Demolition of 74 Forest St. house delayed
NEW CANAAN — The Historical Review Committee voted unanimously, with the exception of member Laszlo Papp who was absent, for a 90-day delay on the demolition of the red house on 74 Forest St. until detailed construction plans are provided by the developer.
“We intend to build a new two-family house,” Tom Sturges, who represents the developer Construction LLC, said at a New Canaan Historical Review special meeting Monday morning. “I would like to build something that is attractive to the street and keep its history in mind.”
The New Canaan demolition delay ordinance states that a resident can file an objection to the chief building official regarding the demolition of a building within 15 days of the notice’s announcement.
That’s exactly what Mimi Findlay, chairman emerita of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, did. At the meeting on Monday, she advocated for maintaining the architectural aspects of the 1800s home.
“Its color has made it stand out for more than half a century. Could you keep the exterior, the shell of the house, and redo it with siding?” Findlay asked.
Chairman of the committee Mike Farrell rebutted Findlay by referring to “the reality of the economic situation and the cost of accomplishing a complete recreation of the exterior.” He added that this would be feasible only with “unlimited resources and no consideration of the cost.”
Rose Scott Long asked Sturges why a complete demolition of the was necessary if a two-family house was the plan.
“It’s a lot better to take down and rebuild because of the structure and foundation and to make it structurally sound,” Sturges replied. When Findlay asked for whom it would be better, Sturges replied: “It would be better for me and just overall as the building is structurally deficient.”
The house is not included in any historic registry but he agreed that it’s known for its “vernacular” architecture, according Farrell.
According to the Historic District commission regulations, 74 Forest St. is not a property within the historic district of New Canaan.
The lack of schematics and construction plans for the house renovation was the decisive factor in the committee’s decision to delay demolition. Committee members Martin Skrelunas and Edward Vollmer emphasized this factor and asked when schematics could be provided.
Sturges replied that they could be provided in a week’s time which he would send to chairman Farrell.
Findlay emphasized the importance of the house regarding its extensive past and architecture.
“The house was built by Woolsey Burtis before 1836, but it was extensively remodeled by his grandson, James Burtis, partner in the retail grocery concern Burtis and Mead,” Findlay said, citing research from a 1987 survey.
The decision technically delays demolition until March of next year although Farrell said that once schematics were provided, the delay could be lifted.
Skrelunas, like Findlay, pointed out the unique style of the house and neighborhood. “This house is one of the last ones with that style in New Canaan,” Skrelunas said. “If you’re building from scratch, you’d have to maintain that spirit, it could benefit the rest of the block.”
Rose Scott Long, another committee member, viewed the impact of construction with more of a long-term perspective. “This is a crucial point because there’s definitely going to be more development in the area and what you do here will have a great impact.”
“These style of houses are rapidly disappearing and are worthy of preservation,” Long added.