“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 demolition* that otherwise would’ve taken place in early January.
This was the best Christmas present, ever!
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.
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.
“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.