105 Old Belden Hill: Historic home faces demolition
In an effort to try and preserve the Asa Olmstead House at 105 Old Belden Hill Road, the Historic District & Historic Property Commission has imposed a 90-day delay on the demolition of the 206-year-old “architecturally significant” house, Chair Kevin Quinlan told The Bulletin.
Imposed by the commission on June 9, the delay was processed by the town on Friday, June 12, and will expire on Sept. 10.
Although the exact origin of 19th Century home is unknown, according to the 1989 Wilton Architectural Survey, “it is believed that the house was the homestead of Asa Olmstead (1756-1839).”
According to the survey, the Olmsteads are shown as occupying the home on the 1858 and 1867 town maps.
In 1875, Olmstead’s daughter Julia sold the property to Henry M. Hoyt — who then conveyed it to Augustus Buckley, of Norwalk, that same year.
In 1880, Buckley sold the property to Henry Maudlin, who held on to the property until the early 20th Century, when he sold it to Thomas Fletcher and Addison Johnson.
The property was then purchased by a Richard Winter in 1928 and he “held it for many years,” according to the architectural survey.
Although the 10-room home has been “remodeled and enlarged in the colonial revival style” since it was built in 1809, according to the town’s architectural survey, “the original massing and many of the details [have] survive.”
The home features a flat-roofed porch with square columns, which are “styled to be compatible with the original portion of the house,” according to the survey.
The property also features a plank-sided barn and shed to the southeast of the house.
According to Vision Appraisal, Troy Ellen Dixon owned the property until up until 2006, when it was sold to Jeffrey and Tara Kay for $710,000.
After that, the U.S. Bank National Association of Trustees owned the home before a Mei Chen purchased it for $475,888 in 2013.
According to Vision Appraisal, the property was appraised at $665,900 and assessed at $466,130 in 2014.
On April 20 of this year, George Cross, of Norwalk, purchased the property from Chen for $600,000.
According to Quinlan, the home sat vacant for a while before Cross purchased the property.
“He indicated that it was in [such] a state of disrepair that would have made it economically not feasible to save the whole house,” Quinlan said.
“He noted the mold and mildew that had become present in the basement. I went down and took a look at it and it is pretty bad.”
Quinlan said there is also some damage to the home’s timber frame, caused by insects.
“Beyond that, I think, being an old house, he felt that it would’ve required a lot of money to put in and try to make it livable to today’s standards,” said Quinlan.
“The damage that has occurred from the house being unoccupied, like vandalism, had kind of made the house not worth keeping.”
According to Quinlan, once the home is demolished, Cross plans to build a “modular house” on the property.
“He showed the other commissioners images of what the proposed house would look like and it was described to me as rather McMansionous-looking,” said Quinlan. “It would not be another historical-looking home.”
Since it was owned by one of Wilton’s oldest-known families, the home does have history, said Quinlan, but it’s not in great shape.
“It has suffered from time and vandalism and damage,” he said. “The only architectural element that we saw as a commission worth keeping was the timber frame.”
After touring the home, the commission found that “the original timber frame — post and beam — that exists in main part of the house was in very good shape,” said Quinlan.
“Granted, the basement level of frame has mold and insect damage, but above the first floor level and up into second floor, the frame looks to be in pretty good shape,” he said.
“It’s our hope that a party might be interested in taking the timber frame and repurposing it in a building in town.”
At one point, the commission knew someone who was interested in the frame, said Quinlan, “but that party lost interest or backed out.”
“We haven’t heard from anyone since imposing the 90-day delay,” he said, “but I know there are people trying to put feelers out for people who may be interested.”
According to Quinlan, three to four Wilton residents have “voiced dismay and concern” about the house being demolished because not only do they like the look of the house, but it’s also “part of the town’s history.”
Wiltonian Jim Jarvie is one of those residents.
“I’d like to think we can preserve our history, particularly a structure that has been on a registered list and has carried the registered plaque,” he told The Bulletin.
“Our area is unique compared to other parts of the country because we have a rich history. The birth story of the nation belongs to this region and losing structures like this diminishes that bold story and the people who played a role in our common beginning.”
Not only is the house “a very good example of the period,” said Jarvie, but it also “sits on a wonderful site, which includes a barn structure.”
“In the very best case, preserving the structure and land and restoring it for the public to see and interpret would be nice,” he said.
“In the least case, dismantling the structure and moving it to another safe site would be an option. This model has been used for other structures in Wilton before; maybe it could be again.”
Prior to hearing about the demolition of 105 Old Belden Hill Road, Jarvie said, he did not know that historically registered homes could be demolished.
“I think this is an opportunity for members of the community to get involved on these matters and participate in their government to learn more about what registration means and how we can save this type of history,” he said.
Quinlan said there is a chance the Sept. 10 demolition delay expiration may be extended because there is asbestos in the home that needs to be removed before a demolition permit can be issued.
The building department is waiting for the health department’s approval regarding asbestos removal, said Quinlan, and the process of getting that approval may extend the delay.
Anyone interested in the 105 Old Belden Hill Road property may contact Quinlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-210-5050.