July 2, 2022

Written Objections Delay Highland Hall Demolition in Essex

ESSEX— Two members of the Essex Historical Society have filed written objections that will delay the demolition of the Highland Hall building for at least three months.

The objections were filed with Building Official Keith Nolin by Fred and Mary Ann Pleva and Eve Potts. Pleva is the most recent past president of the historical society, Potts an active member. The objections trigger the town’s 2004 delay of demolition ordinance, preventing Nolin from processing a demolition for 90 days.

Highland Hall is owned by Our Lady of Sorrows Roman Catholic Church, the abutting property owner on Prospect St.
The building was constructed in 1920 as the town’s first centralized elementary school, and is considered a historic structure by many residents. It was converted in to a nursing home in the mid-1950s, but has been vacant for about 20 years. The church had purchased the property in 2004 with plans for a possible church school use that it did not pursue.

The delay of demolition ordinance had been championed by the late Donald Malcarne, an author and former town historian, who had also opposed an initial effort by the church to demolish the structure in 2006. After the society led by Malcarne filed a written objection, the church did not pursue the demolition in 2006.

In letters to ValleyNewsNow.com, Pleva and Potts have suggested the 90 days be used to explore any other possible uses for the building, and also for a historic survey of the structure. The Highland Hall property abuts the Grove St. Park, located behind the town hall.  Nolin said the ordinance would prevent him from processing a demolition permit for the project until Nov. 4.

See related letters:

Highland Hall – A Part of the Town’s Cultural History – Frederick and Mary Ann Pleva

Historic and Architectural Resource Survey Should be Made of Highland Hall – Eve Potts