2023 was another busy year on the island, and the Nantucket Current was on top of it all - covering everything from the President of the United States, a yacht drug and gun bust, historic real estate transactions, local crime, town politics, and more.
We have gone through the analytics, and these 15 stories below were the most-read stories by all of you in 2023.
#1: Barstool Sports Founder Dave Portnoy Buys $42 Million Nantucket Compound, A New Record
A waterfront estate along Nantucket Harbor sold in late September for $42 million to Dave Portnoy, the founder of the media company Barstool Sports. The transaction set a residential real estate record for both the island and the entire state of Massachusetts.
The purchase included two separate lots that have been developed as a single property - 72 and 68 Monomoy Road - and the estate had not been listed for sale on the market. The closing price included roughly $2 million worth of furniture and amenities in the fully furnished estate.
You can read the full story here, where Portnoy went on to confirm via social media he was the buyer - calling Nantucket "his favorite place on earth."
#2: Police Raid Yacht "Jess Conn" In Nantucket Harbor
A 70-foot motor yacht anchored in Nantucket Harbor was raided by Nantucket Police and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in early September after a woman was evacuated from the vessel and taken to an ambulance waiting at the town pier.
The owner of the yacht, a retired physician named Scott Burke, was arrested. Sources with knowledge of the investigation told the Current initially that authorities discovered guns, drugs, and prostitutes aboard the vessel.
Investigators, including a DEA special agent, confiscated 43.4 grams of cocaine, 14.1 grams of ketamine, and two pistols - a .380 Smith Wesson Shield and a 9mm Smith & Wesson - along with various ammunition.
While no police reports ever confirmed our initial report of prostitutes being found aboard the vessel, one of the search warrants obtained by the Current revealed that "pornographic films" were allegedly being made on the Yacht.
You can read our initial, exclusive story in its entirety on this yacht raid by clicking here.
#3: Main Street Fountain Destroyed In Late Night Hit And Run
The Main Street fountain, a landmark of downtown Nantucket, was destroyed October 30th just after 10:30 p.m. by a pickup truck that smashed into it at high speed and fled the scene.
The Main Street fountain dates back to 1885, and the monument is dedicated to the memory of Lieutenant Max Wagner, according to the Nantucket Historical Association.
No one has been charged for the hit and run, however the truck was eventually identified and owned by Michael K. Holdgate, 55, of Nantucket - who was arraigned the next morning in Nantucket District Court on charges of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol (second offense) and negligent operation of a motor vehicle after he pulled into his driveway driving a white van as police were knocking on his door to inquire about the accident and the damaged truck in his driveway. Police said Holdgate nearly struck an officer on scene and that he was intoxicated.
Holdgate is the owner of Holdgate's Island Laundry, had not-guilty pleas entered on his behalf, was ordered to return to court November 20th for a pretrial hearing - which was continued to a later date. Read more about the arraignment and allegations outlined in a police report obtained by the Current.
You can read our initial story on the Main Street Fountain hit and run, as well as view more photos of the crash scene, by clicking here.
#4: WATCH: Nantucket Current's Viral President Biden Video
President Biden's strolls through downtown Nantucket during his presidency have created some memorable moments over the past three years, but none quite like the one as he walked to the Brotherhood of Thieves for his annual afternoon lunch on the island this year.
Nantucket Current Editor-in-Chief Jason Graziadei explained the back story to the video, which shows Biden saluting Graziadei, after it garnered over two million views across all of the Current's social media platforms, in a story late last month. You can read it in its entirety by clicking here.
#5: Boston Developer Buys Historic Downtown Nantucket Inns For $10 Million
A Boston real estate development and investment firm dropped $10 million in early October to acquire three contiguous properties in downtown Nantucket that include a pair of historic former guesthouses.
Core Investments, located on Boylston Street in Boston, became the new owner of 15 and 17 North Water Street after the sale, along with 8 Sea Street. Together, the three properties total .4 acres.
The property at 17 North Water Street includes the former Easton House guesthouse that was built in 1812. Next door at the 15 North Water Street lot is the former Hussey House lodging establishment, which was constructed in 1795.
