EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 20, 2014

Help arrives for Plum Island landmark

Bennett Hill rescue work begins

PLUM ISLAND — A last-ditch effort to save the Bennett Hill House from falling into the ocean could be heard and felt this past weekend as a small fleet of excavators and trucks began building a rock barrier in front of the iconic beach house.

Using a private parking lot across Plum island Center as a staging area, work crews from Jamco Excavators of South Hampton hauled large boulders onto the beach area and began dumping them in front of the 19th-century house sitting precariously close to the edge of a 25-foot-tall dune.

The money to pay for the massive endeavor came from many sources, according to Jamco Excavators foreman Jamie Watkins, including neighbors who stepped up to help the Bennett family keep their house.

Current caretaker John Bennett said he was overwhelmed by the level of support shown by his neighbors, who have long banded together when faced with adversity.

“The support from the community was really overwhelming to me. It just was awesome,” Bennett said.

The house has been owned by the Bennett family since 1910 when George Bennett purchased the building before buying the land in 1921. Since then three generations of Bennetts have spent many of their summers inside the house, all along keeping the house as close to its original state as possible. It is a prominent landmark on Plum Island.

Watkins said he expects shoring efforts to take about a week. Watkins said he is familiar with the challenges presented by working on the beach including foul weather and uneven sand, having been here last winter.

Last March, homeowners threatened with the loss of homes paid tens of thousands of dollars to install a series of large rocks in front of their beachfront homes. The move, which came after six houses were lost to Mother Nature, was done without the approval of the Department of Environmental Protection, which has been against the installation of hard surface barriers, but the state did not interfere.

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