Demolition of Prudden-Baldwin house goes before Preservation Commission

A crowd is expected at the Milford Historic Preservation Commission’s March 19 meeting, when the commission will be presented with plans to demolish a historically significant Milford house.

The house in question is located at 67 Prospect Street, and was built by David L. Baldwin in 1835. Baldwin, who was born in Milford in 1785, was town clerk of Milford for 27 years, and clerk of probate for 12 years.

The house is located in The National River Park Historic District, and in addition to its historic significance it is noted for its architecture — it is a two-story Greek Revival-style house.

But even more important than the house itself is the fact that the property was once part of the home lot of the Rev. Peter Prudden (1601-1656), leader of the Hertfordshire Group that founded Milford in 1639, and first pastor of the First United Church of Christ.

The city’s first burying ground was in Prudden’s backyard, meaning that a number of Milford’s founders are buried on the property, according to city historians.

The house would be leveled, and the property altered under a developer’s plan to build 44 one-bedroom units and 1,269-square-feet of office space at the site.

In 2015 the city created an Historic Preservation Ordinance and an Historic Preservation Commission to protect architecturally or historically significant properties that lie outside the two local historic districts, and that is why the proposal will go before a city board for a vote.

The ordinance and commission were created in response to the demolition of the Bryan house on Gulf Street, and threats to other historically significant homes.   

Since the proposal to build on the property came to light, residents have been rallying to try to save the house and stop the planned construction for the sake of local history.

A petition on to stop demolition of the house, created by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, has more than 2,800 signatures.

In a letter published in the Milford Mirror, Christopher Bishop wrote, “... though we cannot state with certainty the place of Peter Prudden’s house, nor exactly where Prudden was buried, we do know that the Prudden-Baldwin property is the final vestige of that hallowed graveyard chosen by, and made sacred by, the Original Planters.

“And we know that this is our last chance to honor their choice by preserving it,” Bishop added. “We owe this much to our ancestors; and we owe this much to our children.”

Local preservationist Tim Chaucer also shared his thoughts in a letter to the Milford Mirror, writing, “... this project would desecrate the very place where Milford’s 17th Century founders are buried. An early map shows this burial ground just behind the house.”

Anthony Griego said people should be outraged.

“Outraged,” he wrote in a letter to the Mirror. “I cannot believe that the people of Milford are not outraged. The destruction of your town history is happening before your very eyes. Nothing is sacred anymore.”

Students in Tom Acri’s class at West Shore Middle School are getting involved, too, writing letters to the commission expressing their views of the plan.

Residents will be able to speak at the upcoming hearing, which will start at 7 p.m. March 19 at Milford City Hall.