Preservationists look at new ordinance to keep historic homes from being razed

Milford preservationists hope to do something to keep any more historic homes from being demolished.

This week owners of the 1790 Elijah Bryan house on Gulf Street razed the house, and sources have said they plan to build a new home in its place. Milford’s preservationists fought to save the house from demolition, including offering to buy the property, but they had no luck.

On Tuesday night, Former City Historian Richard Platt told the Board of Aldermen that he and others are working on an ordinance that would protect historic properties that lie outside of the city’s  historic districts.

“This year has been a year of celebration as Milford celebrated its 375th anniversary,” Platt said. “Unfortunately today is a sad day for Milford’s history because the Elijah Bryan house is now a pile of rubbish.”

Platt credited Mayor Ben Blake for trying to help him and the Milford Preservation Trust save the house, and lamented the fact that all their efforts could not keep the bulldozer away.

“One problem is that Gulf Street is not a historic district so we did not have that leverage,” Platt told the aldermen.

He said the Milford Preservation Trust will be coming back as early as November to the aldermen to propose an ordinance that would protect properties outside the historic district. Today there are two historic districts in Milford, one on North Street and the other in the downtown area. Residents have been working to name Gulf Street an historic district, but the effort has met with some resistance.

“I’m hoping that what happened today will be a wake up call that we are losing our history bit by bit,” Platt said. “There are two 18th century houses with for sale signs. We have to stay on our guard.”

The Elijah Bryan house that was demolished this week was built about 1790, and located at 250 Gulf Street. The current owner applied for a demolition permit in June, and Milford's city historian imposed a 90-day delay on the demolition, which provided a short window of time for concerned parties to seek out alternative solutions, such as finding a buyer for the house.

Platt said the house was significant because of its architecture, which is a Dutch half gambrel, similar to the Sanford-Bristol house on North Street that was saved from demolition at the beginning of the year.

Michele Chesson Kramer, president of the Milford Preservation Trust, said, “The loss of the Elijah Bryan House is a loss for the entire city of Milford. This house withstood the American Revolution, the Civil War and countless storms. Ultimately what it could not withstand is indifference. Indifference, to history and heritage, is what the Milford Preservation Trust is trying to combat.”