You can read the full story and breakdown of the real estate transaction by clicking here.
#6: "Billionaire Vs. Billionaire" Charles Johnson Blames Steve Karp In Clam Shack Dispute
It’s not every day a billionaire walks into your office and wants to talk about a clam shack.
But this is Nantucket, and after billionaire seasonal resident Charles Johnson had been roasted for months over his opposition to the proposed clam shack restaurant on Straight Wharf directly next to his property on Old North Wharf, he walked to the Nantucket Current office on North Beach Street in the middle of July looking to weigh in on the controversy that embroiled him.
Eventually, the dispute was resolved - but not before plenty of back and forth and posturing from both sides.
You can read the full story on what Johnson had to say in an exclusive interview with the Current by clicking here.
#7: Nantucket Resident Arrested On Boston Murder Warrant
A Nantucket resident identified as Tevin Herman, 31, was arrested on the island in early November in connection with a September double shooting in Dorchester that left a woman dead and another person injured.
Boston Police Department homicide detectives, along with members of the Boston Police Department’s fugitive unit and members of the Massachusetts State Police’s Violent Fugitive Apprehension unit, converged on a residence located at the corner of Nobadeer Farm Road and Hanabea Lane around 7:30 a.m. November 2 to make the arrest. The Nantucket Police Department and local Massachusetts State Police Troopers played a support role during the operation.
You can read the full story on this arrest by clicking here.
#8: $38 Million Sale Of Monomoy Home Breaks Island Record
On June 30th, the most expensive home ever listed on Nantucket was sold for $38.1 million, which at the time broke the island record for a single residential home sale.
Nantucket Current Publisher Bruce Percelay broke the news of this monstrous real estate sale. The property was owned by longtime island summer residents Cindy and Evan Jones of Washington DC. The Monomoy compound at 20, 21, and 22 Berekely Avenue was originally listed last year for $56 million and the asking price was ultimately reduced to $48 million.
You can read the full story on this real estate sale by clicking here.
#9: Preparations Begin For President Biden's Thanksgiving Visit
And so it began once again....
As preparations for President Joe Biden’s annual visit to Nantucket for the Thanksgiving holiday got underway, the Current was on top of the movement following the arrival of a C-17 Globemaster plane at Nantucket Memorial Airport November 15th.
The aircraft was dropping off vehicles and government personnel that will be part of the massive security apparatus required for the Presidential visit.
You can read the full story here.
#10: Air Force C-17 Still Broken Down At Nantucket Airport 10 Days After President Biden's Departure
10 days after President Joe Biden left Nantucket, a remnant of his visit to the island remained.
Still parked at Nantucket Memorial Airport was a massive U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster. The Current first reported a week prior that the aircraft was broken down, and an airport source told the Current Air Force personnel were continuing to work on one of its engines.
A spokesman for Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, the Air Force base in New Jersey where the C-17 is typically stationed, offered few details at the time on the cause of the breakdown and how long the aircraft might remain on Nantucket.
“A C-17 assigned to the 305th Air Mobility Wing is currently in Nantucket undergoing aircraft maintenance," the spokesman replied to an inquiry from the Current in early December. "The 305th AMW conducts strategic missions worldwide in support of the Air Mobility Command’s missions across the world.”
You can read the full story here.
#11: Town Shuts Down Summer House Following Failed Inspections
In the middle of June, we reported that The Summer House in Sconset wouldn't open for the season as planned after it failed inspections by several town departments.
“It was a joint decision with Fire, Building, and Health,” Nantucket Health Director Roberto Santamaria said at the time when asked about the closure. “The Fire Department and Building Department discovered a significant amount of code violations regarding their plumbing and gas fitting renovations. The violations were significant enough that there was a life-safety issue. The departments believed that an immediate closure was necessary to prevent any potential danger to the public.”
Two sources with knowledge of the situation told the Current that these violations stem from some “significant unpermitted and dangerous gas work” that led to the removal of gas tanks from the property.
The Summer House, a mainstay in the Sconset area for decades that includes a hotel and restaurant, was scheduled to open on June 16th. It would have marked the beginning of its 44th season. Danielle deBenedictis, the owner of The Summer House, denied the town's claim that it had closed the hotel down.
