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Historic Milford House Saved from Demolition - For Now

Settlement reached Wednesday allows for 67 days to find a buyer for the Sanford-Bristol house before possible demolition.

The Sanford-Bristol house at 111/113 North St., Milford. Credit: Jason Bagley
The Sanford-Bristol house at 111/113 North St., Milford. Credit: Jason Bagley
Release courtesy of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation

On Nov. 6, the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the Milford Preservation Trust reached a settlement with the owners of the Sanford- Bristol house to prevent the house’s demolition.

The settlement came as a result of a lawsuit filed under Section 22a-19a of the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act, which allows citizens to challenge unreasonable destruction of historic buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

An initial hearing was scheduled for Oct. 28, then postponed to allow a more thorough structural investigation. A hearing was scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Superior Court in Derby. A settlement was reached by noon on the matter.

Property owners William P. Farrell Sr. and Gwendolyn Farrell were present in court. Residents of the River Park National Historic District, members of the Milford Preservation Trust and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as other Milford residents were also present.

The Farrells purchased the property in January of 2013 for $150,000 and intended to demolish it in order to build a more modern house on the property. In June of 2013 the town’s Historic District Commission approved an application to demolish the house. The owners claimed the building was unsafe.

James F. Norden, Principal at GNCB Consulting Engineers, P.C., from Old Saybrook performed a structural conditions assessment of the house on Monday, Nov. 4. He documented the property with digital photographs and careful notes from the basement stonewall to the attic and roof structure.

The purpose was to ascertain the current condition and deficiencies and to document the structural framing. Norden found that the condition of the Sanford-Bristol house is equal to historic houses of the same vintage. Typically houses from that time period suffer from deferred maintenance.

Norden explained that the repair work needed in the house is straightforward and can be accomplished by a competent historic restoration contractor based upon his condition assessment recommendations. All repairs for Historic properties are designed and executed based upon nationally recognized preservation standards.

Both parties negotiated and settled on selling the house within thirty days to an owner that will complete the rehabilitation. The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation will step in and purchase the house if a buyer does not come forward in the first 30 days.

After 67 days, if neither party can purchase the home the Farrell’s may proceed with the demolition as approved. The asking price for the house is $200,000- cash only.

The settlement gives the two Trusts until mid-January to find a new buyer who will complete the renovation of the house. Over the past months, several people have expressed interested in the property.

Built in 1790, the Sanford- Bristol house is a contributing resource in the River Park National Register district. With its uncommon outline- a gambrel roof in front and a lean-to in back- it belongs to a small but distinctive group in Milford, likely the work of a single builder, or a reflection of local tastes.

Helen Higgins, executive director for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, was heartened by today's settlement.

“Selling is always an option as a prudent and feasible alternative for historic homes facing demolition. We are pleased that the house isn’t being torn down and that we have been given the opportunity to help find a new buyer.”

