Preservation officer OKs plans

The borough has gained approval from the state's Office of Historic Preservation to demolish Building 25, the former hub of the rubber industry on Maple Street. – RA ARCHIVE

The borough has gained approval from the state’s Office of Historic Preservation to demolish Building 25, the former hub of the rubber industry on Maple Street. – RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — One historic building downtown will be demolished while another will be preserved, according to a recent ruling from the state’s historic preservation officer.

Historic Preservation Officer Daniel Forrest submitted a letter to officials this week giving them the go-ahead to demolish Building 25 at 58 Maple St. The letter also states Naugatuck can use $940,000 in state grant money, previously given to the borough for other projects, to put toward the demolition of Building 25 and preservation of the Bronson B. Tuttle House at 380 Church St., where the Board of Education offices are currently located.

Naugatuck wants to tear down Building 25 because it has fallen into disrepair. Officials also want to renovate the Tuttle House, which needs several upgrades, including a slate roof replacement. They want to transform the Tuttle House into the new Naugatuck Historical Society headquarters once administrative office space for school officials is built at the soon-to-be-renovated Naugatuck High School.

The current location of the Naugatuck Historical Society, in the old train station at 195 Water St., has been put on the market by the Naugatuck Economic Development Corp.

Ron Pugliese, CEO of the NEDC, said Forrest’s letter was welcome news for the borough, especially the news that Building 25 can now be demolished.

“I fully appreciate that there are still people who want to see it remain, but the fact is there is nothing that can be done to save it,” he said. “It is my goal to get something new on that property to add to the tax rolls.”

Building 25, a brick structure built in the Neo-Classical Revival style in 1895, is on the National Register of Historic Places. It used to be a hub of the former U.S. Rubber Co. and is “the sole surviving element of the borough’s industrial economy within the historic district,” according to Forrest.

Because of its historic significance, Naugatuck could not tear down the building without Forrest’s permission. Though he granted his blessing, Forrest did so regretfully and stated his disappointment with the way Naugatuck officials over the years let the building deteriorate.

In his letter, he states Connecticut awarded Naugatuck $440,000 in 1998 for the preservation of Building 25, “not the demolition of the building 16 years later.”

Naugatuck has been given permission to use state grant money to renovate the Bronson B. Tuttle House, where the Board of Education offices are now, at 380 Church St.  -FILE PHOTO

Naugatuck has been given permission to use state grant money to renovate the Bronson B. Tuttle House, where the Board of Education offices are now, at 380 Church St. -FILE PHOTO

“We note here our disappointment and frustration with the proposed fate of Building 25,” he writes. “…While we are quite familiar with the challenges of renovating historic buildings, we are also distressed that the property was allowed to deteriorate to the point where demolition appears necessary.”

Pugliese said he doesn’t believe that is an unfair assessment but said current and past administrations have worked hard to save the building.

“I don’t think anyone stood there and said, ‘let’s ignore this building and lead it into disrepair,’” he said. “I think everyone had the best of intentions and made efforts to save it.”

While the state gave Naugatuck money, the historical society was also getting pledges of donations to save the building. In the end, they couldn’t raise enough.

The $440,000 will remain with Naugatuck, along with an additional $500,000 promised for a parking garage for the now-defunct plan to revitalize downtown Naugatuck through a multimillion dollar renovation project called Renaissance Place. The state now says it can be put toward the Tuttle House renovations.

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