The Danbury City Council agreed Tuesday to spend $5,000 on its historic castle in an effort to win a $50,000 grant from the Connecticut Historic Trust.
Danbury bought the Hearthstone Castle in 1985 with its purchase of Tarrywile Park, a 700 acre park for passive recreation downtown.
E. Starr Sanford built the castle from field stones and rocks quarried nearby between 1896 and 1899. He sold it in 1902 to Victor Buck, a New York City industrialist, who in turn sold it in 1923 to Charles Darling Parks, president of the American Hatters & Furriers Co.
"There may be reasonable options for its use," said Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton, although he didn't sound convinced. Danbury will use the grant to figure out what to do with the building.
The castle has a well, but no city sewer or water. Boughton said bringing water and sewer to the castle would cost $1 million. With no sewer, it can't host hundreds of people, so the city has to figure out first how it wants to use the castle. Another idea is to stabilize the building, and the city has a $1 million estimate for that work as well as the million to bring city water and sewer to the site.
Once Danbury decides how it wants to use the castle, the city can estimate the cost of renovating the castle to accommodate that use.
Dennis Elpern said the city doesn't have a strategy for the castle yet. It doesn't know how much money it needs to keep the building from further deterioration.
"We'd all love to see a restoration, but we don't want to pay for it," Elpern said. When Elpern first visited the castle 24 years ago, he said it looked fine, but it had a roof leak. "Benign neglect let it fall apart."
Some of the grant money would be used to survey the city to find out what people think.
Boughton said the city has a whole lot of work to do on a whole lot of things, and he isn't convinced the Hearthstone Castle is at the top of anyone's list.