Yet another of New England’s early saltbox homes has recently been condemned to teardown in the name of commercialism and historically insensitive development. This time, it’s happening in my own home town of Stratford, Connecticut.

Located at 7296 Main Street, in the Oronoque section of Stratford, this home was probably built around 1700-1720. None of us know anything of its origins or history; nor does our local historical society. It's not listed on the National Register, and the WPA Architectural Survey of Stratford buildings reveals nothing. And unfortunately, the home is not located in any recognized historic district or community, which at least would’ve afforded it some degree of protection.

According to an article by Stratford Patch, a purchase of both the historic home and an adjoining property was completed the first week of September, 2012. The new owner plans to demolish both structures and replace them with “a Mobil and convenience store that features a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-thru”. The Stratford Planning and Zoning Office approved the building application in August of 2011, with essentially no consideration of preserving the home, claiming that a past fire many years before rendered it insignificant as an historic structure (which is nonsense, given that the timber frame, exterior shell, historic windows, exterior trim, cladding, etc., all survived intact, and the interior was subsequently repaired and the home still occupied for many years until now).

This sort of cursory writing off of an old home as "unsave-able", or simply not worth saving, is unfortunately just all too easy. It seems that a less than thoughtful planning and zoning commission or building department can always manage to find a “highly compelling” reason to quickly demolish an old historic structure, rather than taking appropriate steps to preserve it, whether that might consist of rehabilitation and re-purposing, moving it elsewhere, selling or assigning it on condition of move, or even approaching a non-profit dedicated to acquiring and preserving old homes for guidance in disposing of the property, or even a potential acquisition. All too often, the true compelling reason is convenience, combined with maximizing return on investment, combined further with indifference towards, or ignorance of, what it means to preserve one’s local cultural heritage.

Soon, this Oronoque saltbox, like so many historic homes before it, will become dumpster fodder at the hands of a backhoe operator, and future generations will forever be deprived the privilege of seeing it. Gone in a heartbeat, and in exchange for what? Another gas station/convenience store/drive-though coffee shop (something we already have an overwhelming number of in our town). Yes, that will be our town's cultural contribution to the next generation; or at least until economic drivers force its replacement with yet something else equally as impermanent.

[ A somewhat lengthier and more detailed account of this story was published under the title Imminent Historic Teardown, on my primary blog, A Preservationist's Technical Notebook, just yesterday, on September 24, 2012. All photos in this post were taken by me. ]

by John Douglas Poole

Views: 1496

Comment by Dawn Cover on October 16, 2012 at 6:47pm

that is truly ashame!! it makes me want to cry!!! doesn't anyone see this house and its history for what it is?

Comment by Alexandra Frueh on January 16, 2013 at 6:48pm

Are you kidding-demolishing this gem for a Dunkin' Donuts?Terrible, just terrible.Is there any way to put some pressure on the new owner to at least have this wonderful Circa 1700 house moved to another site? Are there other locals as outraged as you are?I cannot believe that preservation of such an early American dwelling is not garnering more attention-enough to stop this short sighted destruction..Where are your historical society's and preservation groups on this? I realize it was not designated, leaving it vulnerable (first mistake altho' developers find their way around that as well).

Here in Ontario we are also not immune to this and the more common demolition by neglect.In most cases though the house (and the preservationists that love them) go out kicking and screaming before the swing of the wrecking ball.

Coming late to this story I hope it hasn't been razed by now.Judging a book by it's cover- it actually doesn't look that bad and a good candidate for rehabilitation.I really hope you can get some concerned citizens and groups to rally around this old house and save it from a tragic, undeserved end. 

Comment by Craig Phillips / B & C Emporium on January 30, 2013 at 7:02pm

it is all about $$$$$$$$$ to move it would be an expensive move also, whom is going to fund this indever, not saying it should not be done but to move and restore it will take a couple hundred thousand $$'s and distance and quality

Comment by Jim Finley on February 5, 2013 at 10:21am

Any chance someone will do a salvage and at least save the beam, floorboards, stone, brick etc?

Although it seems shocking to people outside of New England, these types of early houses are quite common in our old towns and cities and as we all know, they take huge effort and $$$ to maintain, as well as not meeting any of todays complex codes. Unfortunately they are torn down more often than not and replaced with some hideous modern structure. It takes a very strong and active local historic preservation society to save these structures - even then they often just limp along. I live in rural eastern CT and there are several deserted early 1700s homes on my road steadily falling apart. Unless they are set back from the road and have a little land with them nobody wants them. Makes me sad every time I drive by them thinking of the generations of people who lived and died in these houses only to have them crumble.

Comment by pixelfixel on July 21, 2013 at 8:44am

It's a shame, and all too common.

Comment by GregV on October 23, 2013 at 1:38pm

What happened here???

Comment by Mary Olsson on May 4, 2015 at 1:31pm

It was this particular article that brought me to this site.  I am on the historic commission in Franklin MA and we are seeing old homes being taken down, which is heartbreaking.  A 1720 property in town is up for demolition because the previous owners did not take care of it, and seemed to have been animal hoarders.  The smell that has seeped into the floor boards and even the beams cannot be removed.  The present owner has done all he can to treat the floors to try to remove the smells, sanding, bleaching, specialized cleaners, etc. etc.  The house, as it is, cannot be sold.  The present owner bought it to turn it, and now, since he cannot sell it, has received permission to have it taken down so he can build new, sell, and move on.  It's heartbreaking.


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