Milford’s most fought over house is restored, for sale

The renovated Sanford-Bristol house in Milford.

The renovated Sanford-Bristol house in Milford.

Open houses for real estate are commonly held on weekends, but at the historic Sanford Bristol house on a recent Saturday it was more like an unveiling and history lesson, as well as a glimpse for potential buyers.

The circa 1745 home at 111 North St., saved from the wrecking ball by city preservationists and purchased and redone by Lesley Mills, is fully restored after four years and on the market for $514,000.

Mills, owner of Griswold Home Care, who buys old houses and restores them as a hobby, gave a talk about the process Saturday on behalf of Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

A few dozen who attended took a tour.

"I love this house," Mills said. "If I didn’t love my own house more I’d move here." She noted the beautiful view of the duck pond and proximity to the train station.

At one time, the house was slated for demolition and Milford Preservation Trust brought suit under the CT Environmental Protection Act and with the help of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, was able to achieve a settlement whereby the house was sold to Mills in 2013.

The four -bedroom house with two front doors has a brand new construction and historic feel at the same time. It has all the modern amenities such as air conditioning, instant hot water, but also original hearths, a bee hive oven, and even an original "Parson’s cabinet ," which Mills said in England was used to store special sherry when the parson visited. The front door has the ability to open wider than the standard, as that was how they fit caskets through the door in the old days when viewings were at home.

When tearing the house up they discovered many original treasures and some artifacts behind walls, including a wainscoting wall with built in storage closets on a staircase, fireplaces, muskets, kitchen utensils.

Mills said the bathrooms have "beautiful" glass tiles purchased at Restore.

"Everything has a story behind it," she said.

While the staircases, restored rooms upstairs and basements have the original smallness and angles of that era, Mills said she decided on an open, modern floor plan downstairs, knocking down walls, because of the "sense of oppressiveness of small rooms." She said today’s families tend to spread out more and small rooms don’t lend themselves to entertainment.

The 2,400 square foot house with a storied past has 3.5 baths on a 1/3 acre lot, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Colonial house has 10 rooms, wide board floors, gas, a two-car detached garage, deck, patio.

It took two years to clean and restore with an approximately two-year break in between.

It is for sale or rent, but Mills said she hasn’t decided on a price for the latter. Coldwell Banker has the listing.

Mills, who said she’s certainly not in the hobby it for money, said she’d do restoration work all the time if she could.

Mills did a lot of work with her own hands and worked alongside many restorers, including her right hand woman in restoration, Deb Buskey.

There were specialized architects involved - Ray Oliver was the lead architect - and Mills said she hired a lot of immigrants intentionally and they were great, loyal workers and were "grateful" for the work.

"I learned some Spanish too," she said.

A press release from Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation trust states: "Since then, Ms. Mills has closely supervised the restoration of the house, with painstaking attention to detail. She has seen to it that the house is a livable home for the 21st century, while carefully observing the regulations of the local historic district."

"The Trust has been involved with this project for several years and because of Lesley’s high standards and personal commitment to doing the restoration work right we presented her with a Connecticut Preservation Award of Merit this past Spring," said Jane Montanaro of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Trust, a non-profit whose mission in part is to promote the value of preserving historic places, co-sponsored Saturday’s event as part of its "Open House Talks" held around the state in partnership with local realtors.