Historian: State Destroys Historic Structures In Nearby Chatfield Hollow State Park

The buildings were listed on the State Register of Historic Places.



Editor's note: Some of you asked how you could take action on this. This is what Tom Lentz told us:

Thank you for running the letter. I'm working on an update based on what I've learned since I did the letter. I'll send it to you. I think the most critical issue is that the state should devote some funds to maintaining historic structures in state parks. There are hundreds of these across the state. The buildings are left to deteriorate to the point where they become a hazard and have to be demolished. Funding for maintenance is going to be difficult to achieve because of the state's financial situation. We should also request that no further demolition occur in Chatfield Hollow until alternatives are found. We should let state officials and our state representatives know about our concern. I think letters to Tom Tyler at the DEEP would be helpful.

Tom Tyler
Director, State Parks and Public Outreach Division
Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127

Original story:

The State of Connecticut demolished three historic buildings in Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth last week. These buildings were on the State Register of Historic Places. They were cottage homes built in the New England Vernacular Barn style by Frank J. Forster in the 1930s. Frank Forster was a noted Connecticut architect in the first half of the twentieth century and received national recognition for designing redevelopment projects for run-down neighborhoods in New York City during the Great Depression. Although the houses were not exceptionally old, they were built from portions and architectural elements such as 18th century paneled rooms from much earlier houses. 

There remain a historic house and a sawmill, but these also are scheduled for demolition. The house was originally a Chatfield house. The Chatfields, for whom the park is named, were early settlers in the area. It was later occupied by a Parmelee, another early family in the area. The house dates from around 1790 to 1810 and is unusual and valuable in that much of the original interior woodwork remains. The sawmill is the only standing sawmill in the Town of Killingworth, and probably one of only a few in the state. It retains its machinery. A millpond and sluiceway remain. Both buildings need some care but are structurally sound so there is no necessity to demolish them.

Every effort must be made to prevent the demolition of the remaining historic buildings in Chatfield Hollow. The State has a responsibility to preserve historically important structures and features on its properties. This is important in maintaining the cultural heritage and history of the State of Connecticut. At the very least, it should inform municipalities of plans to demolish historic buildings so that alternatives can be explored. It is likely other historic structures across the state are being demolished and this policy should be reviewed.


Thomas L. Lentz

Municipal Historian

Editor's note: Chatfield Hollow is just over the Madison town line in Killingworth, CT. 

This story was updated at 4:46 p.m. Fiday, March 16, 2012 to add information from Tom Lentz.

Herb March 17, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Pem, Thanks for staying on top of this. Once destroyed, there is no going back. How about a PATCH motivated(all Towns), call for the formation of -- FRIENDS OF HISTORIC STRUCTURES -- A volunteer group similar in structure to Friend of Hammonasset, where volunteers could work with the State to save and maintain these great markers of history.
Voice March 17, 2012 at 02:44 PM
Pem, thank you for this information, that is good news. Herb - that sounds like a great idea!
eileen banisch March 17, 2012 at 03:46 PM
How about the State having to abide by a demolition delay (with notices to citizens) for any building over 60 years old? Many or most downs have these, why don't they follow the same rules?
Pem McNerney March 17, 2012 at 03:49 PM
That makes sense, Eileen. Here is an update from Mr. Lentz that ran today. It provides additional interesting details, along with more information on how individuals can take action: http://patch.com/A-rDxk
Pem McNerney March 17, 2012 at 03:49 PM
And, yes, great idea Herb! Love it!


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