In opposition to New Canaan’s Brick Barn demolition

This letter is being published at the author’s request. It was originally sent to Chief Building Official Brian Platz.

Dear Mr. Platz,

I am writing to object to the proposed demolition of the Mead Park Brick Barn, formerly the Town Garage, for which I received notice today.

History: The brick stable/barn was constructed by Standard Oil in April 1911, following the building of large brick kerosene tank behind it on a small piece of land it had purchased from the Mead family in 1901. There were four horse stalls for two teams of horses, a stall for tack, and a stall for grain. The horse-drawn delivery wagon drove through the center, between the two rows of stalls. Upstairs was the hayloft. The oil, kerosene and eventually gasoline was shipped from Standard Oil’s refinery by train tank-cars, and a long hose or pipe delivered it down the hill from the railroad crossing on Richmond Hill into the storage tanks behind the stable.

Subsequently, In 1933 Federal funds became available for constructing a park and the town purchased the buildings from Standard Oil, as they were “badly needed.”

For the next 80 years, the building was used for a variety of purposes, mostly by local organizations for meetings, ranging from Margaret Liboratore’s WPA sewing group on the second floor, to American Legion meetings, and rehearsal space for the VFW Fife and Drum Corps and the Town Band. Much of its use was related to citizens’ organizations that sprang up during and after WWII and later, to sports activities within the park, including storage of baseball equipment and a place for the boy’s teams to change into their uniforms. It also served as a sculptor’s studio, among many other uses.

Eventually the Department of Public Works decided to use it as a garage for its trucks, with more trucks parked around and behind the building, and, finally, as a carpent having to travel by horse and wagon to Norwalk. The Standard Oil’s delivery wagon filled its tanks and five-gallon containers to deliver to farms, and retail stores, for resale to the town for street lighting, public building heat and lighting, and to residential customers to fill their own tanks to light their oil lamps, fill their oil heaters, provide heat for cooking and warmth, or power their mowers and other machinery.

In addition to the Brick Barn’s contributions to the early quality of life of the town’s residents, its later uses reflect the cultural sophistication and social interactions between residents as they coped with and celebrated the war’s conclusion and assisted the athletic teams and aesthetic life in the park afterwards.

Architecture: In a community with comparatively few small-scale brick commercial buildings outside of the downtown, this vernacular building represents a locally distinctive late 19th-century industrial architecture. Its segmental-arched windows are a carry-over from the late Victorian period particularly in their use of two-course brick voussoirs serving as lintels. All the sills are bluestone. The Flemish bond brickwork (alternating header-stretcher-header at every sixth row) abruptly changes at about 12’ from the ground to an English bond (all headers at every sixth row) as though a new mason came to complete the work.

The asymmetrical fenestration appears to be original, the smaller windows on the east and west located at the ends of the stalls. The wooden sash and frames appear to be original, with very thin meeting rails. Most of the original glass panes remain. The carriage door opening to the street has been widened and both carriage/garage doors are replacements for the original pair of wagon doors.

The carriage barn has been altered with the addition of the enclosed outside stair accessing the second floor, but this addition appears to be over 50 years old and has acquired significance in its own right. The stair does not detract from the otherwise high physical integrity of the rest of the exterior. Building elements that have disappeared include the ventilator cupola, one boarded up window on the façade, and the two pairs of wagon doors.

Architectural significance: As a well-designed and executed example of a turn of the century commercial structure, with high integrity of original materials, it adds to the overall variety of buildings in a residential zone next to a park.

“As probably the last remaining example of such a delivery stable in Connecticut, this barn has great historic, cultural and architectural significance” according to Bruce Clouette PhD, an independent Industrial Archeologist working for 40 years preparing National Register nominations all over the state.

