The owners of the Tisbury Inn plan to demolish the old building early in February, with an eye toward building a new hotel and health center. Susan Goldstein, who with her husband Sherman owns the inn, said yesterday they are talking with local contractors about taking down what remains of the complex, at the head of Main street in Tisbury, which was ruined in a fire that began in the evening of Saturday, Dec. 15.
More than 100 firemen and public safety officials were involved in the 18-hour blaze. Today, the blackened building stands, a boarded-up shell. The smell of the fire still permeates the neighborhood.
Mrs. Goldstein said only Zephrus, the restaurant, and the health club's indoor pool survived the blaze. Emphasis in the last week has been on helping the people connected to the inn, she said.
"At this moment we are dealing primarily with getting housing for three of the people that lived in the inn, then we are looking at helping the people who worked for us," Mrs. Goldstein said. She said even before the last of the embers were put out, Cathy Ashmun, the health club manager, was contacting the many independent contractors who taught classes and the personal trainers who used the club facilities.
The offices of the Tisbury Inn have since opened in the basement of EduComp, reachable at the inn's phone number. Initially, the Goldsteins moved the Tisbury Inn office into the first floor store at Brickman's. Mrs. Goldstein said that worked for a few days, but the public traffic into the store made it difficult to get work done. "We are so appreciative of their help," Mrs. Goldstein said. "People were being so solicitous, extending such good wishes, we weren't getting anything done."
The investigation into the cause of the fire is now closed. Last week fire investigators representing the insurance company confirmed the finding of earlier investigators, that the fire was started by an oil-fired hot water heater in the basement of the 19th-century inn. Tisbury fire chief Richard Clark said the initial cause of the fire was first determined by James J. Rogers, a fire department investigator. The state fire marshal, visiting the site the day after the blaze, drew the same conclusion. Investigators for the insurance company came to the Island a week ago yesterday.
Last night, Chief Clark held a two-hour meeting at the fire station, across the street from the inn, to go over the details of the blaze with his firemen. Such critique sessions are routine after any big fire in town, and are intended to be instructional. "I am very pleased by what our guys did. I was also pleased by the help we got from Oak Bluffs. We were up a long time. I don't think we could have done anything differently that would have changed the end result," the chief said.
Mrs. Ashmun, who is working in the EduComp building, is already in touch with members of the health club. Mrs. Goldstein said inn and health club computers were recovered from the fire, and efforts are being made to recover membership lists from them. "I must remind people that we had a million and a half gallons of salt water pumped up from the harbor and put on top of the building," she said. "There is water damage." Efforts are under way to electronically recover data from those computers. "We plan to contact our membership and offer them the following; we will refund the remaining amount of membership costs or give them an option of freezing the cost of their membership until we reopen.
"We will completely rebuild," Mrs. Goldstein said. "We will build a beautiful new club that will have state-of-the-art equipment. Our aim is to be in the 21st century." Mrs. Ashmun is already putting together a health club equipment wish list.
The inn is also refunding all deposits that were collected from prospective guests with reservations.
In addition to expressing gratitude to the firemen for their heroic work, Mr. Goldstein yesterday thanked the rest of the town for its support. "The efforts, the cooperation from the town has just been really marvelous. We've received phone calls from the selectmen and all of the staff." He said he has received calls from Congressman Delahunt's office, from the state senator and state representative. He said they have a basket now filled with cards that have been received.
Mr. Goldstein said: "We will respect the town's wishes over the design and construction of this building."
Mrs. Goldstein added: "The inn will have to be demolished; we are trying to work locally on every level. Discussions have begun with local contractors. We will take the inn down as soon as we can. We have begun the permitting process. We hope to put together the refinancing to rebuild the inn and make Vineyard Haven proud of its corner."