HAVERHILL — Leaky walls, pools of water and a coat of mold have overcome Denworth Hall, on the Northpoint Bible College campus, in the decades since the once sought-after theater hosted 750 guests at a time for concerts and drama productions.
Now, college President David Arnett is teaming up with City Hall officials and members of the Bradford Common Historic Commission to discuss demolition of the landmark building. The college plans to replace it with a modern building in the same style.
According to Arnett, Denworth Hall was destroyed past the point of being repaired for a realistic price when the religious school moved in 20 years ago. It has been boarded up and locked since, he said.
The building is located at the corner of South Main Street and Kingsbury Avenue. Northpoint Bible College was formerly Bradford College.
Arnett said recent inquiries to restore it led to "astronomical" cost estimates.
With the exception of some bulging bricks on the exterior — shifted by snow and ice during New England winters — passersby may not be aware of the ravaged interior.
"It was a beautiful building in its time," Arnett said. "It's not a complete hazard right now, but I certainly wouldn't want anyone to go into it."
Because Denworth Hall — and many other buildings on and off campus nearby — are part of the Bradford Common Historic District, they're automatically part of the state and federal historic registers, according to Andrew Herlihy, the division director of the city's community development department.
That doesn't mean it can't be knocked down, he explained. It only requires anything new built there to be approved by the Bradford Common Historic Commission.
"The college has been both really good and been very cooperative with the city," Herlihy said. "They've hosted the Bradford Common Historic District Commission twice this past year (as recently as this month) to talk about Denworth Hall."
He described it as the biggest problem the group will face this decade.
"It's just a tough situation for the college," Herlihy said. "They didn't cause that damage. That wasn't on their watch."
In describing the disarray within the walls of Denworth Hall, he said at one point about 2006, it was flooded with 6 1/2 feet of water. That disaster was never properly cleaned up.
Arnett made clear that construction equipment won't be rolling in right away, but the community should be aware that the change is coming.
Safely destroying the 80-year-old building will take care, he said. The structure dates to 1939 and is laden with rusted pipes with lead paint and asbestos everywhere, including in the curtains that still hang across the stage, Arnett said.
The long-range plan, he said, is for Northpoint Bible College to erect a new, similar-looking theater in place of the old one. It would be retrofit with handicapped accessibility, as well as state-of-the-art theater and multimedia production capabilities.