Chaucer argues that Sanford Bristol house is not beyond repair
To the Editor:
As an alternate member of the Milford Historic District Commission I was permitted to speak but not vote on the application of William Farrell to demolish the unique 1790 Sanford Bristol House on North Street and replace it with a replica. Some time ago I was shocked to see a letter signed by some commission members who charged that City Historian Richard Platt and Vice President of the Milford Preservation Trust Barbara Genovese had “pre-established opinions contradicted by plain facts.” Both Platt and Genovese had written letters to local papers charging that the 1790 Sanford-Bristol House should be saved and that the Historic District Commission had failed its responsibility to save the house.
Platt, Genovese and myself had toured the house on Jan. 10, 2013 and had seen for ourselves that the house — though having some fancy woodwork removed — was solid and “built like a tank,” which was how I described it to the H.D.C. at the second meeting on June 24.
Both Platt and Genovese had spoken to the Milford Historic District Commission on May 28 in opposition to the application by Farrell to demolish the house. Platt presented numerous photos showing historic features of the house which is on the National Register, is listed in two overlapping historic districts and is considered a state historic resource under Connecticut State law (22a-14 to 22a-20). Numerous other residents spoke against the demolition while only one spoke in favor.
Later at that first meeting, after Platt, Genovese, and others in opposition had left the room but while Farrell and his paid consultants remained, members of the H.D.C. expressed their opinions that the house as the applicant claimed was “beyond saving.” At this time I also showed photos which illustrated the solid and unique architectural features of this 1790 National Registry house.
What is interesting here is that Platt and Genovese were being accused of preconceived notions about the house after they had walked through and photographed it while commission members expressed support for the demolition before they had scheduled a walk through and before the commission had decided to hire a supposed objective structural engineer and before they had seen a second structural engineer’s report.
Something does not add up here. Even Dr. John O'Neill, who voted against demolition, commented during the second meeting on June 24, “You would not be able to touch this house if it were in Litchfield.” His comments, unfortunately, were omitted from the minutes. At the second meeting, I also pleaded to save this house, a state historic resource under Connecticut state law, but unfortunately was unable to vote with Dr. O'Neill because I am an alternate.
Commission members, including the president of the Milford Historical Society, should be ashamed of themselves for voting to demolish one of the last 18th century homes in our historic city.
Timothy P. Chaucer
member, Milford Historic District Commission