letter: Restoring Tracy Lewis House gives false sense of history

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To the editor,

As a concerned taxpayer, Beacon Falls Public Library patron, and former Wolfe Avenue Lewis House Exploratory Committee clerk, I am writing in response to Mr. James Woodward’s letter to the Citizen’s News editor on July 8, 2011 regarding the property at 35 Wolfe Ave.

While the house at 35 Wolfe Ave. may have been in livable condition for residential use at the time of the purchase, it was not in acceptable condition for municipal use nor was it up to required health, safety and ADA codes.

According to the Paul B. Bailey Architectural Firm study in May 2010, there is “a structural support issue near the center of the house” and “settlement of the center of the house is still ongoing,” as well as a significant moisture and mold problems in the basement. Throughout the report, it was noted that “additional investigation would be needed” to determine the cause of the problems. The report stated the need for new plaster, insulation, windows, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems, essentially having to replace everything within the shell of the building. Based on the cost analysis in the architectural report and the possible additional costs not readily apparent, it is not fiscally responsible to consider using the existing structure.

As a genealogist and member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, I understand the significance of history and preserving historic landmarks, but restoration of the house at 35 Wolfe Ave. would require massive re-creation which would give a false sense of history. The Olmstead landscaping plan was deemed historic, but unfortunately never implemented.

There is no question of demolishing the house. This was the decision made by the Wolfe Avenue Lewis House Exploratory Committee in August 2010, which was originally charged with exploring adaptive reuse and feasibility of the existing property, then advising the Board of Selectmen. The Board of Selectmen, by majority vote, and the Planning & Zoning Commission agreed.

The Community Media Center Committee was formed as the next step. Their mission is to formulate a new property plan which best suits the community. Once a plan is available it will then be presented to the taxpayers of Beacon Falls in the form of a referendum.

The property wasn’t considered a real estate investment with thoughts of resale; it was purchased because of its strategic location and potential for community revitalization. The Park & Recreation Commission, the Beacon Falls Public Library and even the Historical Society desperately need space. We can honor our history as we move forward into a new community facility.

Martha Melville

Beacon Falls

1 COMMENT

  1. People on both sides of this issue like to quote their favorite section of the “Conditions Assessment and Reuse Study” completed for the Town for the Wolfe avenue property/house. I for one like to read the summary/recommendation by the Architect which on page 10 states:

    “The house is an excellent candidate for further study and preservation. Preservation of the Tracy S. Lewis House would ensure that the stories of Mr. Lewis’ life and his role in Beacon Falls continue for the future generations. The house’s many intact architectural details and features are timeless representations of quality design and planning. Although the house may no longer serve as a residential structure, careful and creative planning should be implemented to allow for adaptive reuse.”

    But I suggest that you read the report and tour the house for yourself…
    http://www.beaconfalls-ct.org/Pages/BeaconFallsCT_BComm/Media/TracyReport05-10-10.pdf