Recent history: In 2010 the town of New Canaan proposed to demolish this brick barn to add 800 square feet to the northern edge of Mead Park and to offer a vista of the pond from Grove Street. Several hundred people signed petitions to preserve the structure and a demolition delay was requested, but the Historic Review Committee denied it on Sept. 10, 2010, on the basis that “although certain aspects of the building have elements of historical interest, that certain architectural details represent historical practice and that activities carried out in the building had certain historical cultural aspects ... the structure is not of an age, style, condition or character of such historical architectural significance to the town of New Canaan that the imposition of the requested 90-day demolition delay is merited.”

Subsequently the state of Connecticut approved its listing on the CT Register of Historic Places and it was so listed on Nov. 3, 2010, securing its proper place in history. The town advertised for a RFP for demolition and discovered the cost would be over $400,000 so decided it had better ways to spend that money than to demolish the barn. It has remained ever since in a neglected state attracting vandals and the curious, with no further communication with the public about its status until the completion of “The Town Buildings Use and Evaluation Report” in spring, 2018, which proposed the demolition of the Mead Park Brick Barn; but it did add that “there may be a individual/organization who would want to fund the renovation of the building to be utilized for a Town-sanctioned use.”

A group approached the previous First Selectman with a proposal to restore and repurpose many years ago, and after an initial positive reception were told to back off. In May 2018 the Town Council invited NCPA to propose a MPBB reuse project, which NCPA did to the first selectman and the chair of Town Council in early July 2018 but it was rejected by the first selectman, although the process for delivering the proposal is now in question.

I respectfully request a hearing before the New Canaan Historic Review Board.

Mimi Findlay

New Canaan

Stop 3-D Plastic Guns

Dear Mr. President:

We implore you to immediately stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions, U.S. Department of Justice, Secretary Pompeo, and the U.S. State Department from authorizing Defense Distributed to release downloadable files for 3-D guns. These files would allow anyone around the globe to make do-it-yourself, untraceable 3-D guns by circumventing any existing state and federal gun regulations, resulting in serious public safety and national security concerns.

Unless you stop the U.S. State Department from authorizing this special exemption for Defense Distributed, you are enabling terrorists, criminals, domestic abusers, and other prohibited firearm purchasers to use the downloadable gun technology. They would be able to print plastic guns that are undetectable by metal detectors at the White House and other government buildings, airports, office buildings and schools.

Earlier this year, the government filed a motion to dismiss Defense Distributed’s lawsuit, citing serious national security concerns from global access to the computer-aided design (CAD) files. Then last month, the Department of Justice settled the lawsuit, agreed to allow the public release of Defense Distributed 3-D firearm printing tutorials and made an egregious decision to use our tax dollars to pay nearly $40,000 for the plaintiff’s legal fees.

Please keep all Americans safe by helping to stop the U.S. State Department from establishing a permanent regulatory change that would provide unlimited online access to 3D gun printing design.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent matter involving our national security.

Sincerely,

A New Routine for America, Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Arizonans for Gun Safety, Ceasefire Pennsylvania, Connecticut Against Gun Violence, Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, Faith Community of St. Sabina, Florida Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Franciscan Action Network, Franciscan Sisters of the Poor, G-PAC Illinois, Georgia Alliance for Social Justice, Georgia Student Alliance for Social Justice, Georgians for Gun Safety, Gun Violence Prevention Action Committee Illinois, Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah, GunControlToday, Healing 4 Our families & Our Nation, Herndon-Reston Coalition To End Gun Violence, Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, Jr Newtown Action Alliance, League of Women Voters of Florida, Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence, MomsRising, National Council of Jewish Women, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, Newtown Action Alliance, NoRA, North Carolinians Against Gun Violence, Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence, One Pulse for America, Physicians for the Prevention of Gun Violence, Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, Protest Easy Guns, Psychiatrists for Gun Violence Prevention, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, San Diego for Gun Violence Prevention, Sandy Hook Promise, Silent March, Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia Justice, Peace and Integrity for Creation Committee, States United to Prevent Gun Violence, Stop Handgun Violence, Survivors Lead, The Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus, The Connecticut Effect, The ENOUGH Campaign, Unitarian Universalist FaithAction New Jersey, Vision Quilt, WAVE Educational Fund, We the People for Sensible Gun Laws, Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice