(Photos added to gallery)
The State of Connecticut demolished three historic buildings in Chatfield Hollow State Park, Killingworth last week. These buildings were on the State Register of Historic Places. They were cottage homes built in the New England Vernacular Barn style by Frank J. Forster in the 1930s. Frank Forster was a noted Connecticut architect in the first half of the twentieth century and received national recognition for designing redevelopment projects for run-down neighborhoods in New York City during the Great Depression. Although the houses were not exceptionally old, they were built from portions and architectural elements such as 18th century paneled rooms from much earlier houses.
There remain a historic house and a sawmill, but these also are scheduled for demolition. The house was originally a Chatfield house. The Chatfields, for whom the park is named, were early settlers in the area. It was later occupied by a Parmelee, another early family in the area. The house dates from around 1790 to 1810 and is unusual and valuable in that much of the original interior woodwork remains. The sawmill is the only standing sawmill in the Town of Killingworth, and probably one of only a few in the state. It retains its machinery. A millpond and sluiceway remain. Both buildings need some care but are structurally sound so there is no necessity to demolish them.
Every effort must be made to prevent the demolition of the remaining historic buildings in Chatfield Hollow. The State has a responsibility to preserve historically important structures and features on its properties. This is important in maintaining the cultural heritage and history of the State of Connecticut. At the very least, it should inform municipalities of plans to demolish historic buildings so that alternatives can be explored. It is likely other historic structures across the state are being demolished and this policy should be reviewed.
Thomas L. Lentz