Orange historic house faces demolition

This 18th century house on Turkey Hill Road is slated for demolition, but historians want it saved.

This 18th century house on Turkey Hill Road is slated for demolition, but historians want it saved.

ORANGE >> An 18th-century house at 445 Turkey Hill Road is set to be dismantled or demolished, but Orange Historical Society President Ginny Reinhard is lobbying at the 11th hour to have it restored as a historic site.

The house and five acres, or three building lots, was purchased by the town for $325,000 after elderly residents moved out, First Selectman Jim Zeoli said.

The property was owned by a Treat family member. It is next to Turkey Hill School and Zeoli said he wants to keep the property for possible future town use.

Reinhard, Zeoli and selectmen have toured the house and property, along with former Milford City Historian Richard N. Platt Jr.

On the town side, officials determined there was too much work to be done because the house had fallen into such disrepair, although it has strengths, including a good frame and roof.

Zeoli said the house has some “magnificent” hand-hewn timbers and wide floor boards.

Reinhard said the house has a fabulous dog-leg staircase and 12-over-12 (panels) windows.

Zeoli said his first choice is for a company specializing in dismantling buildings to buy the house for $1, and move it to another site for restoration. He had an arrangement to that effect, but the party backed out and Zeoli hopes to find someone with the right plan and credentials.

“If we’re unsuccessful, it will be demolished,” soon, Zeoli said.

Reinhard counters that “the history of the house is in the house, not in pieces everywhere else.”

Reinhard brought up the issue during the public comment portion of a Board of Selectmen meeting.

She made it clear the Historical Society is not interested in restoring the house, as it has done to others in town, because the money isn’t there.

But said she would like to see it saved by the town selling to a person or family interested in restoring it.

“It looks like the devil,” and could use paint, but “it has good bones,” Reinhard told the selectmen.

In answer to a question by Selectman Mitchell R. Goldblatt, Town Attorney Vincent Marino said such a move could be made by requiring any buyer to keep the house on the property.


But there are varying views on the state of the house and how savable it really is.

Zeoli has said while the frame is in decent shape, there are other structural problems, including the carrying beams and sills. Letting the house remain and fall further into disrepair could be a liability for the town, he said.

“I do not like getting rid of old buildings at all,” Zeoli said.

Zeoli said the town bought the property, in part, to rescue it from developers who showed an interest in it.

Reinhard said the land is part of the “King’s Grant,” acres granted to Robert Treat by King Charles II as a thank-you for leading 350 soldiers against the Wampanoag and Narragansett tribes in about 1675 in King Philip’s War.

In 1850 the house was lived by William Treat, a grandson seven generations removed from Robert Treat.

Robert Treat, governor of Connecticut Colony, 1683 and 1698, is an important figure in history and all the houses connected with the family that can be saved should be saved, Reinhard said.

“You can’t ever have enough of anything that’s historical,” Reinhard said. “I want to keep the house where it is.”

Platt, also a member of the Milford Preservation Trust, in a follow-up email to Reinhard, wrote in part, Platt also noted that he agrees “that the place is worth saving and is in reasonably good shape in spite of its appearance.”

“Because there is no official historic designation, I’m not sure what you or we can do to save the place short of trying to sway public opinion,” Platt said.