The U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Park Service again blasted redevelopment plans for the former Odette’s site in New Hope in a Feb. 16 letter to property owners and the P.A. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
The U.S. Department of Interior division initially slammed the proposed redevelopment in October 2015 after reviewing the project at the request of the DCNR.
DCNR is working with developer Gateway to New Hope, LLC, because DCNR owns the land surrounding the Odette’s structures.
Gateway to New Hope has sought since April 2014 to tear down the historic Odette’s tavern to make way for a boutique conference center, an action the U.S. National Park Service said in an October 2015 letter represents a “serious threat to the character and integrity of the Delaware Canal.”
The Delaware Canal was identified as a National Historic Landmark in 1976, and it’s the job of the National Park Service to work with landmark owners to ensure their property’s continued historic status.
They said last October that the Odette’s building “retains integrity and is not diminished by the subsequent 20th century additions.”
The National Park Service’s latest letter follows an inspection by that group of the Odette’s site on Jan. 15, 2016. Some of their observations: “The team was generally impressed by the condition of the 1780s core building,” and “The building retains both structural and design integrity.”
The Park Service went on to recommend three possible scenarios to mitigate what they consider to be potential harm to historic resources and the state park by the proposed development. The last scenario, which seems least desirable from a historic preservation viewpoint, is “relocation of the building to another site.”
Gateway to New Hope and the DCNR have latched onto this last option, according to a source close to the situation, and want to move the historic 1784 tavern from the its current location astride the Delaware Canal to a rest area for park visitors at 145 S. Main Street where DCNR officials had previously announced they were constructing new offices.
The proposed arrangement would save some of the original historic tavern, but removing it from the section of canal where it originally functioned and where it also served as a nationally-acclaimed restaurant/cabaret/bar will obscure the historic context of the structure, say critics.
While relocation of the building to another site, “may be feasible,” according the National Park Service in its Feb. 16 letter, “We doubt that it will remain a contributing structure of the National Historic Landmark. It would obviously lose all relationship to its historic setting.”
Concludes the letter, “We continue to maintain that the development that is planned for this location will be harmful to the historic resources and the state park.”
Other options suggested by the U.S. National Park Service were “Retention of the building in place with no new construction to the south and relocation of the new construction to the north of the building,” and “Retention of the building on site but moved 40 to 60 feet directly south on the island.”