State funding has recently been allocated to secure and protect two parcels of open space, one in New Haven and one in West Haven. But an area resident has pushed for the preservation of a soon-to-be-demolished house on the New Haven site.
The New Haven parcel is a half-acre lot located at 324 Townsend Ave. that links the Pardee Sea Wall recreation area and Fort Nathan Hale park. The acquisition is “an extension of the existing park and a buffer for the trail there,” said David Styger of the state Department of Environmental Protection.
But city resident Colin Caplan has protested the New Haven acquisition because an 18th-century structure will not be allowed to remain on the property. Caplan, who has a partnership with the New Haven Preservation Trust, said in an e-mail that the site “is a great tool to show students an actual piece of history, so many of which are disappearing.”
Caplan added that the Board of Parks Commissioners outbid private bidders who wished to restore the house.
But Robert Levine, the director of New Haven’s parks department, said the Board of Parks Commissioners outbid two or three other potential buyers who were developers and would have demolished the house as well. He added that at the moment there is an ongoing historical structure survey to determine the house’s fate and whether the house should be memorialized.
Caplan said the house, which was built in 1774, is of architectural and historic importance because it is one of the last 18th-century structures in New Haven. The house was burned by British armies during the Revolution.
Two architects are in the process of studying the house, which is constructed in post and beam style.
Caplan said he would like to see the house renovated for private or public educational use and does not want to see New Haven’s “tax money and trust in public officials — used to the detriment of one of our most prized resources.”
But Styger said the house is “on the verge of becoming condemned” and that it is “pretty much unlivable.” He added that the city’s Historic District Commission examined the house and found little there to save.
Styger said one possibility is that the house will be commemorated with a plaque in the place where it used to stand. In addition, he said, parts of the house useful for research will be removed for study and preservation.
State Sen. Toni Harp facilitated the sale of the two parcels. The land in West Haven is a 2.7-acre area located on Third Avenue that “serves as a buffer to tidal wetlands that are in turn the foundation for a healthy marine ecology in the [Long Island] Sound,” Harp said in a written statement.
Funds totaling $216,495 will be used to purchase the parcels, Harp said. The funding for these purchases will be made available through the state’s Open Space and Watershed Acquisition Grant Program, which the DEP administers. The New Haven and West Haven purchases are two awards out of 26 grants totaling $6.5 million.