Attorney General: Attorney General Announces Court Order To Repair Pre-Revolutionary Home Damaged By Vandals And Neglect

Connecticut Attorney General's Office

Press Release

Attorney General Announces Court Order To Repair Pre-Revolutionary Home Damaged By Vandals And Neglect

January 26, 2009

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today announced a significant court victory ordering immediate emergency repairs to the historic Grumman-St. John House, and prohibiting demolition by neglect.

The Norwalk Inn operators, which own the historic home at 93 East Ave., sought to demolish the historic home without seeking any alternatives before Blumenthal's office obtained a temporary injunction in early 2007. That order indefinitely prohibits demolition of the home.

Subsequently, the Norwalk Inn has neglected the home -- essentially demolishing it by neglect -- by failing to protect it from vandals or the elements. The neglect has resulted in significant damage to the home.

Blumenthal announced today that his office won additional court orders that, among other things, compel the Norwalk Inn to make immediate emergency repairs to the home within two months -- or else face steep penalties.

"This court ruling establishes a profoundly important precedent by prohibiting demolition by neglect -- a decision that protects not only this historic property, but countless others," Blumenthal said. "Historic home owners under orders prohibiting demolition cannot simply abandon or deliberately disregard these homes.

"My office will continue to protect this precious piece of Connecticut history from needless and irreversible destruction. The Grumman-St. John House is a storehouse of state history -- a vital remnant of our heritage that deserves preservation. Owning a historic home entails opportunities -- but also obligations. The court has now made clear that orders prohibiting demolition block willful or reckless neglect -- as well as wrecking balls.

"As we have said repeatedly, there are alternatives to demolition that enable both preservation of the structure and expansion of the business. We have never sought to impede or inhibit any legitimate business interest."

The court order requires that the Norwalk Inn maintain and secure the home at least until any future hearing on a permanent injunction against demolition is concluded.

Specifically, the Norwalk Inn is required to immediately lift and stabilize the home's porch roof; repair or board up all windows, doors and other points of entry; and lock all entries to the building.

Failure to comply with the order may result in penalties of $500 per day.

The Norwalk Inn must also allow the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism reasonable opportunities to inspect the historic home.

Blumenthal, on behalf of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, obtained the initial injunction under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act, which protects historic structures from demolition unless there is "no feasible and prudent alternatives" to demolition.

The Norwalk Inn bought the house in January 2001 with plans to demolish it to make way for an addition to the hotel - even though it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places as part of the Norwalk Green Historic District. The demolition plan has provoked a grassroots movement, backed by a petition with more than 1,000 signatures, to preserve the building.

The core of the house is pre-Revolutionary and built by Samuel Grumman, a carpenter and housewright who came to Norwalk from Fairfield to build the town's second meeting house.

The house was in the path of British General William Tryon's column during the July 1779 battle of Norwalk during which most of the town was burned. Heavily outnumbered troops under Norwalk's Captain Stephen Betts held off British for hours all around Grumman's home. Despite the fierce combat that took place around the house during this important Revolutionary War battle, the Grumman's home was only partially damaged and was later rebuilt.

In 1805, the Grumman family sold the house to Stephen Buckingham St. John. The descendents of this family (the St. Johns and the Hoyts) lived in the house until 1925. Both families were prominent in Norwalk's business, political and social life for many years.

The house was purchased from the Hoyt estate in the 1925s and immediately subdivided. In 1928, it was sold again and subdivided into apartments. It has remained an apartment house ever since and now contains eight units, stilly fully inhabited in the last few years.

As recent as 2001, the interior still had woodwork details, chandeliers, floors and other features of the original house.

Content Last Modified on 1/27/2009 8:43:24 AM