454 Danbury Road: Demolition delayed on another historic Wilton home
A demolition delay has been placed on yet another historic Wilton building — a 19th Century home at 454 Danbury Road.
There are two structures on the property — a 1,067-square-foot barn-like building that was built in the late 1980s and a 1,730-square-foot Colonial built circa 1850 — the latter of which the owner of the property, Carmine Tomas, wants to demolish.
“We’ve been told by the property owner that the plan is to demolish the oldest structure on the property — yellow house with porch — and preserve the newer barn-like structure to be incorporated into the new house,” said Colleen Fawcett, chair of the Wilton Historic District & Historic Property Commission.
After receiving the notice of demolition on Jan. 19, Fawcett said, the commission visited the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home at 454 Danbury Road for a site tour on Jan. 25. The commission then decided to request a delay of the demolition during its Feb. 2 meeting.
“The house is on the town of Wilton's 1989 survey of architecturally notable buildings and it is listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places in Wilton,” said Fawcett.
Located within the Cannondale-Zion Hill Historic District, the building is known as the Schubert-Saunders House or the Godfrey House, according to the 1989 Wilton Architectural Survey. It has a clapboard roof made of gable and asphalt shingles, and its structural system is of wood frame and post and beam.
According to the architectural survey, the home contains structures from two distinct periods. The oldest portion, built around 1848, is a one-and-a-half-story ell with an interior chimney, nine-over-six windows and a frieze board. This portion may have originally been a five-bay rather than a three-bay house, according to the survey.
The entrance, which has a simple tripartite door frame with sidelights and a late-19th Century door, is in “the northernmost expressed bay of the original structure,” according to the survey.
A gable-ended, two-story section was added in the late-19th Century and contains boxed, overhanging eaves. During this time, according to the survey, the home’s “wrapping, Italianate-style verandah with chamfered posts on pedestals was probably added.”
According to the architectural survey, Samuel Marvin sold the property to Caleb Hoyt in 1825 and it later belonged to Hiram Jones, who died in 1843, leaving behind his wife, Mary Esther Cannon Jones, and five children. Mary sold the property to her brother, George Cannon, in 1847.
By 1848-49, it was owned by George Godfrey, who built a private academy on the property, which he operated until the mid-1850s. The academy building was later moved to 20 Cannon Road and converted into a residence.
During the Historic District & Historic Property Commission’s Jan. 25 site tour, commissioners asked Tomas “if some thought had been given to renovating or restoring the house to be used as part of an addition,” according to the commission’s demolition delay request.
The owner said the barn-like structure on the property may be annexed into a new structure he plans to build, but the original home was not under consideration for renovation or incorporation.
After noting the original fireplace, mantel and stone hearth and original wide-plank wood floors in some rooms of the home, the commissioners “indicated to the owner that efforts should be made to re-use or sell those materials,” according to the request.
Fawcett said the 90-day demolition delay is “intended to give time to consider alternatives to demolition of antique homes and other structures.”
“Our commission’s charge is to preserve and, where possible, enhance the historic and architectural character of the town’s historic resources,” she said.
The Wilton Plan of Conservation and Development, developed by the Planning and Zoning Commission, was adopted in 2009, said Fawcett, and it “specifically identified Danbury Road as an area to avoid continuous strip development and save the remaining 18th- and 19th-Century houses.”
This desire, Fawcett said, “led to adaptive use zoning regulations, allowing some appropriate commercial use of historic buildings along that corridor.”
Fawcett said housing was identified as “a goal” in the plan, “with residents expressing concern that elderly and some local workers may not be able to find housing in Wilton that was affordable [and] about seeing smaller houses torn down and replaced with larger homes.”
A desire to preserve Wilton’s character was a general theme among citizens interviewed for the Plan of Conservation and Development, said Fawcett.
“There was expressed interest in protecting Wilton’s unique features, including historical homes,” she said, “and when change does occur, to help it happen in ways that enhance our community’s character, rather than reduce it.”
With the delay, Fawcett said, the commission’s hope is that “owners, developers, and policy makers think creatively about ways to save our shrinking number of 18th- and 19th-Century homes, barns, and other structures.”
“This particular parcel is very close to the Cannondale area, which is the focus of discussion by the Wilton Economic Development Commission, and a planned walk-through by Yale Urban Design Workshop,” she said.
“There, too, the question of saving antique structures while fostering growth I believe is being considered.”
The next Historic District & Historic Property Commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Old Town Hall.