By Edith Tucker
The Berlin Sun
DIXVILLE — The state Fire Marshal’s office issued three permits on Tuesday to allow the demolition of three buildings that are part of The Balsams Resort: Dix House, Wind Whistle House, and Tillotson House.
Each permit states that the applicant — Dixville Capital LLC of Bethel, Maine — is responsible for obtaining any needed environmental, hazardous material or other permits and approvals, before the demolition work is begun.
Dixville Capital has not put forward any estimated timeline for when demolition will begin. All three permits become invalid, however, unless the work authorized has begun within 180 days of issuance on Oct. 10, 2017.
The extent of the demolition work planned at the Dix House, described by Steve Barba — longtime former senior partner of The Balsams Corporation — as “the heart of the Grand Hotel,” only became public earlier this week.
But plans to knock down the other two smaller buildings have been known for some time.
The Wind Whistle House, used long ago to house the children of guests and their nannies, more recently housed a summer day camp for guests’ children.
The Tillotson House, tucked discretely behind thick shrubbery, was the private personal residence of resort owner Neil Tillotson and his wife Louise. That site is now designated for use as a take-off and landing spot for a proposed gondola to what is planned as greatly enlarged ski terrain on the south side of Route 26.
Dixville Capital has named TMS of Portsmouth as its resort architects, including drawing up plans for a new Dix House.
“TMS is highly regarded — and they have a lot of experience with historic properties — including the Bridges House in East Concord, the official state governor’s residence,” explained resort spokesman Scott Tranchemontagne of Montagne Communications. “We are very confident TMS will develop plans that will faithfully reconstruct the historical and architectural elements of the current Dix House. In reality, the reconstruction plan is no different than the renovation plan, in terms of what the building will look like when we are done. The only difference is we’ll be using all new materials that will add strength, durability and energy efficiency to the building. It will look just like the Dix House does now, with its iconic white clapboard and red roof. The exterior will look just as it does now — with the possible exception of needing to bring things up to current code, such as some of the outside railings,” he said.
“On the inside, major architectural elements such as the grand staircase, fireplaces and detailed columns will all be faithfully replicated,” Tranchemontagne continued. “The window and door styles will remain the same, although they will be much more energy efficient than the current ones."
“We had always anticipated that portions of the Dix House would need to be removed and replaced as part of the renovation, including elements of the foundation, the entire roof and the Dix-Hampshire Connector,” he said. “When we began to realize that it wasn’t feasible to renovate the existing structure, we worked collaboratively with the N.H. Department of Historic Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the most appropriate way to proceed. Their input has been incorporated into the amended memorandum of agreement. An important part of our agreement calls for our team to remove any remaining historical items and safely preserve them, as we have done with Ballot Room artifacts. We will also place signage in the Dix House that tells its story, honors its legacy, and makes clear that guests are in a newly constructed replica of the original Dix. We will also include this information on our website, as per the agreement.”
“The Dix House’s architectural integrity and historical character will be preserved while incorporating modern building materials to increase energy efficiency, structural integrity and improve the guest experience,” concluded Tranchemontagne. “For example, we will sound proof walls around each unit.”
The state fire marshal’s office is involved because the Coos County Commissioners, who act as the select board in each of the unincorporated places, such as Dixville, requested that it accept this delegated responsibility. The three-man board acted at the request of the planning board for the unincorporated places, relieving it and the county administrator from this time-consuming responsibility.