Attorney General: Blumenthal Seeks Order To Block Demolition Of Historic Pre-Revolutionary Norwalk Home

Connecticut Attorney General's Office
Press Release

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
NEWS RELEASE

ATTORNEY GENERAL RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
STATE SEN. BOB DUFF, D-NORWALK
STATE REP. CHRIS PERONE, D-NORWALK


Blumenthal Seeks Order To Block Demolition Of Historic Pre-Revolutionary Norwalk Home

December 6, 2006

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today asked the State Superior Court for an immediate injunction to block the Norwalk Inn & Conference Center, Inc. from demolishing the historic Grumman-St. John House in Norwalk.

Blumenthal, on behalf of the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and in coordination with the Norwalk Preservation Trust, Inc., is seeking the injunction under the Connecticut Environmental Protection Act, which protects historic structures from demolition unless there is "no feasible and prudent alternatives" to demolition. He announced the action with State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, and State Rep. Chris Perone, D-Norwalk.

The Norwalk Inn has refused to cooperate or even meet with the Historic Preservation Council to consider alternatives to destroying the historic Grumman-St. John House at 93 East Ave.

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 Norwalk Inn has filed for a demolition permit and the property is now under a 90-day demolition delay, which expires Dec. 21.

"This precious piece of Connecticut history cannot be needlessly and irreversibly erased," Blumenthal said. "The Grumman-St. John House is part of our legacy - the heritage that makes our state a storehouse of history. A developer is legally required to consider and explain alternatives, which has not been done. My hope is that some negotiated solution may still be possible."

Duff said, "It's unfortunate that an agreement couldn't be reached and that the Norwalk Inn was not willing to discuss alternatives to demolition. I'm hopeful that we can find a solution that benefits the Inn and the community. The links that we hold to our past are precious and priceless. To simply destroy a local artifact like the Grumman-St. John House without exploring avenues to preserve it is unnecessary and unacceptable."

Perone said, "The Grumman-St. John House represents a piece of Norwalk's rapidly disappearing architectural heritage and it needs to be protected for that reason. If we continue to sever ties with our past by destroying our historic homes we will be denying future generations the chance to look into Norwalk's past and to better understand the origins of our city. Once these homes are gone, they're gone and a significant piece of our heritage and our city's identity will go with it."

"The Norwalk Preservation Trust is extremely grateful to Attorney General Blumenthal for stepping into this case," said Tod Bryant of the Preservation Trust. "We're sorry it's come to this point. We were hoping to work out an agreement with the Norwalk Inn, and we are still hopeful that we can continue to work with the Inn to find an alternative that does not involve demolition of this historical 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.