Efforts to preserve the 1918 bungalow at the intersection of Albany Avenue and North Steele Road in West Hartford were unsuccessful.
By Ronni Newton
The 1918 Craftsman-style bungalow at 2022 Albany Ave. in West Hartford was demolished Thursday morning, ending efforts by the West Hartford Historic District Commission (WHHDC) and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to save the home.
“We’re obviously disappointed to see a National Register Property being demolished,” said WHHDC member Deb Cohen when she learned that the home was gone.
Although the bungalow was not in one of West Hartford’s three designated historic districts, over which the WHHDC has jurisdiction, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and considered by the commission to be an “excellent example of bungalow architecture, a rarity in West Hartford.”
The WHHDC had reached out to the developer, Reinhard Von Hollander of Investment Developers LLC, multiple times in an attempt to request that he reconsider demolition and preserve the structure. More than a dozen people attended the Historic District Commission’s meeting on July 27, with all but one expressing hope that the Craftsman-style bungalow could be saved.
Cohen said that several weeks ago she and other representatives from the WHHDC met with Von Hollander. West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka also attended that meeting.
Cohen said that Slifka was a good mediator, and Von Hollander agreed to meet with an expert before going forward with the demolition.
That meeting, with Greg Farmer from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, took place two weeks ago. Cohen said that Farmer requested that Von Hollander delay for 30 days to allow the Trust to find a buyer who would commit to preservation. “He declined. We’re disappointed that he didn’t give the Connecticut Trust at least that window,” Cohen said.
“I had hoped the developer and the historic advocates would be able to reach a solution that would save the house or at least buy more time but sadly that did not happen,” Slifka said Thursday.
According to Cohen, Farmer’s expert assessment was that the bungalow was “architecturally significant” and “absolutely salvageable.” She said that Farmer also outlined tax credits and funding that could be available for restoration. “I’d like to think he gave it some consideration,” Cohen said.
Attempts were made to reach Von Hollander but he has not responded to a request for comment.
Von Hollander purchased the .56 acre lot in November 2014 with the intent of demolishing the bungalow, splitting the lot, and building two new 4,000 square foot homes. Other than a required 90-day waiting period required by town ordinance before demolishing any building that is more than 50 years old, there was nothing to legally prevent Von Hollander from demolishing the home.
Cohen said that she is hopeful that awareness of what has happened to this historic structure will lead to action to preserve other historic properties. “The commission is hoping that this spurs additional measures to further protect our architecture,” Cohen said.
Slifka said that the Town Council will review the possibility of enacting regulations to address future situations like this that may arise with historic structures.
A panel discussion facilitated by the Noah Webster House & West Hartford Historical Society will take place on Nov. 18 to discuss the history of preservation and legislation that could be adopted going forward. Cohen asked that anyone interested in keeping informed about preservation issues contact her at [email protected] and provide her with their email addressses.
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