Former Historical Society president quits board in protest of decision to raze historic house

Former Milford Historical Society President Susan Carroll-Dwyer has resigned from the society’s board over the planned demolition of an historic house on North Street.

Carroll-Dwyer said she could not serve on the board with First Vice President William Farrell, who owns the historic Sanford/Bristol house and plans to raze it, or with Historical Society President Arthur Stowe, who voted as a member of another board to let the house be demolished.

“Article 2 in our by-laws states: ‘The object of the Society shall be to collect and preserve appropriate antiques and historical sites that may be connected with the city of Milford, as well as its ancient environs’,” Carroll-Dwyer wrote in a letter to the board announcing her resignation as second vice president and publications chairman.

“The actions of the current first vice president, William Farrell and president, Arthur Stowe, are in direct contradiction to the above referenced article 2 in the Society by-laws,” Carroll-Dwyer wrote.

A city Historic District Commission in June approved the demolition of the house based on opinions from two engineers that it is structurally unsound.

Farrell bought the house in January for $150,000. He said he wanted to restore it but then learned it was not realistic because of the extent of the damage and neglect.

“My enthusiasm grossly overtook the reality of what I was facing,” he told the commission at an earlier meeting. Much of the inside of the house had been gutted, and main supports were being held up by jacks in the basement, Farrell said. Experts who spoke on his behalf said the house was not safe.

The matter has received much attention. City Historian Richard Platt said at an earlier meeting that he understands that renovating the house might be overwhelming, but he argued that’s Farrell’s problem because he bought the house.

As it stands now, Farrell’s architect, Ray Oliver, has drawn up plans to replace the house with a new one that uses some of the original pieces and looks much like the existing structure. The new house will be slightly smaller and be set back in line with the other houses on the street.

Stowe is a member of the Milford Historic District Commission that approved the demolition of the house. The commission has staunchly defended its decision, saying it went through a thorough process and made a decision based on testimony from experts who said the house could not realistically be saved.

Carroll-Dwyer said she thinks Stowe should have at least recused himself from the vote so he could continue to represent the interests of the historical society.

She also said a number of society members have not renewed their memberships because they are upset about what happened.