Fire has silver lining

Insurance payout to help with renovations to Tuttle house

A section of the ceiling in the third floor hallway of the Tuttle house in Naugatuck collapsed due to water damage that occurred when a fire was extinguish in June. The borough will receive about $877,000 from insurance money for damages to the building, which is being renovated. –LUKE MARSHALL

NAUGATUCK — Six months after a fire burned a hole in the roof of the Tuttle house, the borough received some good news regarding the ongoing renovations to the historic building.

A fire destroyed a portion of a cupola on the roof at the house at 380 Church St. in early June. The fire started when a spark got under the tar paper on the roof while a worker was using a butane torch to solder a joint for a rain gutter.

Although the fire was contained to the cupola area, the house suffered significant water damage from the building’s sprinkler system and the Naugatuck Fire Department’s effort to put the fire out.

The ceilings throughout three floors of the building have water damage, and a floor in the basement had to be completely removed, Public Works Director James Stewart said. Many of the floorboards that had buckled due to the water damage are only now just starting to settle back into place, he added.

While the roof where the fire happened has been fixed, the third floor still smells of smoke, and charred wood is visible near where the fire burned.

However, there is a silver lining despite all the damage.

The Travelers Companies, Inc., the borough’s insurance company, was originally going to give the borough about $283,000 for the damages to the building. After hiring Belfor Property Restoration, a Wallingford-based fire damage restoration company, to reassess the building, Stewart said the borough is going to get more than three times that amount.

“Belfor recalculated everything and reinspected everything and the damages increased to $877,000. So that is what the insurance company is agreeing the damages are,” Stewart told the Board of Mayor and Burgesses this month.

The house was originally built as a residence in 1880. The Tuttle family deeded the home to the borough in 1936 for educational purposes. It was used for classrooms throughout the years and in the early 1960s after a fire at Hillside School. The Board of Education, which now has offices in Naugatuck High School, moved there in the 1950s.

Once the renovations are complete, the Naugatuck Historical Society museum will move into the house as will the Naugatuck Economic Development Corporation office.

Stewart said the borough is exploring how best to use the additional insurance money to get the maximum restoration of the building.

“We are working with Belfor to see what was damaged that we might not want to repair or repair in a different way in order to push the money into different areas of the building and make the building better,” Stewart said.

Stewart said portions of the floor could be refinished rather than replaced, and the money could be used to replace the furnace or portions of the ceiling that were not damaged by the fire or water.

Water damage can be seen on the walls of a room on the third floor of the Tuttle house in Naugatuck. The damage occurred when a fire was extinguish in June. The borough will receive about $877,000 from insurance money for damages to the building, which is being renovated. –LUKE MARSHALL

“We have more money to spend, and [Belfor is] very creative in helping us spend it in ways where we can maximize the benefit to the building,” Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said.

Most of the work inside the house will be to the first floor of the building, where the museum and offices will be located.

Half of the second floor will be used for storage, Stewart said. The other half of the second floor, the third floor, and the fourth floor won’t be open to the public because there are no fire escapes for those parts of the building, he said.

Stewart said he expects the historical society and the NEDC to be in the house by late spring or early summer of next year.

At the board meeting, Burgess Robert Neth said the fire may end up being a blessing in disguise, all things considered.

“It wasn’t a cheap project. I know because we could only afford to go in phases; that is what we did. You could say the fire was a godsend. You never want a fire, but it has done things that will help us make the building a little better,” Neth said.