Waterford Neighbors Rally to Save Two-Hundred-Year-Old Farm at White Point

The home at 80 Shore Road in Waterford (CT Examiner).

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WATERFORD — A remarkably intact turn-of-the-century summer community, stitched together by stone walls and anchored by its white clapboard houses is facing the possible demolition of a rambling farm house at the heart of its historic district.

The 1830 house at 80 Shore Road, known as Ailanthus Farm, is part of a National Register historic district that includes properties along Shore Road, New Shore Road and Leonard Court. 

The new owners of the 6,700-square-foot house, Robert and Susan Marelli, purchased the 3.7-acre property for $1.275 million in June and applied for a demolition permit on Sept. 28. A number of old and specimen trees on the property have already been taken down.

But as part of an agreement between the Marellis, the Office of the State Attorney General and the State Historic Properties Office, a demolition moratorium has been placed on the property until Dec. 23 to allow a state architectural historian and a structural engineer to determine whether a “prudent and feasible” alternative exists to demolition — the minimum threshold for preserving the structure under state preservation law.

“The moratorium was signed and extends the demo delay of any contributing resources until [Dec. 23]. SHPO, Preservation CT, the OAG and design professionals (structural engineer and historic architect) have been given access to the site and will conduct a site visit this [Thursday],” Todd Levine, architectural historian with the State Historic Preservation Office, told CT Examiner on Monday. 

Elizabeth Benton, chief of communications and policy for the Office of the Attorney General, told CT Examiner on Nov. 13 that her office had received a referral from the State Historic Preservation Office, and had begun its own investigation and review, which will “assess the potential of seeking an injunction under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act.”

In a Nov. 1 letter to Levin, Brad Schide, a circuit rider for Preservation CT, wrote that the Greek Revival house was originally a 19th-century farmhouse, then a boarding house.

“Residents have told us that this house was one of the key properties in the development of the colony that would become the basis for the National Register nomination. William Putnam, a Hartford investment banker, was one of many of the early owners of several properties in the area, including this house. There are a total of 60 (48 contributing) houses included in the district, most of which historically were summer homes, but are now generally winterized and lived in year-round.”

Neighbor Domitilla Enders, who has led an effort to stop the demolition, told CT Examiner on Monday that “property owners in the community are banding together to explore reasonable alternatives to demolition.”

“A reasonable alternative to demolition has to be proposed in order for the state to do its part,” Enders said. 

Neighbor Frances Hogan Steffian, whose husband’s family has owned a house on Shore Road for generations, said on Tuesday that she and the community were looking for a resolution that “everyone can feel good about.” 

“There’s a way that everybody can, I think, feel like they were made whole in this. There are options so that everybody can walk away from this feeling happy. I know there’s a lot of emotion but I honestly think that there’s like a solution that will work for everybody,” she said. 

Steffian said neighbors were especially concerned about losing the history of the property. 

“People in Waterford and this neighborhood care deeply about historic properties and the character of the town and they don’t want it to go away — that’s what’s emerged,” she said. “The community in general is a welcoming community and they were excited to know that new people were going to carry forward the farm, and were heartbroken when they discovered it was going to be torn down because it’s the center of the community.”