Timothy P. Geelan, executive vice president of Guilford Savings Bank, is confident that once Madison residents know more about the bank's plans for a new building at 589 Boston Post Road in Madison, that they will be pleased.
He's provided renderings of what the building will look like, after one of the existing structures is torn down and the other is retained in part.
"Attached are renderings for our planned improvements for 589 Boston Post Road," Geelan said via email Wednesday. "I thought your readers might find them of interest. After all, a picture says 1000 words. In our opinion (and as unanimously endorsed by [Madison] ACCA [Advisory Committee on Community Appearance] and P&Z [Planning & Zoning Commisson]), the care and sensitivity we have taken with respect to the property are clearly self-evident."
Property at prominent corner in downtown in between commercial district and historic district
The property is located at a prominent corner downtown. It is right across the street from the main retail and restaurant district, not too far from the bank's existing branch. The proposed new branch at 589 Boston Post Road is also right next door to one of the oldest houses in Madison, the Deacon John Graves House, and the parcel is right next to the Madison Green Historic District, which includes the Memorial Town Hall, Academy School, Lee Academy--all from the 1800s--and numerous historically authentic homes from the 18th and 19th centuries. The bank's plans to demolish a carriage house, and to move the main house, retaining only a portion of it, , who say both structures are an important part of Madison's history.
Geelan said the proposed structure will fit in with that history.
" ... We are confident that the vast majority of the Madison citizenry will agree and be quite pleased that it will soon be anchoring a prominent corner of the downtown Madison district," Geelan said.
Addressing concerns that there might be a grave site on the property
Geelan also asked the archeologist who did to send information to Patch, shedding light on some questions surrounding a tombstone that was embedded in the base of a copper beech tree in the back of the property. William Plunkett, an award-winning Madison developer who has won praise for his work on historic properties in town, and who was the losing bidder on the property at 589 Boston Post Road, that the tombstones might indicate that there was a grave site on the property.
Gregory F. Walwer, the director of Archaeological Consulting Services (ACS) in Guilford, CT, who conducted the dig on the site this summer, said final reports for the firm's Phase I reconnaissance and Phase II intensive surveys have been submitted to Guilford Savings Bank, and that copies likely will be forwarded to the Madison Historical Society and the Madison Historic District Commission. He said the findings also will eventually become a matter of public record at the University of Connecticut special collections library
Walwer said that the decision to demolish the carriage house, which he referred to as a barn, was made after an independent evaluation of the house and barn by an architectural historian "who determined that the exterior of the structure has been altered significantly over the years to the point that further preservation of the structure is not recommended."
Missing tombstone? Gone before ACS started its survey
"Also, the interior of the structure was gutted and remodeled in the 1970s in order to convert the structure into commercial office space. Historic photographs of the structure are available through the historical society and closely affiliated Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives for verification of architectural modifications to the structure," he said via email.
As for the missing tombstone, he said it was gone by the time the company started its survey. "At the start of our survey, we were provided photographs of the gravestone that appears to have been embedded in the base of the beech tree behind the main house," he said in his email. "The gravestone was not present at the start of our survey, but we were able to confirm the former presence of the gravestone by retrieving some broken marble chips from the base of the remaining depression."
He said the three letters on the tombstone, "DIE," rather than initials, are probably part of the word "DIED", "with the rest of the inscription likely to have contained a name and date."
Copper beech tree will be retained in current position in case there are graves underneath
Walwer said Lynn Friedman, the chairman of the Madison Historical Society, provided ACS with the photographs at the start of the survey and could confirm that the embedded gravestone was missing at the start of ACS's work. Walwer said it was his understanding that the stone disappeared sometime in the fall prior to the excavation work at the property.
Walwer also addressed concerns about the location of the dig. Plunkett asked why the excavation was done on the eastern edge of the property, rather than around the beech tree, where the missing tombstone was embedded. Plunkett expressed concern that there might be bodies buried beneath the tree.
"One of our standard Phase I tests was plotted directly in front of the stone in order to evaluate the possible presence of a grave feature, but only natural stratigraphy [natural layering you find in soil where it is undisturbed by man] was revealed, indicating that a grave was not present on that side of the stone," Walwer wrote in his email. "There remains the possibility that a grave could be present under the beech tree, which is recommended to be retained and preserved."
Other gravestones may have been leaning against same tree
Walwer also said he received information indicating that other gravestones had been leaning against the same tree, and that those gravestones may have been later relocated to the basement of the main house, which he calls the Scranton House, after the family that originally settled the land in the 1700s.