“The Summer House is not closed. It just has not yet opened for the season,” deBenedictis told the Current. “We are working with the town to do the necessary work to open as soon as possible and look forward to a 44th wonderful season.”
The Summer House did in fact turn out to be closed as the town said, but it eventually reopened in late July after deBenedictis and the Town came to a resolution.
#12: "We've Really Created A Monster" More Island Restaurants Apply For Extended Offseason Closures
Where will you eat out this winter on Nantucket? The choices might be more limited than you think, which the Current outlined in a story just last week.
Town licensing administrator Amy Baxter reported to the Select Board earlier this month that 14 restaurants licensed as year-round establishments had submitted requests for so-called “extended closures” during the 2023-24 offseason. And, she said, more requests are expected to be made in the coming weeks.
Any Nantucket restaurant or bar with a year-round (known as an “annual”) liquor license is required to report an extended closure of two weeks or more to the town, and those requests must be approved by the Select Board. Such closures have been increasing, Baxter said, as the restaurant industry is still being impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite a year-round population that continues to grow - with recent estimates at more than 17,000 island residents - Nantucket’s restaurants still find it challenging if not cost-prohibitive to stay open through the slowest months of the year during the offseason.
The discussion during the recent licensing hearing reflected that reality, as did comments from restaurateurs who spoke with the Current.
#13: An End Of An Era Looms At Nantucket Pharmacy. What Happens Next?
Changes are coming to a Main Street favorite and one of downtown Nantucket’s most iconic locations.
Nantucket Pharmacy, which has been locally owned and serving the community since 1937, is at a crossroads. Owner and pharmacist Allan Bell, along with his longtime partners Ken Knutti, RPh, Jill Audycki, RPh, and Joanne Skokan, are all in their 60s and 70s and looking forward to their next chapters in life.
“At some point, you know, we’re done,” said Bell, sitting in the small, cramped office behind the pharmacy last week as the summer crowds flowed in and out of the Main Street location. “I’d like us to not be here next Memorial Day. I don’t think we could do another summer. We can, but I don’t think we want to. I think, mentally, we’ve all sort of slowed it down. It’s time.”
Nantucket Pharmacy, with its throwback soda fountain and gift store, is a cornerstone of Main Street. It’s a place where generations have gathered and islanders have forged trusted relationships with the friendly and knowledgeable pharmacy team.
So what happens next? That remains a question mark, but many factors and possibilities are being considered - which you can read about in Current's story here.
#14: Tidal Creeks Ship Store To Close In October Amid Hard Feelings
The Tidal Creeks Ship Store on Washington Street announced in the middle of August that it would be closing by the end of October, and the shuttering of the only full-service marine store on Nantucket Harbor happened with hard feelings among those involved.
The closure came just three years after store owner Mike Allen took over the Brant Point Marine business at 32 Washington Street in late 2020 from Rick Kotalac, who owns the waterfront property.
“We were forced to not continue,” said Allen, who cited a breakdown in communication with Kotalac. “It’s a bummer. I don’t know what’s going to happen down there.”
The closing of the store is a loss for the community on several fronts, Allen said. Not only is the island losing the only full-service marine store on the harbor, but it's losing a local family who had poured their hearts and souls into the business. Noah and Lindsay Gerstmyer, who Allen had tapped to run the store, will now be leaving the island and returning to Maryland.
“The big loss is for Nantucket, to lose yet another great family,” Allen said. “And the boating community is also the big loser in this.”
The property was eventually purchased by the Angler's Club for $5 million in early October.
#15: Police Determine Cause Of Fatal E-Bike Accident
The fatal e-bike crash on Vesper Lane in June claimed the life of Shay Deverse, the general manager of the Main Street restaurant Lemon Press.
Police eventually determined following an investigation that the crash was the result of the Deverse colliding with a mailbox and that it did not involve a hit-and-run.
Deverse was flown off-island by Medflight helicopter to a Boston hospital but died as a result of the injuries sustained in the crash.
You can read the full story here.