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City Planning Deed Restrictions on McLean House

Danbury will spend about two weeks figuring out deed restrictions to save a Revolutionary War Era Main Street house.

Danbury has no use for the Main Street house that formerly housed the Women, Infant and Children program at 13 Main St. Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton told members of the City Council Monday night any plan for the city to keep the house should include cash.

Boughton said the building needs serious renovations, and the city has a history of holding onto old buildings for too long without having the financial commitment to save those buildings. He mentioned the Charles Ives house, the stone castle in Tarrywile Park and the Richter House at Richter Park. (All of those buildings are in need of work, and the city doesn't have the money required to save all of them.) The McLean house is another one of those historic houses in town without a blank checkbook attached.

The problem the city faces is the McLean house at 13 Main St. is genuinely historic. The builder, John McLean, built it after the British Army attacked Danbury in 1777 and burned numerous Danbury houses to destroy military goods stored in the city. McLean was a commissary of the stores for the Continental Army in Danbury. In addition to McLean own losses, other well known Danbury families lost houses, including these families, Starr, Taylor, Cook, Hoyt, White, Benedict and Rockwell.

"John McLean was the biggest loser. He rebuilt and lived in the house at 13 Main Street," said Danbury Taxpayer Margaret Mitchell, who opposed the land sale at the City Council meeting Monday night. "John McLean's replacement house has historic value because of his role in the American Revolution."

Ken Gucker urged the council to take more time making a decision. He said the city won't earn the full $340,000 the house is appraised at, and he said this house has been acknowledged for more than 30 years as one of Danbury's only surviving houses on Main Street from the Revolutionary War period. He would also like to see the parking area behind the house and driveway next door preserved for the city's use. The driveway is the exit to the South Street School, which sits behind 13 Main St.

Rather than agree to sell the house outright, the council adopted a resolution that calls for the council to figure out the proper wording of a deed restriction that will be attached to the house if the city sells it to preserve the historic nature of the house.

That deed restriction is to be written between now and the next City Council meeting on Dec. 4, when the council will likely agree to sell the property. The city has no firm offers, but the first step is the council agreeing to sell it.

bordwithbs November 20, 2012 at 11:06 AM
Wouldn't the museum have a first shot at this property? Perhaps selling it, even with deed restrictions, will not honor it's history. And while the city cries poor, what about the millions approved in the recent bond approvals? Maybe it's all about priorities??? And independent thinking on the city council, rather than a bunch of sheep?
Mark Langlois (Editor) November 20, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Hi Bord, It isn't that no one wants the house preserved or given to the museum. They talked about it at the city council meeting. The museum is strapped itself, and this would be a burden. Why not give the museum the Tarrywile Castle? These two buildings may be too expensive for the museum to fix up and display. Isn't the Ives house a part of the museum? It needs help.
Ken November 20, 2012 at 04:35 PM
The Museum would love to have it in fact they thought they were going to get it. If you saw the entire meeting last night, you would have seen the mayor say two different things and was not happy. The house should stay with the city as they will get nothing for it but only lose a peice of our history. The city paid $130,000 for it in 79 and if you read the apraisal the $340,000 is conditional to no lead paint or other nasties. We know those nasties are in there so we do not know what will be the real number. Something is a foot and we will not know what that is for some time!
bordwithbs November 20, 2012 at 08:14 PM
Has anyone heard of the National Trust for Historic Preservation? With the right people, and a real commitment from the city, buildings have been saved, preserved, renovated with sensitivity and put to good use. Remember the Ives S.t fire house? A total wreck, the Old Jail, full of pidgeons and droppings, the Oil Mill factory that has become lovely condos, and many others that are and were worth saving. Tarywile Castle is another example of what is wrong with a policy of neglect. There is a better way to remember and respect what Danbury was. Combine public and private efforts with a sensible plan and things can happen.

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