Shadow of the Season

Today, I drove past 111 North Street, Milford, Connecticut, and couldn’t help but notice the campaign signs adorning the front lawn of the doomed Sanford-Bristol House (c. 1790), promoting Bill Farrell’s run for a seat on Milford’s District Five Planning and Zoning Board (unfortunately, the signs didn’t come out very clearly in the photo below, so I’ve circled them in red; you can double click the image for an expanded view).

Now, it’s Mr. Farrell’s property, of course, and he’s free to do as he wants — who am I to take issue with this? But you’ve got to admit there’s a profound irony here, in that the guy who’s unflinching in his resolve to demolish a rare, 18th century home, also aspires to a position of influence over property use in the very same district. Not to mention that the only suitable (and final) use he’s found for his 223 year old home (which had well served its many generations of past owners) is to promote his campaign.

Image of Sanford-Bristol House with campaign signs on lawn.

The Sanford-Bristol House, and owner Bill Farrell’s campaign signs on the front lawn.

Equally ironic is that his rival for the P&Z seat, incumbent Terrence Copeland, lives right next door (that’s his “Blake for Milford” sign, near the curb). A local acquaintance of mine described Copeland as being “tepid” on historic preservation, and recalls him expressing approval of the proposed demolition in the June 24th public hearing.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking on the Sanford-Bristol House. The current demolition delay runs out on October 13th. The season for elections is upon us, and not a single politician (with the exception of Ron Goldwyn, a District Two candidate) has taken any meaningful position on the state of historic preservation in Milford, Connecticut, including Ben Blake and Peter Spalthoff, the two mayoral candidates.

So, if you’re as befuddled as I am by Milford’s excessive tear down culture, perhaps you need not look any further than the current crop of politicians, who not only enable, but, in some cases, actively participate in, the ongoing destruction of Milford’s dwindling, vintage housing stock. Will these campaign signs remain on the front lawn while the backhoe goes to work on candidate Farrell’s house? That certainly would make for a painful collection of photos, but photos I’ll take, nonetheless, if things come down to that.

Image of pumpkins and fall flowers at the Rev. Richard Mansfield House, Ansonia, Connecticut.

Various shadows of the season, at an historic home that’s NOT going to be demolished by its owner.

#ThisPlaceMatters

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes and their preservation and restoration, improving the energy efficiency of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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6 Responses to Shadow of the Season

  1. Juliana Inman says:

    Pretty awful that BOTH candidates are Antichrists – oops – anti-historic preservationists. Do they have a tree ordinance that will prevent the cutting of the trees? What a mess.

    • John Poole says:

      Hello, Cousin Elinore.

      I assume you’re referring to the two P&Z candidates. I have less of an opinion on the latter one, as I know little about him beyond a few other folks’ impressions.

      Regarding the mayoral candidates, however, their relative silence and skirting around this topic is deeply concerning. This episode has become a radioactive elephant, sitting in the midst of their political living room. No one touches it, nor looks at, nor even admits that it’s there.

      And as far as historic preservation is concerned, yes, it has its “Antichrists” out there. A veritable army. Ty Pennington is not the only one; just the most visible!

      ~ East Coast Cousin Poole

  2. What the hell….

    This is why I left Connecticut for Pennsylvania and found out they are as bad if not worse. Our society today baffles me. I really was hoping the state would do the right thing and step in on this. What a bloody atrocity. If it actually comes to fruition that they raze this home, I give no hope for Connecticut’s Historic Soul, it will be gone…especially in Milford.

    With a sad heart,

    jay

    • John Poole says:

      Hi Jay,

      I’ve come to the conclusion that, in general, one can’t rely on state government to protect its own historic resources. State laws or legislation, if adequate, sure. But not necessarily state officials. And one especially can’t rely on municipal officials and politicians, except maybe a few, in the more exceptional, history-conscious communities, here and there.

      Ultimately, historic homes need the right owners if they’re to survive, and secondly, they need strong support from their communities. Milford at one time was one of those communities, but nowadays seems to have devolved away from that mindset, save for a small number of brave, highly committed folks, who keep on fighting to preserve what’s left.

      Those are my impressions, anyway…

      - John

  3. Juliana Inman says:

    Historic preservation is never finished. Each year, each season there is a need to educate people about the importance of preserving our past as a window to our future. We looked long and hard at our organization, Napa County Landmarks, Inc. http://www.napacountylandmarks.org/wordpress/ when I was president. Have we completed our mission? We found that the work was not finished and re-invigorated the organization. We have now added online walking tours. We are updating the County Historic Resource Inventory which has not been updated since our organization did the original survey in 1978. We started the very popular Napa Porchfest to showcase our historic neighborhoods. But by age of buildings, we have nothing on your part of the country. I am so sad and frustrated that the people who have the responsibility of caring for these resources are blind to their intrinsic value.

    • John Poole says:

      Hello, Cousin Juliana.

      Thanks again, for your greatly supportive comment, and the link to your own efforts, which I’ll set aside some time to read.

      The awareness-building efforts you describe are certainly important. Most of the well organized historic communities in my region do similar things, often tied-in with specific periods of the New England spring and summer and holidays (e.g., harvest time).

      And I totally concur with you about the need to continue to build public awareness of the importance of preserving as much of the past as possible. Future generations should not be deprived of opportunities to view the very few remaining historic homes. It is indeed, as you point out, a never ending effort.

      BTW, just to update you (and others): An injunction against the scheduled demolition of the Sanford-Bristol was served the end of last week (October 11th). Hopefully, this injunction will be made permanent. But the fight continues, of course, with no relaxation (as it should, quite frankly…).

      ~ John

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