As the developers began the process on one of the first major developments proposed for Brookfield’s Town Center District (TCD) — a 72-unit condominium complex on Laurel Hill Road — they were presented with a dilemma: two potentially historic homes and only room to preserve one. The other they are giving away — free.
According to Roberto Arista, a principle and co-founder of Massachusetts developers Dakota Partners, 40 Laurel Hill Road, which houses a few local businesses and a residential apartment, will be moved further up the street, near where a house and barn at 64 Laurel Hill Road sit now. The barn at 64 Laurel Hill is being moved by the current property owners but the house, built in 1811, is up for grabs.
“It was clear from the very beginning in meeting with the zoning boards that these houses were important,” Arista said, however, due to costs and space restrictions, they were only able to save one. “We chose 40 since it seemed to have more historic significance.”
(The commercial tenants plan to stay in 40 Laurel Hill, according to Arista, making the project one of the first mixed-use developments in the TCD, as well.)
Though not able to save 64 Laurel Hill on the current property, Dakota Partners has offered to give away the house for free to anyone able to remove it from the property.
“The house is offered to anybody to take and the hope is somebody comes and takes it in a few months,” before plans are finalized and construction begins in late spring, early summer, Arista said. “If nobody wants the house, then we’ll offer the parts; if nobody wants the parts, then we’ll have to tear it down.”
One of the commercial tenants at 40 Laurel Hill, architect Jacqueline Salame, is also the chair of the Historic District Commission and coordinating the effort to save 64 Laurel Hill.
Salame said she has successfully transplanted four historic Brookfield homes in the past and has begun the process by advertising in the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation news bulletin and nominating the house for the state register of historic homes. Being on the register will allow for the possibility of state grants, however those are only available to non-profits or municipalities.
The house was originally built in 1811, according to Salame, and has been occupied since. Except for a few minor additions, “the main, original house hasn’t been altered that much,” she said, though, other than that, “we don’t have a ton of info” on the house’s history.
Though there isn’t a lot of information about the house, Salame said the age and style make it a likely candidate for the register.
Anyone who is interested can apply to take the home (call Salame at Tour De Force Designs: 203-775-2538), so long as they can demonstrate the ability to safely move and preserve it.
Interested persons should “have somebody in the building industry with experience with historic structures and how to take them apart and rebuild them,” Salame said. If the new owners aren’t able to preserve the historic nature of the building, “It would defeat the purpose,” she said.
“Ideally we’d like it to stay local but that doesn’t always happen,” she added, though they will give “first right of refusal to someone in Brookfield.”
In her experience, Salame said dismantling the house should not cost much more than $20,000, however moving expenses will depend on the distance.
“If you buy a piece of land and build a foundation, this could be a reasonably priced house for a homeowner,” Arista suggested, so long as the move wasn’t too far.
“40 is a more prominent house but 64 is a very nice house and it’s been functioning for over 200 years,” Salame said.