A developer plans to demolish the existing home at 2022 Albany Ave. in West Hartford and build two new houses on the land.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford Historic District Commission (WHHDC) is hoping that a developer will change his mind about demolishing a 1918 bungalow located at 2022 Albany Ave., and is also asking for input from the public about the proposed demolition at its meeting on Monday, July 27.
The Historic District Commission has written a letter to Reinhard Von Hollander of Investment Developers LLC, which 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.
Although the WHHDC said the 2,700 square foot home is an “excellent example of bungalow architecture, a rarity in West Hartford” and it is historically and architecturally significant enough that it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, that designation does not prevent it from being demolished or altered in any way.
The home is also part of the Hartford Golf Club Historic District, which according to the West Hartford Historic District was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 “in recognition of its significance as an extensive, cohesive and completely intact 20th century neighborhood.”
“In terms of the law, there’s not much we can do but the Historic District Commission is prevailing on [Von Hollander] to try to consider other options because tearing it down would destroy a piece of an otherwise intact historic district,” WHHDC member Deb Cohen said.
A West Hartford ordinance requires a 90-day waiting period before demolishing any structure, and the WHHDC must approve any waivers of the 90-day period for buildings that are more than 50 years old, Cohen said. Von Hollander originally rquested a waiver of the waiting period, and although he subsequently withdrew the request, the WHHDC has written him a letter indicating concern about the demolition plans and strongly urging him to preserve the original home.
In the letter to Von Hollander, WHHDC Chair Greg Galvin states that the commission objects to the demolition because of the house’s architectural significance as well the “detrimental impact” the demolition would have on the Hartford Golf Club Historic District.
Because Von Hollander has already been granted zoning approval to split the lot into two parts, Galvin’s letter “strongly urges” preservation and suggests that the existing home be maintained on its original site and a new home built on the other lot.
The WHHDC has also offered assistance in identifying a purchaser for the bungalow “who will restore the building and retain its architectural character.”
West Hartford currently has three official town-designated historic districts – Buena Vista Historic District, Boulevard-Raymond Road Historic District, and West Hill Historic District – and the WHHDC has the authority to make decisions about building, remodeling, enlarging, or demolishing buildings and structures within those districts. Although the Hartford Golf Club Historic District is listed on the NRHP, it’s not currently one of the town’s historic districts.
“He’s perfectly within his right,” Cohen said, but she and other WHHDC members are hoping that the public, especially those in the neighborhood, will speak out against the demolition and convince Von Hollander to change his plans.
“If you ask people what they like about West Hartford, many will say it’s the architecture. Tearing down buildings like this slowly erodes that feeling people have about the town,” Cohen said.
The public is invited to attend and comment on the proposed demolition at the WHHDC meeting on Monday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Room 312 at West Hartford Town Hall. Comments can also be emailed to Chair Greg Galvin at [email protected].
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