Best Christmas Present Ever

“The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can.” — Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Well, something like that, anyway. That phrase more or less conveys my current state of mind, with Christmas immediately upon us. And what’s inspiring me specifically is the recent transfer of title of Milford’s Sanford-Bristol House to the Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation, thereby saving this landmark vintage home from an unreasonable demolitionthat otherwise would’ve taken place in early January.

This was the best Christmas present, ever!

Milford's Sanford-Bristol House, under a cover of fresh snow, December 18th, 2013.

Milford’s Sanford-Bristol House, under a cover of fresh snow, December 18th, 2013.

The Connecticut Trust, but a few days ago, exercised an option they’d been granted to buy the home from its then current owners, under the November court agreement struck between those owners and both the Milford Preservation Trust and the Connecticut Trust, who became a co-plaintiff in the CEPA injunction filed by the Milford Preservation Trust to block the home’s imminent demolition, just this past October.

Now, the Connecticut Trust is acting as a straw buyer for an individual who’ll eventually purchase the home from the Connecticut Trust. But at least the home is finally out of the control of those who would demolish it. When the home’s eventually transferred to a new owner, restoration requirements and restrictions will be in force from that point forward, ensuring it won’t become threatened again.

Image of Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation Badge

This has been a long and grueling preservation battle, to which nearly all of the credit goes to Milford City Historian Richard Platt, and the Milford Preservation Trust. Were it not for them, this landmark Milford home would’ve been sitting in a landfill this Christmas morning. Many thanks are owed them for their single-minded fight to do the right thing for their city’s history, and preserving what little remains of its eighteenth century historic building stock. And many, many thanks also go to the Connecticut Trust, of course, who’s generous offer to purchase the home made this proxy-buyer arrangement possible, in the end.

In this upcoming new year, the Milford Preservation Trust will be fighting yet another battle — that of defraying the considerable legal costs they’ve incurred in this fight. You can help make this an even better holiday season for the Milford Preservation Trust by making them a donation, and perhaps even joining them as a member and ongoing supporter. To do so, simply visit the Milford Preservation Trust’s home page, or their membership page, where you can easily donate, or sign-up as a member online.

Image of the John Downs House, Milford, Connecticut.


“In the end, our society will be defined not only by what we create, but by what we refuse to destroy.” – John Sawhill



Happy Holidays to all of you! And may the New Year bring all of us much peace, happiness, and prosperity.

Additional Sources of Information

The Milford Mirror was first to announce (as far as I can tell) the transfer of the Sanford-Bristol House to the Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation, in an article published on December 20th, 2013.

I’ve been maintaining an ongoing page of links to as many online articles on the Sanford-Bristol House as possible, here on A Preservationist’s Technical Notebook, since I’d become involved in this battle. An archive of my own writings on the Sanford Bristol House is automatically maintained on this site, as well.


*Unreasonable demolition is a term used in Connecticut to refer to the planned destruction of a listed historic or environmental resource, in situations where an alternative strategy for remediation of that resource’s current condition has been determined to exist. The Sanford-Bristol House had recently been found by historic restoration professionals to be both structurally sound and amenable to straight-forward physical rehabilitation, in direct contradiction to what its previous owners had claimed. Therefore, its demolition would’ve been unreasonable.

In Connecticut, listed state resources are generally protected under Connecticut’s Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). However, protection is not automatic, and often must be initiated by an advocate for a threatened resource. Under CEPA, any Connecticut citizen or organization can act as such an advocate, by filing an ex parte injunction against the proposed destruction of a listed resource, as long as they have good reason to believe its destruction would be unreasonable.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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10 Responses to Best Christmas Present Ever

  1. Daniel L. Bosques says:

    Boy, oh boy! It is wonderful news to know that after so much effort, this house will not suffer the fate we all originally feared. I know this was a long battle for the Milford Preservation trust, Richard Platt, the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, and all others involved in the process to save the home. You deserve a lot of credit for helping save this house, John; you’ve been keeping us all tuned in, advocating for, enthused about, and a part of the positive side of this long process.
    The knowledge of this brings a good peaceful feeling.

    • John Poole says:

      Thanks, Dan.

      As you’d pointed out in a previous comment, this home has stood for 224 years. I’ll always remember this Christmas (its 224th) as the pivotal one, for which we never knew in advance whether the home would still be standing.

      Well, not only was it still standing yesterday, but it was finally granted the rescue it deserved. May this home see at least 224 more Christmas mornings.

      Thanks for all the good words and support, my friend!

      ~ John

  2. Bill Smith says:

    I know that your part was significant as well. Serving as a central clearing house for information and keeping the issue front and center locally and well beyond you’ve helped keep the intensity going.
    Congratulation to you, Richard Platt, Milford Preservation trust and CT Trust for Historic Preservation. Congratulations also to the children in and around Milford who will be exposed to a bit of history otherwise lost.
    From me, thanks for the inspiration. I’ll be remembering this victory as I’m working towards saving a couple of endangered properties here in my own community.
    Later in the day I’ll be including you and the rest down that way when I raise my holiday cup of cheer. Good work, and I hope your holidays are happy and filled with the fellowship you’ve shared.


    • John Poole says:


      Thanks so much for all your support throughout this effort, including your guest article here and your extensive use of social media to spread the word of what was happening, well beyond Milford and southern Connecticut. You’ve certainly done well above and beyond the call of duty here, and everyone of us appreciates that fact.

      And thanks for the good words. I hope that I’ve done right by this battle, but if I’ve done any significant things here, it’s just because I’ve stood on the shoulders of giants (as Sir Isaac Newton once said! :-) ).

      Please keep us all informed of your own local preservation efforts, and we shall likewise try to do remotely for you what you’ve exceeded at doing for us. And I’m hoping that one day you’ll actually journey down this way and see the Sanford-Bristol House in person, now that we know it will still be standing when you arrive.

      Thanks once again, and have a very happy holiday season.

      - John

  3. Jay C. White Cloud says:

    John, this was a wonderful email to read this day!!!

    Thanks for all your hard effort, and the voices you have raised in this cause. May this Holiday season find you in good health and spirit.

    Warm Regards,


    • John Poole says:

      Thanks very much, Jay!

      And many thanks also go to you, for offering your own voice of support to our efforts to save this house.

      I’m glad that, in the end, I was able to provide you with positive news, rather than an account of yet another teardown, something I was really dreading.

      Have a great holiday season, as well, my friend!

      ~ John

  4. Pingback: Merry XMas & a Prosperous New Year to All | The HTRC: Homeowner's & Trades Resource Center

  5. Juliana Inman says:

    Merry Christmas to you, cousin Elinore. This is the best Christmas news imaginable. Thank you for your persistence in fighting for the preservation of this house. We cheer you from across the country.

    • John Poole says:

      Hello, West Coast Cousin Elinor!

      Yes, it did indeed make for a very Merry Christmas!

      Many thanks to you, as well, for your own vocal support throughout this effort, which certainly encouraged me to stay focused on this battle and not ease off.

      May you and John have a very happy and healthy New Year!

      ~ East Coast Cousin Elinor

  6. John Poole says:

    Indeed it is, Alexandra. Thanks! And Merry Christmas!

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