Police on Wednesday night arrested a 55-year-old homeless man who told them he’s been living in a widely discussed abandoned town-owned building on Richmond Hill Road for one month. At about 9:27 p.m. on March 13, officers were dispatched to the “Mead Park Brick Barn” on a report that someone was inside the building with a flashlight, according to a police. The 100-year-old structure is owned by the town and is to be demolished, as publicly noticed on a sign affixed to its exterior. The “Barn,” or “Richmond Hill Garage,” as some know it, is not open for public access, police said. Arriving, officers found all exterior doors to be secured and didn’t see any flashlights inside, the report said.
I would like to comment on your recent story regarding the Mead Park Barn. I would like to talk about a “P” word and that word is not ‘Preservation,’ it’s ‘Process.’ Although the concept is less glamorous, it warrants its own respect. I so appreciate all of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance’s hard work and their passion. However, we must deal with the facts before us. Last week, the Board of Selectmen was incorrect to table the demolition contract.
Saying a nonprofit group’s effort in planning for the restoration of the Mead Park Brick Barn warrants a stay of execution, the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday decided to forgo voting on contracts to demolish the long-vacant Richmond Hill Road structure.
Now that the New Canaan Preservation Alliance has poured resources into developing architectural plans for the Brick Barn and identified viable funding sources so that its restoration and maintenance can be privately funded, the Town Council should “weigh in on this,” Selectman Nick Williams said during a regular Board meeting, held at Town Hall. “You cannot recapture history, so I would like to send it back to the Town Council, and that is two weeks from now, and there will be a resolution within the next few weeks one way or the other, and I am committed to that,” Williams said. He referred to the Council’s Feb. 27 meeting, saying that if the legislative body again votes to demolish the Brick Barn, “I would be inclined to go along with that.”
Williams and Selectman Kit Devereaux voted 2-0 to postpone the Board’s decision on the demolition contracts until fresh direction is had from the Town Council. First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, long a proponent for demolishing the building, abstained from voting on the motion.
Happy Childhood memories of growing up in New Canaan. This is what comes through during interviews with two long-time residents of New Canaan on the topic of Mead Park and the little brick building perched on its northern border.
So much controversy circles about this building that there is not even consensus about its name. Cassia Besson Ward said the official name in her memory was the Park Maintenance Building, but frequently refers to it as the “Brick House.”
She grew up in the little grey house across the street and shared, most unexpectedly, this watercolor of a winter skating scene. Besson Ward said she has fond memories of growing up with Mead Park as her front yard, playing with her sister and other children in the streams, making houses out of pine needles behind the “Brick House” and even staging an amateur “Greek Pageant” in the park.
Painted by her father, John Case Besson, the watercolor includes specific individuals from her childhood. Cassia and her sister are depicted with a sled, one riding, the other pulling.
As an apparent deadline for the town to move forward with the demolition of the Mead Park Brick Barn looms, preservationists have obtained the opinion of a prominent attorney that New Canaan’s legislative body may legally undo its approval of funds to raze the widely discussed structure. Citing case law that specifies a town’s legislative body “possesses the unquestioned power to rescind prior acts,” attorney Daniel E. Casagrande, a partner at Danbury-based Career & Anderson, concludes that “the Town Council has the inherent power to rescind or reduce its appropriation for the demolition of the Barn.”
“Neither the Charter nor the General Statutes contain any provision barring the Town Council from rescinding or reducing an appropriation,” Casagrande wrote in a Dec. 18 opinion sent to members of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance, which had retained him.
“Similarly, the Town Council’s rules contain no restriction on its authority to rescind or reduce an appropriation. Finally, since the Board of Selectmen has not yet acted to award a demolition contract, no vested rights in any third party have intervened that would limit the Town Council’s rescission power.”
Casagrande referred to the Town Council’s vote in May to approve $65,000 for the Barn’s demolition—a 6-6 tie broken by the first selectman, as per the Town Charter. The attorney’s findings come as New Canaan nears a deadline with respect to two companies that won bids to tear down the century-old structure at the northern edge of Mead Park— where Standard Oil’s horse-drawn delivery wagons used to fill containers for fuel delivery in New Canaan—and dispose safely of its remains.