Northampton orders demolition of fire-ravaged Round Hill Road building

  • Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A detail of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Detail of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • A detail of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • This is the north end of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • This is the back side of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • This is the north end of Rogers Hall at 49 Round Hill Road, formerly of the Clarke Schools for Hearing and Speech campus. The former dormitory has been ordered demolished by the Northampton Building Commissioner citing risks to public safety after it was heavily damaged in an August 5 fire. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

@StephMurr_Jour
Published: 9/13/2016 4:35:06 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city ordered owners of the Round Hill Road building destroyed in a fire last month to demolish the structure as soon as possible, saying it poses a serious risk to public safety in its current state.

Meanwhile, an adjoining building  at 47 Round Hill Road that displaced 11 tenants due to the fire will be completely restored in January, according to the property owners. Those tenants will be able to move in to the partially restored building sometime before then with prospective new tenants able to fill the remaining empty units in January. 

will not likely be able to move back in until January, according to the property owners.

The order from Northampton Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck followed a recent architectural survey of the building, which was ravaged in a three-alarm blaze that began on the night of Aug. 5 and raged into the next morning. The survey determined that the building could not be made weather tight by winter and therefore structurally stable. 

“I am ordering that the building be demolished as soon as possible,” Hasbrouck wrote in his Sept. 12 order to property owners James Hebert and Michael Siddall. 

The building at 49 Round Hill Road, known as Rogers Hall and part of the former Clarke School for the Deaf, was an old dormitory under renovation to become a luxury housing complex when it caught fire. The fire was not considered suspicious, according to the state Fire Marshal’s Office, though the cause still had not been determined as of this week. 

The fire raged into the early morning hours and drew 20 on- and off-duty firefighters to the scene. There were no injuries, though some 11 tenants in an adjacent building remain displaced.

According to the architectural survey by Thomas Douglas Architects, 98 percent of the roof was destroyed by the fire and collapsed or is missing.

The whole third floor of the building suffered extensive fire damage, according to the report. The blaze destroyed all doors and windows on that floor, the report said, and caused large brick chimneys to collapse.

“Most floor decking is buckled and smoke damaged,” according to the report. “Soot and water have penetrated all wood floors and decking. The floors are not salvageable, are badly damaged, and provide limited seismic support to the exterior brick walls.”

In addition, all wiring, plumbing, HVAC and sprinkler systems are damaged beyond repair, the report states.

The survey states that because sealing the structure from weather like rain and snow is impossible to complete before the winter months hit, and that once freezing conditions occur, water will freeze within the wall cavity, expand, and severely compromise the structural stability of the walls. 

“They will then be subject to collapse,” the report states. 

The property is owned by a group called Historic Round Hill Summit, comprised of Peter Picknelly, chairman and CEO of the Springfield-based Peter Pan Bus Lines and owner of Opal Real Estate Group, Springfield attorney Michael Siddall, and businessman James Hebert.

The trio purchased the property from Clarke School for $4.8 million in 2013 to transform it into a mix of residences and light office and commercial space.

According to Siddall, the cost of the damage has not been determined, though he estimates it to be in the millions of dollars. The company is working with an adjuster to determine the price of the damage.

After the fire, the company intended to rebuild Rogers Hall, Hebert said, and the building commissioner agreed.

“I believe that the building can be made safe without being demolished,” Hasbrouck said in a make-safe order issued to Hebert and Siddall on Aug. 24. 

However, once representatives from two engineering firms and an architect surveyed the site, it was determined the five- to six-month task of making the structure weather-tight could not be completed before winter.

“The issue for a building that age is standing up to the elements like rain and snow. If water gets in and starts to freeze, that damages the structure,” Hebert said. “I’m really disappointed we were not able to complete the project.”

The building also represents a loss for historians, according to Northampton history buff John Bowman. In August, Bowman told the Gazette the core of the scorched building at 49 Round Hill Road was built in the 1820s and has ties to the wealthy Shepherd family and historian George Bancroft. 

According to Bowman, Bancroft lived in the home when he was with the short-lived, though well-known, Round Hill School.

Additions were built to accommodate sleep-over students when the Clarke School acquired the building, but the old wooden frame of the Bancroft house remained, Bowman explained.

For now, Historic Round Hill Summit will focus on making repairs to Hubbard Hall, the adjoining building at 47 Round Hill Road.

The building was protected from the blaze by a fire wall between the two structures, though it sustained significant water damage to its west end, Hebert said.

The damage displaced the 11 tenants who were living in Hubbard Hall. They are being housed by Historic Round Hill Summit in long-term hotel stays, Siddall said.

According to Siddall, the company aims to make the necessary repairs and that will allow tenants back in their homes “as soon as possible.” He expects full repairs to the building will be completed in January. At that point, tenants may fill the 22-unit housing complex.

“It’s very disappointing, (Rogers Hall) was one of the oldest buildings in the city, and everybody involved was excited to bring it back,” Siddall said. “Now our focus is to get Hubbard restored … So tenants can get back in very quickly.”

Meantime, a temporary road closure of Round Hill Road to traffic from Elm Street to Bancroft Road has been extended to Sept. 23, according to the Northampton Department of Public Works. The section of roadway will be accessible only to local residents and contractors working at the scene.

The extension is required to continue to safely remove fire debris from the damaged building at 49 Round Hill Road. The close proximity of the work zone to the roadway is too narrow for passing vehicles while excavators load large dump trucks and Dumpsters in and around the roadway, the DPW posted on its online blog. 

Motorists and pedestrians are advised to be extremely cautious when approaching the work zone, according to the city.




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