Historical society ‘tags’ Tracy Lewis House

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Members of the Beacon Falls Historical Society pose on the front porch of the Tracy Lewis House on Wolfe Avenue July 7. The society opposes the demolition of the house and ‘tagged’ the property in an effort to send a message that the house is worth saving. ELIO GUGLIOTTI
BEACON FALLS — In a show of support for saving the Tracy S. Lewis House from the wrecking ball, the Beacon Falls Historical Society “tagged” the Wolfe Avenue home.

“Our call as a historical society is to preserve,” said Beverly Krenesky, president of the historical society.

Members of the historical society met last Thursday night at the 35 Wolfe Ave. property. The purpose of the meeting was for members to go through the home and save and remove any items they wanted before a tag sale scheduled for next weekend.

Instead of identifying individual items from the house, society members approved a resolution that identified and marked all the items within the home, the house itself and the entire property as “an important historical resource,” worthy of saving for future generations.

“If the historical society is ever going to do its thing and preserve something historic — this is it,” said society member James Woodward, about the house.

The town bought the property, which is the former home of Tracy Lewis, president of the Beacon Falls Rubber Shoe Co., in August 2008. The house has sat vacant since then, and the plan is to build a community media center on the land.

In May of 2010, the Paul B. Bailey Architect firm out of New Haven issued a report that concluded the town could either use the house or not in the construction of the new building.

The report estimated it would cost about $4.2 million if the building was used in the construction, compared to about $3.9 million if the building were to be demolished.

In August of last year, a committee charged with exploring municipal uses for the property recommended the house be torn down. The recommendation was approved, 2-1, by the Board of Selectmen. Selectman Michael Krenseky, who is a member of the historical society, offered the only opposing vote. The Planning and Zoning Commission also supported the recommendation to demolish the house.

Following the acceptance of the committee’s recommendation, a new Community Media Center Committee was formed to handle the building of the new center. This committee invited the historical society to go through the home.
First Selectman Susan Cable said, last Friday, the step taken by the historical society to identify the entire house was inappropriate, and a “tag” hung on the front door of the house by society members last Thursday was taken down the following morning.

“The mission was clear, and it wasn’t followed the right way,” Cable said.

Cable said throughout the entire process town officials have done everything the correct way.

Cable said if demolishing the house is going to become a large issue, then maybe a referendum should be held to decide the matter once and for all. Along with those who want to save the house and those in favor of demolishing it, Cable said there is also a faction of people who want to see the town sell the property.

Cable felt that the town could use a community media center, and that she intends to have an informational meeting on the issue so people can understand what’s going on. From there, she said, a decision will come on what the next step will be.

An informational meeting on the house was the subject of discussions during the Board of Selectmen’s meeting Monday night.

Parks and Recreation Commission Chair Joe Rodorigo advocated against reopening the conversation on what to do with the house.

“To go backwards at this point is ill-advised,” he said, saying the public already had a chance to comment when the town bought the property two years ago. He felt the issue had already been decided.

Selectmen Dominic Sorrentino also spoke out against having an informational meeting because the decision on what to do with the house was already voted on.

“We made a decision that people don’t like, for the betterment of Beacon Falls,” he said. “By purchasing it, we planned for the future.”

Beverly Krenesky accused the town of trying to stop the public from voicing their opinion.

Michael Krenesky agreed there should be an informational meeting. He said there’s no reason to rush to take the house down before there is a plan for what to do with the property afterwards.

Cable said the Community Media Center Committee is trying to plan for the long-term since there is no money currently available for the project, Cable said.

“Beacon Falls has to have a vision of how to move forward,” she said.

No informational meeting on the subject was scheduled.

Laraine Weschler contributed to the article.