Selectmen Split on Demolishing ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’


Selectman Kit Devereaux on Tuesday called for the town to halt the planned demolition of the structure known as the “Mead Park Brick Barn” on Richmond Hill Road. 

Mead Park Brick Barn or Richmond Hill Garage. Photo submitted by Robin Beckett

While many in town, including Devereaux herself, are “not necessarily attached to the building,” she said, “I have huge regard for the [New Canaan] Preservation Alliance.”

“And I think if they have got a plan and they want to move forward with this, we can save $65,000 and we can honor an important organization,” Devereaux said at the Board of Selectmen’s regular meeting, held in Town Hall, referring to the estimated cost of demolition. “It has been standing there for over 100 years. I do not understand what a year or two more will matter.”

As of now, the Brick Barn—or “Richmond Hill garage,” as it alternately is known—is slated for demolition Oct. 23.

The town on July 14 applied to demolish the 1911-built structure on the northern edge of Mead Park where Standard Oil’s horse-drawn delivery wagons used to fill containers for fuel delivery in New Canaan. A formal objection to its razing led to a 90-day demolition delay, and since then, preservationists have tried to figure out a way to spare the building. However, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan has said the NCPA’s proposal had no credibility, and at the board meeting Tuesday reiterated his position.

“The problem with the plan is that it doesn’t have a purpose,” Moynihan said. “Besides the fact that Planning & Zoning probably would not approve [a change of use]. It is in a park. The preponderance of the feeling of the people in town—I get a lot of feedback from the people in town—I think the Parks and Recreation Commission does not want it in the park, sitting there as a museum, it has no value as museum.”

Though Selectman Nick Williams agreed with Moynihan that the building cannot be converted into a museum, but rather needs “to have some purpose,” he said that if private dollars are in place to rehabilitate and maintain it to a useful end, that could work.

“It’s been there 110 years so if we are talking about a delay of an additional few months in order for folks to ‘hard circle’ not ‘soft circle’ capital to renovate and rehab it, I might be in favor of that, but I need to see dollars put forth,” Williams said. 

Williams called for the Brick Barn “either to be fixed soon—very soon—and rehabilitated, or torn down.”

“I am conflicted,” he said.

Sentiment among those who have weighed in on the building’s future at public hearings appears to be divided.

The Town Council itself voted to a 6-6 tie in May on whether to include $65,000 to raze the barn as part of a larger bonding package—a tie that Moynihan broke, as per the Town Charter.

Devereaux said during the selectmen meeting that if the same vote had been taken now, it would have gone the other way. 

“We can’t redo votes,” Moynihan responded.

It isn’t clear just how, as a practical matter, the demolition could stop at this point, unless the property owner—the town—decided to rescind the demolition permit that it issued (to itself) in July, and vowed not to put in for another one. It’s also possible that a majority of selectmen could forego a vote or vote against the contracts for demolition work when the company that wins a bid for it comes before the board.

At a Town Council meeting last week where residents lined up to speak both in favor of and against demolition—including two direct neighbors who want the building taken down—officials cited findings from the town attorney that the legislative body itself cannot rescind allocated money. 

At the Board of Selectmen meeting, one of the councilmen who voted against razing the Brick Barn back in May, Joe Paladino, called for the town to support the NCPA’s plan for renovation and preservation.

Paladino complimented Moynihan as a “doer” who did “more on the Town Council than most anyone.”

“You see something, you get it done—and I appreciate that,” Paladino said. “There is another side to this. To have the New Canaan Preservation Alliance taking over this building, renovate it and repurpose it, is going to take away the ‘eyesore’ that is the argument to take it down. So, to me it’s a win-win.”

Williams said the question of what to do with the Brick Barn has shined a light on two larger preservation issues facing New Canaan. First, Williams said he’d been told that the town does not maximize it’s ability to obtain funding for preservation.

“I am told other towns have done that,” Williams said. “I’m told Westport has done that. That is a bigger issue, if true, because with all the tax dollars we send to Hartford and we send to [Washington] D.C., I want to make sure we maximize our allotment of preservation funds, whether that’s the brick building or a Harvard Five house.”

Williams also said he wants to understand the consequences of demolishing the Brick Barn in terms of how it may jeopardize future funding from the state for preservation projects.

“Preservationists in Hartford could say, ‘Well, New Canaan doesn’t care about preservation’—I hope that’s not the case,” he said.

One thought on “Selectmen Split on Demolishing ‘Mead Park Brick Barn’

  1. I would sincerely hope that the first selectmen remain focused on the overwhelming desire of the surrounding neighbors to continue with the demolition plan.

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