Demolition at 8 New Street

1874 building formerly at 8 New Street, Ridgefield

A building recently torn down on New Street had an interesting history, which the Ridgefield Historical Society documented in an attempt to convince the property’s owner to repurpose the building rather than demolish it. The Historical Society, along with the Historic District Commission, is formally notified of proposed building demolitions under a town ordinance and has the option of requesting a 90-day delay to allow time to present a case for preservation.

Members of the Ridgefield Historical Society Preservation Committee were quickly able to establish that the house on the property at #8 New Street was built around 1874. In the 1979, Ridgefield Preservation Trust-prepared Historic Resource Inventory form for the property, the house is described as a “ca. 1870 2 ½ story vernacular ‘Queen Anne’ located on its original site with no alterations.”

The form described the significance of the structure: “This basic cross plan is typical of the mid-18th Century Victorian Farmhouses. Its fish scale shingles which cover the facades show an attempt to build a home, though simple in plan, in the sophisticated Queen Anne style. New Street was cut through in 1856.”

Preservation Committee member Melanie Marks worked on the title search for the property and established that presumably William H. Gilbert built the house on land he may have purchased from Daniel Sherwood. “Over the course of many years, subsequent owners (many of them contractors and carpenters) owned #8 New Street. What is quite remarkable,” Ms. Marks’ report notes, “is to see so many carpenters/contractors having once owned the property. Many of them did not live in the house, but seem to have used the house for rental income much the same way that Richard and Barbara Serfilippi did as late as 1984. All of them found a way to preserve the structure for future generations.”

Unfortunately, the owner of the New Street property not only disregarded the Historical Society’s request to delay demolition, he went ahead and tore the building down without a permit. Until it was demolished, the building had offered rental housing to three families.

While the result in this case was disappointing, the efforts by the Historical Society’s Preservation Committee will continue to help owners of historically significant properties understand their value and find resources to support preservation and repurposing where possible.