, Salem, MA

August 17, 2013

House slated to be razed


---- — Last fall, one of the few remaining estate homes from the city’s Gold Coast era was hoisted onto a truck and moved two lots over in the Cove neighborhood.

The owners had decided to move the house so it would be closer to the water. They had also decided to leave behind a section of the house that was once the servants’ quarters.

A year later, the sheared-off building still stands on the lot at 40 Neptune St., an odd-looking leftover down the street from Lynch Park, in one of the most beautiful sections of the city.

The owners, Thomas and Linda Wilburn, had planned to keep the structure where it is and add on to it. Now they want to knock it down.

The Wilburns have applied for a permit to demolish the building. The Beverly Historic District Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the plan for Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

The move and potential demolition involve what the city says is one of the last estates from the Gold Coast era, when Beverly served as the summer home for wealthy people who were attracted to the cool breezes along the oceanfront in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

According to a report by the Beverly Planning Department, the house has been the home of Joseph Lefavour, a shoe manufacturing and railroad executive; Dudley Leavitt Pickman, a cotton mill owner; and Francis Amory, a Navy pilot who headed the Red Cross Disaster Service during World World II.

Last year the Wilburns were given permission by the Historic District Commission to move the main section of the house two lots over to 46 Pickman Road, putting the house directly on the waterfront.

The Wilburns, who could not be reached for comment, said in an Aug. 12 filing with the city that they had planned to keep the three-story, 1,500-square-foot former servants’ quarters at 40 Neptune and add on to it. The structure, however, was “significantly damaged” during the move of the main house and when a frozen pipe burst during the winter, they said.

“It is the assessment of my contractor ... and several other contractors that the structure is not salvageable and should be torn down,” the Wilburns wrote.

Historic District Commission Chairman Bill Finch said he did not want to comment on the demolition plan before the public hearing is held. But he did say the commission was pleased that the main house, which the board had determined was historically significant, has been preserved.

Finch said the splitting of the property and construction of other buildings over the years had taken away the house’s original oceanside setting. That has been restored by the move to Pickman Road.

“Even though it’s not the original site, the new site preserves its landscape setting very well,” he said. “It maintains its visibility with the street and restored its contact with the ocean.”

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or