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Iconic Pink House in Newbury, a favorite of artists, to be removed

Announcement by US Fish and Wildlife Service follows attempts to save local landmark

The Pink House, on the causeway to Plum IslandJessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

The US Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that after years of trying to find an alternative it will move ahead with plans to remove the “Pink House” in Newbury, a local landmark that the agency acquired in 2011 with plans to use it as a dormitory for workers at its Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.

The 1925 house, which sits alone on the south side of the Plum Island Turnpike and is a favorite of landscape artists, contains asbestos and other contaminants, the agency said. By 2015, the refuge announced it would instead knock down the house and open the acreage up for viewing, and build a bunkhouse at its headquarters just up the road.


A group called Support the Pink House soon formed and worked to find an alternative solution to a very tricky problem, because federal law prevents the Fish and Wildlife Service from selling its land. It can only be traded for property of equal or greater value, and it must be land the service wants.

The refuge, which spent $375,000 to buy the Pink House, acknowledged the purchase was a mistake and said it was more interested in the nine acres of marshland that came with it. A swap would need to match the current $425,000 valuation of the home, and the refuge said it wanted salt marsh or marshland with upland or water access, near an existing refuge.

For nine years, Support the Pink House tried to find a solution, and in November the refuge announced a final 30-day public comment period to come up with an alternative. On Thursday, Matt Hillman, the refuge manager, announced that no viable parcels had been located and the agency would move ahead with plans to remove the house.

The service will list the house at public auction for relocation or salvage, leaving open the possibility that “the community could continue drawing inspiration from it at another site or in another form,” Hillman said in a statement.


The soft pink paint on the house, as well as its location all alone on the south side of the causeway that connects Plum Island to the mainland, was a favorite of painters and photographers, as well as a landmark dripping in lore. Some called it the “spite house,” after the legend that a soon-to-be ex-husband built his wife a replica of their house, but in a salt marsh with seawater running through the pipes.

The reality is that the house floods routinely – twice already this year, according to Hillman – which he said made its long-term viability untenable at that location.

“While we regret not reaching an outcome that satisfies all,” Hillman said, “we’re confident the decision aligns with our mission to protect and restore high-quality wildlife habitat.”

On Facebook, Support the Pink House wrote that “it’s frustrating and saddening since we had been in the process of bringing them several new options for land trade, and they knew we had more to submit. We are also frustrated with the blindsiding and misleading information they continue to put out.

“We continue to find it unacceptable,” the statement continued, “that they have not been able to make this land trade deal work, especially when they stood to gain so much — $500,000 of new conservation land, helping resuscitate their image as a bad neighbor within the community, and putting their unwanted property in the hands of those who would have taken care of it and restored it for posterity.”


Billy Baker can be reached at billy.baker@globe.com. Follow him on Instagram @billy_baker.