By Narrow Margin, Town Officials Vote To List Waveny on National Register of Historic Places

First Selectman Rob Mallozzi on Wednesday cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of listing Waveny on the National Register of Historic Places.

New Canaan’s highest elected official broke a 6-6 tie on the Town Council (voting record below), freeing local preservationists to draft an application to list on the register Waveny House and a portion of the park whose exact boundaries are still to be determined.

Rose Scott Long, president of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance—the organization that fueled the effort to list Waveny and has offered to fund the application cost (up to about $30,000)—in an interview directly following Mallozzi’s vote thanked the Town Council and especially those on its Land Use & Recreation committee for their diligence.

“They have done the right thing for Waveny and they have done the right thing for the town of New Canaan and the citizens of New Canaan,” Scott Long said outside the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center, where the Town Council held its regular monthly meeting.

The dramatic vote followed multiple meetings and public hearings before the Town Council and other municipal bodies, and a walk on the grounds of Waveny this week that included councilmen, New Canaan’s recreation director, state officials and local preservationists.

At Wednesday’s meeting, though councilmen all agreed on the importance of preserving Waveny and offered sincere thanks to the New Canaan Preservation Alliance for its work to this point, the elected legislative body—and members of the public—debated the pros and cons of listing Waveny.

Those in favor of the listing said the designation could qualify New Canaan for state and federal historic preservation grants for upkeep and improvements at Waveny, in no way prevents the town from doing what it wants to the main house, outbuildings or grounds, and called for naysayers to articulate their objections specifically.

Those opposed said they saw no reason to list Waveny on the register since New Canaanites long have been responsible stewards of the town treasure, feared the prospect, however remote, of New Canaan losing control over it, and suggested that an internal conservancy or affiliated “Friends” group be created and funded privately to oversee capital projects there.

One of the “yes” votes, councilman Sven Englund, took aim at the objection that if the listing could be seen as largely honorific, then New Canaan simply doesn’t need it.

“Yes, it is an honorific and as a body and on other town bodies, we often honor certain people who have contributed to this town and I think that Waveny Park is a very important thing and I think it is deserving of the honor to be one of our national treasures,” Englund said.

Among those who voted against the listing, Town Council Steve Karl issued one of the most passionate arguments, calling Waveny “the DNA of New Canaan” and saying that vigilant residents are watching the park every day.

“The entire town of New Canaan is passionate about the park and above and beyond that we have a historic Preservation Alliance that rivals any town in this country, and I support that historic Preservation Alliance 100 percent, but we are debating preserving something we all know we are going to preserve,” Karl said. “And we would lie in from of a bulldozer, a backhoe, a pickup truck before anybody touches that parkland, so while I love the idea of a historic nomination or putting it on this land record, I just don’t understand—and I want to get there,—that elevator speech I am looking for and the reason I can the tell taxpayers why we did it. I am not there and I am there to preserve it 100 percent but I just never got I never got to that point.”

It isn’t clear just how much or what parts of the parkland at Waveny will be included in the application. State officials who work in the field of historic registry have said that in reviewing applications, it’s important that the grounds surrounding a building are included in a listing in cases where that land is connected to it in an important way.

The text of the Town Council’s resolution reads: “To approve a proposal to proceed with an application to have Waveny House and boundaries of Waveny Park to be decided by the Town Council, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Connecticut State Register of Historic Places. If approved, the New Canaan Preservation Alliance would execute the registration process, subject to working with the Town Council Land Use & Recreation Committee and with any future Waveny Conservancy or similar organization that may be formed. The New Canaan Preservation Alliance would be responsible for all associated costs.”

The voting record on the item is as follows:

Yes

  • Kathleen Corbet
  • John Emert
  • John Engel
  • Sven Englund
  • Joe Paladino
  • Roger Williams
  • Rob Mallozzi (first selectman, tie-breaking vote)

No

  • Ken Campbell
  • Steve Karl
  • Kevin Moynihan
  • Tucker Murphy
  • Bill Walbert
  • Penny Young

2 thoughts on “By Narrow Margin, Town Officials Vote To List Waveny on National Register of Historic Places

  1. Interesting vote – came down to a tie-breaker! For some reason, one of my favorite JFK quotes comes to mind:
    “I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty, which will protect the beauty of our natural environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past and which will build handsome and balanced cities for our future.” — John F. Kennedy

  2. Waveny House, with all its original outbuildings and grounds, represents an excellent example of the American Country House Era, from the late 19th century until 1930. The houses were designed by the leading architects of the day, the grounds professionally landscaped, frequently by the Olmsted Brothers, and often included “scientific farming” and selective woodlands preservation, along with pools, flower gardens, various evergreen plantings, follies, gazebos, open fields, and winding roads. In 1904, Lapham bought Thomas Hall’s Prospect Farm created in 1894, with its existing Power House, Carriage Barn of rubble stone, superintendent’s cottage (now the Paddle Hut) and stone pillars. Lapham eventually demolished the Halls’ enormous Colonial Revival residence and engaged William Tubby to design his new mansion, sited by the Olmsted Brothers firm. According to correspondence at the Olmsted Archives in Cambridge MA, Mrs, Lapham and Percy Gallagher, of the Olmsted from, designed the guest house, now the community center, for her son Jack and his family, who, in the 1930’s, flew in from Texas for the summer. North of that building the Olmsted firm had designed a Farm Village on the property near Farm Road, a rectangular complex of animal barns, stables, and chicken coops, with cottages for farmhands, all enclosing a large barn yard, which was never completed. The documentation of this early 20th century Country Place, along with the preceding history of the land to be discovered in the Stamford land Records, will be part of the consultant’s Nomination, extensively illustrated with period photos and Olmsted drawings. In addition, the interiors of Waveny House have never been documented, so any photographs of its early decor will be important to locate for the continued preservation of this historic house. We all look forward to the completion of the Nomination and its submission to the National Park Service for its review and acceptance into the National Register of Historic Places.

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