"ACS is aware of one other gravestone that Guilford Savings Bank staff had retrieved from the basement and submitted to ACS for analysis," Walwer wrote. "The partial stone bears the date 11-20-1852, with an indicated age at death of 62 (or birth year of around 1790), but no name is present on this part of the stone. The birth and death dates do not match any of the known occupants of the house, nor has ACS been able to secure a match from indices of local cemeteries."
"The fact that more than one stone is cited as having been leaning on the same tree, and given that the date on one of the stones does not match any of the known occupants, the theory that they merely represent collected partial stones from local cemeteries where relatives were interred appears most likely," Walwer wrote. "This theory was shared with us by by Lynn Friedman, who noted that dislocated stones have been found in other backyards and basements in town, and that it was common practice for family members to retrieve (and sometimes replace) broken stones from the graves of relatives at local cemeteries."
No positive traces of human remains
Walwer said there were no positive traces of human remains recovered from any of the subsurface soil tests.
"Most of the bone fragments recovered during the survey could be positively identified as sheep, pig, and cow," he wrote. "While we cannot state to an absolute certainty that there are no human remains present on the property, our research design and testing density was sufficient to demonstrate that this is most likely the case [that there are no human remains on the site]."
As to why the dig was done at the edge of the property, Walwer wrote that the bulk of the Phase I tests were placed at 25-foot intervals, four times the standard testing density (50-foot intervals) for typical Phase I reconnaissance surveys. This was done because of the "potential historic sensitivity of the project property as indicated by the presence of historic structures and our background research efforts."
Excavation done on east side of site due to high density of material there
"Much to our surprise, we found a very light density of historic artifacts in the vicinity of the historic house, but a very high density of material to the east of the existing parking lot," Walwer wrote. "Our first determination was that this eastern site area likely represented the remains of historic outbuildings that were formerly located to the rear of the existing barn, or possibly the remains of another former historic structure on the property. Our Phase I recommendations called for the Phase II evaluation of this site area if it were to be impacted by the pending construction project, and Guilford Savings Bank authorized us to conduct the Phase II survey."
Based on the combined results of the architectural history report of the structures and the results of both phases of archaeological research, it is our conclusion that the eastern site area represents the earliest house occupation on the property, and that the core part of the existing house was likely moved from this location before being remodelled around 1841 to 1850 into the current Greek Revival structure that stands today," Walwer wrote.
"The architectural history report reveals that the core of the house is a cape, whose original fireplaces are consistent with a structure built just after the Revolutionary War, while a mean date analysis of the eastern site area indicates a site occupation of the 1770s through 1830s."
Recovered artifacts range from nails to gun flints
Walwer said the eastern site area contains an artifact density of approximately 50 per square foot, compared to just six per square foot in tests placed around the existing house. Artifacts recovered from the site include structural materials such as wrought and cut nails, brick, window glass, and mortar; household ceramic wares including Delftware, Staffordshire slipware, white salt-glazed stoneware, black-glazed redware, creamware, pearlware, whiteware, and others; bottle glass and fragments of other glass vessels; domesticated mammal bone and shell; coal and charcoal; and numerous personal items such as buttons, eyeglass lens, kaolin clay pipe fragments, buckles, and gun flints.
The artifacts recovered from tests around the existing house were mostly 19th to 20th Century in origin, Walwer said.
"One of the most compelling facts suggesting that the current house location was not original is that the structure is merely 30 feet from the neighboring Grave property, which would have been an unusual placement for the structure given that the property was originally eight acres and stretched east along the Boston Post Road all the way to Tuxis Pond," Walwer said. "An alternative theory to the placement of the structure is that the cape core of the house was in fact built at the present location (with an incredibly low density of artifacts deposited around it), and it was yet an earlier 18th Century structure belonging to Noah Scranton that is represented by the eastern site area."
Recommendation is that eastern portion of site be further conserved
Because of the potential historic information that this eastern site area could provide about the history of Madison and its early occupants, ACS recommended that the site is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and should be further conserved, Walwer wrote.
"Appropriate conservation measures include in situ preservation, or alternatively and if so chosen because of potential impacts from the pending construction project, a Phase III archaeological mitigation program to further evaluate the site and hopefully answer some important remaining questions," wrote Walwer, who has a Ph.D. in anthropology with a focus in archaeology from Yale University, and is a member of the Register of Professional Archaeologists.
"For the record, it should be noted that the Guilford Savings Bank and its representatives have been fully supportive of our cultural resource investigations of the property, and appear to fully recognize the importance of maintaining high historic preservation standards in serving its community," Walwer wrote. "I look forward to offering any further clarifications regarding our archaeological studies of the property."