Harborside Inn owners submit preliminary plans to rebuild on Block Island

VVO REAL ESTATE Holding LLC presented plans to rebuild the Harborside Inn on Block Island to the New Shoreham Historic District Commission on Nov. 27, WJAR-TV NBC 10 reported.  / PBN FILE PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE
VVO REAL ESTATE Holding LLC presented plans to rebuild the Harborside Inn on Block Island to the New Shoreham Historic District Commission on Nov. 27, WJAR-TV NBC 10 reported.  / PBN FILE PHOTO/DAVID LEVESQUE

PROVIDENCE – Three months after the historic hotel was destroyed by a fire, early plans have been introduced to rebuild the Harborside Inn on Block Island.

Property owners VVO Real Estate Holding LLC presented plans to the New Shoreham Historic District Commission on Nov. 27, WJAR-TV NBC 10 reported Tuesday. 

The early-stage proposal, which was submitted last month, calls for a new building that will look similar to the previous one, according to the report. As with the building destroyed by fire, the proposed building  would include space for shops on the ground floor, with several floors for hotel rooms and dining.

The owners told WJAR that they would like to begin construction this spring and be done by 2025.

The original hotel was destroyed by a fire that started in the kitchen’s hood and spread quickly through the hotel’s three floors into the attic on Aug. 19. The structure was razed a month later.

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About 50 firefighters and four ladder trucks from around the state arrived by plane and ship to help fight the blaze.

All guests were evacuated, and no serious injuries were reported. The building also housed the Harbor Grill and the Orchid Lounge, and it had several street-level shops, including Wild Flowers Boutique and the Mad Hatter, a hat shop. 

The inspector who signed off on Harborside Inn’s fire suppression system had his license revoked by the state on Sept. 26.

Peter Freund, owner of Emergency Services of New England LLC, told investigators that the the hotel’s fire suppression system contained two components that weren’t supposed to be used together. The manufacturer previously warned that the incompatible parts could cause the entire system to fail. 

“Freund stated that he had verbally advised the building owner that the two components were not listed for use together but that, when the building owner did not want to pay for a new control head, Freund tagged the system as compliant regardless,” investigators wrote in a report on the fire.  

While acknowledging he tagged the Harborside Inn’s fire suppression system as compliant repeatedly over the years, Freund also admitted doing so for two other nearby businesses he was tasked with inspecting – Club Soda and Mohegan Café, according to the investigators’ report.  

Investigators also found the R.I. Office of the State Fire Marshal, which revoked Freund’s license, did not have a record on file for inspections of the Harborside Inn. The state took over inspections for New Shoreham in 2019 when the town’s inspector was relieved of those duties. 

Investigators also said the restaurant manager at the Harborside Inn claimed the kitchen hood was cleaned at the start and close of each season. However, the last recorded cleaning of the kitchen hood dated back to May 2022, which violates Rhode Island’s fire code. 

The Harborside was one of several hotels built in the late 1800s that line Water Street in the Old Harbor, some of the first sights that visitors see as they disembark from the ferry across the street. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

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