Please contact the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation if you are interested in viewing the home. Email: Milford@cttrust.org Phone: 203.562.6312
Just me November 06, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I am so glad this was stopped...when will people stop doing this to the beautiful homes in Milford. Look what happened in Fort Trumbull with those now ugly condos? If you buy a historic home...expect that is has to stay that way....
Justsaying November 06, 2013 at 04:42 PM
This is good news, but it does not mean the strife is over and the battle won. I hope they are able to find a buyer who is willing to put in the money to do the rehab. As for Mr. Farrell, I think he really has to rethink his role and board position with The Milford Historical Society. I also look forward to seeing whether his bid to get elected to the Planning and Zoning Board is successful, once all the absentee ballots are counted.
tlkensington November 06, 2013 at 04:46 PM
They bought the house 11 months ago for $150,000 and the price is now $200k? I wish my house appreciated that much in that time. What are the estimated rehab costs on this? Any nonprofits looking to save it? I'll donate some cash.
Jason Bagley (Editor) November 06, 2013 at 04:47 PM
@justsaying, all absentee ballots are in and Terrence Copeland beat William Farrell for the Fifth District P&ZB seat, 1,323 to 1,290. Posting all official results shortly.
Michael Brown November 06, 2013 at 04:49 PM
I've deleted my earlier post. The $6,500 attorney fee will actually be paid by Milford Preservation Trust and not the buyer. Even a better deal than I thought.
Justsaying November 06, 2013 at 05:57 PM
@jasonbagley Farrell lost? Good news indeed.
Mary November 06, 2013 at 07:59 PM
Good news that Mr Farrell lost. But it is a little late now for Milford. There is no land left to build on. Oh wait they can keep taking down old buildings to build condo's on....We need more people!!!
John O'Neil DVM November 06, 2013 at 10:26 PM
Congratulations on hopefully saving this house. I hope someone steps forward and purchases it before the 67 days.
arkay November 07, 2013 at 01:16 AM
Great home, great location. Just needs the right love. Hope it finds a good owner.
Tom Jagodzinski November 07, 2013 at 06:25 AM
Why isn't the mayor providing some leadership? Where's his plan to save this house?
Tempy November 07, 2013 at 06:53 PM
How are they justifying a $50,000 appreciation? Greedy much?
Alice November 07, 2013 at 07:20 PM
The election is over. Ben Blake won, hands down. Let's stop making everything a political issue, please. This deal was only announced today. What are you expecting from the Mayor, anyway?
John November 07, 2013 at 08:09 PM
The City does not need to own any more homes. The Mayor is doing the right thing by staying out of it.
John D. Poole November 07, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Structural engineer James Norden's assessment confirmed what many suspected: That the Sanford-Bristol House is not "beyond saving", as the Farrells and most (but not all) of the historic district commissioners had claimed; that its problems are typical for a home of its vintage, and readily mitigated via the application of standard restoration processes. If Milford wants to protect its remaining vintage building stock, it'd better start by overhauling its historic district commissions, appointing new commissioners and chairs who actually know something about the material nature of historic homes, and imposing more stringent decision making processes, including seeking advice from skilled restoration contractors, and PEs who are experts in historic timber framed structures. Had this been the case earlier this year, the Sanford-Bristol House wouldn't be languishing today as it is, under continual threat of demolition.
Michele Chesson Kramer November 08, 2013 at 08:38 AM
Had the Historic District Commission done its job by observing guidelines, procedure and its own purview - to maintain the integrity of the neighborhood and protect our historic resources, the Milford Preservation Trust would not have had to fight this battle. Many of us spent hours and resources on this, and the last thing any of us wanted was to end up in court! Milford's elected officials and volunteers on various boards must understand and value what is unique to Milford. When visitors come in from out of town, where do we take them? Past the Duck Pond, with its historic homes, no doubt. Soon enough the third grade classes that take their time-honored walk through the historic district will see only plaques that state "here once stood a home from 1790". People really have to take the long view here, and stop being short-sighted and self-serving. MPT's letterhead bears this quote from John Sawhill: "In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy".
Charles H. Pond November 08, 2013 at 08:52 AM
Good news! We need to preserve as much history as we can. No more developments and cookie-cutter houses!
Justsaying November 08, 2013 at 11:57 AM
Great post, Michele. I too love the Sawhill quote.
lynpie November 12, 2013 at 07:33 AM
Maybe, it's just me, but i smell a rat here. Farrell was a member of the Milford Historical Society, gets demolition approval and is this close from razing the home.... Unless, of course, he gets $200,000 in cash (with a $50,000 profit!?)... Plainly something is rotten in the Milford Historic District Commission, Milford Historical Society, P&Z, or all of the above...
John D. Poole November 12, 2013 at 10:06 AM
I should also add that, now that both a PE versed in historic structures and a restoration contractor have confirmed the suitability of the Sanford-Bristol House for rehabilitation, and that the Milford Preservation Trust and Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation are both desperately searching for a new buyer for the home, against a very tight deadline, where are all the Milford Historic District Commission members (save for the dissenting two), including Art Stowe, current President of the Milford Historical Society? Why aren't any of these people leveraging their various connections and resources to help us find a buyer? Why are they all so silent now? These are the folks the city has charged to protect its historical-cultural resources, not let them slip away. Why aren't they joining in?
Alice November 12, 2013 at 10:43 AM
@John D. Poole. How do you know whether or not the folks on the Historic District are leveraging their various connections to find a buyer? They may be having discussions with potential buyers even as we speak. These kinds of conversations are normally private, and would not belong in a public post in any event.
John D. Poole November 12, 2013 at 09:51 PM
@Alice: You could very well be right about that, and I hope you are. My point here is that I've yet to see any public expressions of support, rallying, awareness building, etc., (whatever you choose to call it) for this selling effort, by any of the HDC members who previously had approved the home's demolition. Doing so would positively contribute to our collective voice in attempting to find a suitable purchaser for this home, in the very little time remaining. But I've heard nothing like that so far, and that's precisely my complaint. Hypothetical private conversations are, after all...kind of hypothetical. :-)
Alice November 12, 2013 at 11:23 PM
@ John. D. Poole: As are your suggestions that the members of the Historic District are doing nothing. Hypothetical accusations are, after all . . . kind of hypothetical.
John D. Poole November 13, 2013 at 02:00 AM
@Alice: I said that I've so far encountered no examples of any of these individuals publicly voicing their support for, or offering to assist with, the current effort to save this home before the clock stops ticking on the 13th of next January. Have you? That's an observation on my part, not a hypothesis. And there's nothing unreasonable (nor hypothetical) about questioning their silence on this matter.

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