New Canaan’s chief building official has received an objection to the planned demolition of a structure owned by St. Aloysius Catholic Church Corporation.
Town resident Mimi Findlay said the building at 30 Maple St., on the church’s property at 57 South Ave., is a rectory and one of just two “Stick Style” buildings in central New Canaan.
Findlay cited a 2012 “New Canaan Historic Resources Inventory” in her letter to Chief Building Official Platz: “Since 1958 this building has served as the convent for St. Aloysius parish. It was built by clothing salesman and New Canaan postmaster Philo A. Thatcher c.1885. The imposing residence is significant as a rare example of the Stick Style in central New Canaan.”
Findlay continued on her own, “There is only one other Stick Style residence in New Canaan—the Red Cross building—now also threatened with its own demolition. It was a more modest version, built by St Mark’s Church for its rectory in 1883. This flamboyant example on Maple St, could possibly have come from one of the design books by Bridgeport’s Palliser, Palliser & Co., Architects as I suspect the Episcopal rectory had also.”
Under Section 12A-9 of the Town Code, if the Town Building Official “receives a pertinent written objection to the application within 15 days following publication of the [demolition] notice, then the Building Official shall promptly refer such objection to the Historical Review Committee.”
The Committee will take up Findlay’s Nov. 30 objection letter during a meeting scheduled for 10 a.m. on Dec. 21, according to the the appointed body’s meeting agenda.
Under the Code, the Historical Review Committee “shall review and decide all pertinent objections within 15 days of receipt of the objection by the Building Official. If the Committee fails to notify the Building Official of its decision within such fifteen-day period, or if the Committee makes a written finding that the structure is not of an age, style, condition or character that is of historical, architectural or cultural significance to the Town of New Canaan, then the Building Official shall issue the demolition permit, provided the time for filing objections has passed, and provided that all other requirements of the State Demolition Code have been satisfied.”
The Committee also may find that “that the structure is of historical, architectural or cultural significance” to the town, and delay demolition by up to 90 days.
The demolition is part of a larger $26 million rebuilding project at St. A’s.
The structure in question has been “gently used and beautifully preserved by the church since 1958,” Findlay wrote, and is “structurally sound with very few modifications, and deserves to be put to a good reuse.”
“A recent inspection by a nationally known preservation architect refutes the church’s claims that it is ‘not structurally sound,’ ” according to Findlay. “It could easily be adapted for a new use to accommodate the church’s current and future needs. Of course, that would be the green option—we do not need any more beautifully carved cornices, veranda posts, etc. in our landfill.”
Stick Style is a uniquely American phase of the nineteenth century architectural lexicon, which only lasted for a brief interlude. Ms. Findlay is correct in her assessment of this building’s significance, both architecturally and to the town’s history. It would be a travesty for the demolition to be approved.
The old rectory is the handsomest and most historically significant building on the church campus. Why would you tear down your architectural jewel?
A beautiful example indeed.