Once again, another 18th century home in Milford, Connecticut, is under threat of demolition. This time, it’s the Elijah Bryan House, c. 1790, located at 250 Gulf Street. Unfortunately, this home is not situated in any of Milford’s historic districts, nor listed on the National or State Registers, so it has no legal protections that would potentially bar its destruction.
The Elijah Bryan House, c. 1790, at 250 Gulf Street, Milford, Connecticut, marked for demolition.
The Bryan House is one of a half-dozen in the city dating back to about the late eighteenth century that feature Dutch-inspired architectural styling, including a dormered half-gambrel roof. The home also has two end chimneys, a substantial rear ell with summer kitchen, and what appears from the street to be another rear addition with a small porch.
Among the major architectural nuances of this home are a Dutch-inspired half-gambrel roof, with shed dormers and a “kicker” at the eave.
It’d previously been home to the late Donald and June Poland of Milford, and is now owned by their son, Lance Poland, who’d applied for a demolition permit on June 26th of this year. Milford’s City Historian, Carol LaBrake, imposed a ninety day demolition delay, which means the house will survive until at least September 24th. The purpose of this delay, which the City Historian has a legal right to impose, is to provide time for concerned parties to propose alternatives to a tear down.
A view of the south elevation reveals the roof contours, chimneys, and attached rear ell. The ell was most likely added to the house later, probably in the early to mid nineteenth century.
My understanding from colleagues more closely involved in this situation than myself is that the current owner might be willing to consider a reasonable offer for the house, but has not been actively marketing it. Also, despite Mr. Poland’s citing the home’s current condition as justification for its demolition, I’m told the house actually is in relatively good condition; at least, compared to many other historic homes we often find in this situation.
Much of the Elijah Bryan House’s architectural detailing, including twelve-over-twelve sash, louvered shutters, and “rams horn” iron shutter dogs, is quite elegant.
And although I’ve had no opportunity to closely inspect the Elijah Bryan House myself, I’ve seen nothing obvious, from the perspective of the street, to suggest any serious problems: the foundation and masonry work all appear sound, the roofs all seem in good condition, with straight lines, and the exterior walls appear reasonably plumb, except for some slight bowing noticeable at either end. All in all, the Bryan House exhibits exterior characteristics one usually finds in just about any home of this vintage that’s been reasonably maintained.
This photo illustrates the extent to which the site had been disrupted in preparing for demolition (i.e., the cutting of sewer and utility lines). If resale of a threatened home is to remain a viable alternative to demolition, then house and site should remain completely undisturbed throughout the duration of any imposed demolition delay, and the local building department or official should enforce this.
Of course, the real shame in tearing down the Elijah Bryan House is that an historically significant, and highly visible, example of Milford’s early domestic architecture will be destroyed. This home is one of only six remaining that exhibit late eighteenth century Milford’s apparent penchant for Dutch architecture. Once gone, it’ll be gone forever, and both the city and Gulf Street community will have lost yet another jewel.
This view of the north elevation shows the depth of the attached ell, and a shed addition, just behind it.
Furthermore, the Elijah Bryan House’s destruction is likely totally unnecessary. It’s condition hardly seems to warrant it, and there are a number of viable alternatives to tearing it down, including:
- Aggressively marketing it as an historic home, and eventually selling it, with protections in place, to some new homeowner who’d be willing to keep and maintain the place.
- Renovating the rear ell and connecting a new structure to it, so as to create a modern living space, at far less expense than a complete rebuild. In this case, the front house could be preserved as an historic structure, therefore helping to maintain the neighborhood’s historic character, as well as the property values of surrounding homes. This would most likely also enhance the value of any renovated/expanded living space at the rear.
- Moving, or dismantling and temporarily storing, the house itself, until some interested historic home buyer is found. While this wouldn’t necessarily be an ideal solution for the City of Milford, nor the Gulf Street community, it’d at least save the house.
What you can do to help
[See Postscript below, however...] To his credit, Mr. Poland has placed his mailing address on a notice outside his home for the purpose of submitting questions to him. Readers interested in saving the Elijah Bryan House should consider writing Mr. Poland a personal and respectful letter expressing their concerns over losing this home, and suggesting any possible alternatives to demolition they might conceive of, including the two I’ve suggested above. Also, any offers to purchase this property should be directed to Mr. Poland, and as soon as possible:
Mr. Lance Poland
117 Judith Drive
Milford, CT 06461
You can also help by joining and/or supporting the Milford Preservation Trust, which is spearheading the effort to save the Elijah Bryan House. Visit the Milford Preservation Trust home page, where you can donate to the Trust, or sign-up online, and even request to be contacted if you want to help out.
The sign in the front yard of Elijah Bryan House clearly describes the owner’s intent to demolish the home. Such signage is required by the city’s demolition delay ordinance.
Finally, you should also consider voicing your concerns to Milford’s various municipal officials, such as the Mayor, Board of Alderman, Planning and Zoning Commission, and Building Department. Although Mr. Poland’s legally within his rights to demolish his home, and there’s little or nothing city officials can do to prevent it, they should at least be made well aware of any public objections to this tear down, especially considering the fact that all of this is occurring during Milford’s 375th anniversary year.
Please note that on 19 September 2014, it was announced unequivocally by the owners that demolition of the Elijah Bryan House will proceed as planned, and that no offers to purchase this property will be entertained.
The Elijah Bryan House was finally demolished on 6 October 2014, despite a number of last minute efforts by local preservationists to save it. Two local news articles are posted below.
Jill Dion, “Historic house comes down: Preservationists lose battle to save 1790 building“, Milford Mirror, 6 October 2014.
Feroze Dhanoa, “Historical Gulf Street House in Milford Will Be Demolished Today“, Milford CT Patch, 6 October 2014.
Jill Dion, “Permit holds up demolition of historic house“, Milford Mirror, 30 September 2014.
Susan Fitch Antonik, “So many memories growing up in house set to be razed“, Letter to the Editor, Milford Mirror, 25 September 2014.
Feroze Dhanoa, “Historic House in Milford Will be Knocked Down Despite Efforts to Save the Property“, Milford CT Patch, 25 September 2014.
Nancy and Fred Bayers (Wilmington, N.C.), “Don’t demolish historical home in Milford“, Letter to the Editor, New Haven Register, 17 September 2014.
Patricia Perro, “Resident hopes historic Milford House can be saved from demolition“, Letter to the Editor, Milford Mirror, 14 September 2014.
Gwen Bruno, “Family’s history is also that of Milford“, Letter to the Editor, New Haven Register, 9 September 2014.
Michele Kramer, “Two historic homes in jeopardy“, Letter to the Editor, Milford Mirror, 1 September 2014.
Jill Dion, “Preservationists want to save Gulf Street house from demolition“, Milford Mirror, 1 September 2014.
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