Blaze damages Prospect mansion


A fire burns at the estate of designer Louis Nichole late Friday afternoon on New Haven Road in Prospect. No one was injured. –CONTRIBUTED
A fire burns at the estate of designer Louis Nichole late Friday afternoon on New Haven Road in Prospect. No one injured. –CONTRIBUTED

PROSPECT — A fire heavily damaged the palatial estate of designer Louis Nichole atop a hill off of Route 69 on Friday.

No one was injured as about 100 firefighters from 10 towns battled the fire at 54 New Haven Road, Prospect Fire Chief Jay Kolodziej said.

The home, built as a private fieldstone residence in 1934 and converted into a country club in 1950, also served as a restaurant before being bought in 1984 by Nichole, a Waterbury native and internationally acclaimed designer and craftsman.

A call came in as a fire alarm at about 4:30 p.m. and another call came from Troop I in Bethany, reporting a 911 call from someone who spotted smoke coming from the roof, Kolodziej said.

Nichole was outside of the property by the time Kolodziej arrived, he said. It wasn’t clear by late Friday if there were any other people living on the property.

Firefighters from Beacon Falls, Bethany, Cheshire, Middlebury, Naugatuck, Thomaston, Wolcott, Woodbridge and Waterbury assisted Prospect.

They had to pump water from a hydrant in front of the Prospect firehouse at 26 New Haven Road through a relay, the fire chief said. An estimated 4,000 to 4,500 feet of yellow fire water hose stretched from the firehouse to the scene.

Tankers shuttled water to two portable ponds at the intersection of Coer Road and Route 69 at the entrance of the property, which is gated, Kolodziej said. They got the water from a hydrant in front of Town Hall and the Congregational Church.

There was another gated entrance to the property, which firefighters had to break through to reach inside, he said.

By 10 p.m. the majority of the fire was knocked down, and Prospect was clearing departments from the scene, Kolodziej said. An engine was expected to be on scene well into the night.

“It was very difficult to get to where the fire was because of the size of the structure,” Kolodziej said.

It appears the main residential structure was affected, he said. Kolodziej said the other one wasn’t damaged.

The main structure sustained heavy fire damage on the upper floors and roof, he said, and it had smoke and water damage throughout the structure.

The cause of the fire is under investigation by the Prospect and state fire marshal, the fire chief said.

Smoke wafted high in the bright sky late Friday afternoon. The air became blurred with smoke on Route 69, as far as Lee and Talmadge Hill roads farther south on Route 69.

Prospect and state police blocked a portion of New Haven Road at Coer Road and Route 68.

Residents gathered on a grassy section across from the gated entrance on New Haven Road near Canfield Park.

Melissa Bernier, 44, of Apple Hill Drive, said she was at home around 5 p.m. when she heard non-stop sirens. She said she knows of Nichole, but doesn’t know him personally.

“It’s a shame,” Bernier said.

Residents call it the “castle,” said resident Dawn Bethke, who has lived in town for 10 years. It’s filled with antiques, she and her daughter, Mak, 13, said.

“It’s a like a castle, but it’s gone,” Dawn Bethke said.

Nichole, who is legally Luigi Nichola Giuseppe DiMuzio, bought the land in 1984, according to a New York Times article in November 2004.