NAUGATUCK — As the borough works to sell the former train station on Water Street, two residents have submitted a petition cautioning the Board of Mayor and Burgesses against the move.
Shirley Anderson and Virginia Donnelly presented a petition to the board at its May meeting cautioning against selling the former train station at 195 Water St., where the Naugatuck Historical Society and Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation are currently located.
Anderson says borough officials have made mistakes in the past by getting rid of beautiful buildings, and she’s worried they are on the verge of doing it again.
“We all know that the building was designed by Henry Bacon, the architect of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.,” she told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses. “It is a historic treasure.”
Anderson gave the board a petition that she said was signed by more than 300 residents who oppose selling the building. However, borough officials continue to keep the building on the market and have not shown any desire to take it off.
Donnelly is concerned about the future of the building because she feels it is part of the borough’s history and heritage.
“We have a lot of rich architecture in this town that has made it a special place to be for many years. Who knows what would happen if they sell it,” Donnelly said.
Donnelly is concerned that if a restaurant went into the building, major renovations would take place and the building would be irrevocably changed.
“It’s all marble. The architecture is beautiful. It should not be sold for a restaurant or anything like that. It would be destroyed,” Donnelly said.
The borough’s long-term plan is to move the historical society to the Tuttle House Board of Education Building on Church Street once ongoing Naugatuck High School renovations are complete. Those renovations will include an administrative wing where offices currently housed in the Tuttle Building will be moved. The NEDC will also be moved to the Tuttle House.
Anderson believes the old train station should remain with the historical society, and if not then another municipal organization should move in.
Donnelly is also against the borough’s proposed plan to move the historical society. She said the Tuttle House lacks parking and is difficult to access.
“The historic society is in the train station and that’s where they should stay. Not Tuttle,” Donnelly said.
The former train station’s history dates back to the early 1900s.
The railroad once had many riders at the beginning of the 1900s. Around 1908, John H. Whittemore, a businessman and Naugatuck philanthropist, commissioned well-known architect Henry Bacon of McKim, Mead and White of New York to design a new train station that would fit with his plan for distinctive downtown district. The style of the building has been described as Spanish Colonial Revival, and also as Italian Villa style, according to the blog Historic Buildings of Connecticut.
The station closed in the 1960s and had been used as the headquarters of the now-defunct Naugatuck Daily News, until the borough took ownership in the 1990s and put the historical society there.
If Naugatuck loses ownership of the building, it is unclear what may happen to it. That could have a negative impact on the borough’s downtown, which is known for its architecture, Anderson said.
“I am old enough to remember the beautiful children’s library designed by Stanford White that stood on Church Street next to the old Town Hall,” Anderson said. “Both (the library and the old Town Hall) were torn down to make room for this new Town Hall, which never conformed with the elegant architecture surrounding it. The old Town Hall had a design similar to the Thomaston Opera House, which is used as a theater today.”
Ron Pugliese, CEO of the NEDC, said the borough is looking to sell the building for about $600,000. He said there is currently an offer on the table “that the borough is not in love with.”
He said the NEDC has made a counteroffer and is waiting to hear back. He would not provide more details about that potential deal.
“The NEDC asked me to market and sell the property,” he said. “I have not been told differently. I’d be somewhat surprised if the town were to not sell it.”
Luke Marshall contributed to this article.