After this week’s work is complete, just one silo is all that is due to remain of the old Roberti Farm dairy buildings. Wrecking crews came in this week to demolish the old barn and two tall silos. The old farm property is just behind the Stop & Shop Supermarket on Route 6A.
By mid-morning yesterday, the roof of the old barn had been taken down and crews were cleaning up that debris before moving on to the work of removing the walls. Demolition of the two silos was not expected to begin until today.
The decision to demolish these structures was made after a November 24 fire at the barn prompted building inspector Paul D. Spiro to take a closer look at the buildings. The fire, which is still under investigation, had completely destroyed one room on the second level of the barn and charred a corner of the barn’s roof half-way down to the door. The building was secured with plywood until a structural engineer could inspect it to see if there was any way to save it.
“I know it’s a historical landmark to some...but I wear the hat of the building inspector and I have to protect the town from liability and residents from harm.”
Sandwich Building Inspector
“The engineer agreed with me that the barn was too deteriorated to be salvaged,” Mr. Spiro said.
Despite the town’s efforts to secure the barn and keep people out of it, Mr. Spiro said they found evidence that people had been staying inside.
“It’s town property and a wicked liability. It’s a hazard, meaning it was unsafe for firefighters to go inside,” Mr. Spiro said.
He said the town had no choice but to demolish the barn.
“I know it’s a historical landmark to some...but I wear the hat of the building inspector and I have to protect the town from liability and residents from harm,” Mr. Spiro said.
Though the silos were not damaged in the fire, those structures had to come down as well, he said.
“The base of the silos had been compromised. The concrete and wire holding the structures together had cracked, making them even more top-heavy. The barn has been a bit like Big Brother protecting the silos from the elements. Once we remove the barn, there would be more exposure to the silos, further compromising the integrity of those structures. It’s safer if we take them down as well,” he said.
In 1999, the Boston-based historic advocacy group Historic Massachusetts named the Roberti Farm as one of the 10 most endangered historic resources in the commonwealth.
“There had been a tremendous effort over the years to try to preserve this property. It’s sad to lose these pieces of our history. They should be converted or adapted for contemporary use while preserving their character,” said local historian Jonathan D. Shaw.
Though the town received emergency status from the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, which would allow it to forgo the formal bidding process on the demolition project, town officials sought three estimates for the project. R.J. Bevilacqua Construction Corporation, in the Sandwich Industrial Park, was selected to do the demolition work. Because of asbestos in the buildings, the town had to bring in South Shore Environmental Services to do testing on the building and planning for the demolition work.
The entire project is estimated to cost $40,000 to $50,000.
Once owned by Louis and Albert Roberti, the eight-acre farmstead dairy operation, which also included 300 acres in the village and Forestdale sections of town, had 75 cows and produced more than 500 quarts of milk per day. The farm’s customer base consisted of local Sandwich residents and reached as far as Falmouth and Hyannis, where they delivered milk. The farm shut down in 1971, after Albert Roberti became ill.
The Roberti Farm was gifted to the town in 1999 from Tedeschi Realty Corporation in exchange for approval to expand the Stop & Shop Supermarket on Route 6A. The property came with a deed restriction specifying that it must be used for agriculture or conservation projects. In 2003, the town fire department burned down the circa-1850s farmhouse on the property because it was deemed a public safety hazard. After an extensive, nine-year search for a tenant, the land portion of the property was finally leased to Arnold O. Johnson of Harry Johnson Tree Farm out of Osterville.