KeySpan in 2007.
The company is knocking down the buildings “in order to reorganize the yard space to make it safer and more efficient,” Charlotte McCormack said.
McCormack said the company recently upgraded another building on the property to accommodate all employees and materials.
National Grid has gas and electrical operations on the site, a 9.5-acre property along the Bass River and across River Street from the Beverly train depot. The company recently began a $5.2 million cleanup of contaminated soil on the property near the river.
The Beverly Historic District Commission imposed a one-year delay on demolition of the buildings in September 2010, citing their historical significance. But once that time period expired, National Grid was free to knock them down.
Finch said the buildings have “distinctive architectural qualities” and provide a buffer from the road to National Grid’s “rather unsightly” operations.
According to the National Register of Historic Places nomination, several other buildings on the site were demolished in the 1980s, but “the complex still retains integrity of design and setting.”
“While each individual building exhibits unique architectural detailing, the collection of these buildings displays a cohesive appearance along the streetscape of River Street,” the nomination said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.