‘Mead Park Brick Barn’: Preservationists Ask for Demolition Sign’s Removal; Selectmen Divided

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Mead Park Brick Barn or Richmond Hill Garage. Credit: Michael Dinan

The municipal body that by Town Charter would need to approve contracts related to the demolition of a widely discussed building at the northern edge of Mead Park remains divided about whether or not to support a nonprofit organization’s efforts to restore it.

During their regular meeting last week, members of the Board of Selectmen heard from two members of the New Canaan Preservation Alliance. The organization is requesting that the ‘Notice of Demolition’ sign be removed from the  ‘Mead Park Brick Barn,’ to be allowed to spruce up the abandoned Richmond Hill Road (with some outdoor cleanup and a wreath) and to get feedback on a proposed lease agreement. 

Yet at the close of the Dec. 4 meeting, when Selectman Kit Devereaux asked for information on where the town stands with respect to the NCPA, First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said that the organization cannot make a request of the selectmen through a meeting’s public comment period.

Selectman Nick Williams called the NCPA’s offer “generous.”

“I don’t think it has any bearing on demo or not demoing,” Williams said at the meeting, held in Town Hall. “I think there is no legal requirement to have the demo sign there, and if we could pretty it up with a nice big wreath, I would not be averse.”

Though Moynihan has vowed to have the Brick Barn razed, the selectmen in October decided to forgo voting on a pair of demolition contracts after it was clear that both Devereaux and Williams wanted to allow the NCPA to demonstrate that they had the wherewithal to restore it.

Those contracts have not come before the Board since, though during last week’s meeting NCPA Vice President Rose Scott Long Rothbart and Board of Directors member Charlie Robinson addressed the selectmen.

Robinson said the use of the demolition sign posted on the building “seems to have passed” and asked that one piece of plywood be removed from the Barn’s lower window and that a wreath be hung from it.

“We need to clean up some of the overgrowth and plantings around the outside of the barn,” Robinson said. “Give it a start, give the town a taste of what it could be.”

Scott Long Rothbart asked that the organization be allowed to hang a sign showing its contact information instead. She said the NCPA has responded to all requests for documentation, and called for the formation of a standing Town Council committee “so that actual discussions can take place.” 

“These minimal requests allow us to demonstrate our continued commitment to this project and to improve the appearance of the building,” Scott Long Rothbart said.

Moynihan did not look at either NCPA member as they addressed the Board from the dais.

During a discussion at the end of the meeting, he noted that the Parks & Recreation Commission “confirmed its desire to take that building down” during Nov. 14 meeting.

Williams responded, “Again? Are we going to go back a third time?”

Moynihan also noted that the Planning & Zoning Commission in October voted in favor of New Canaan “abandoning” the building, a requirement under state law prior to a municipality divesting itself of a town-owned structure.

When Moynihan noted that those town bodies voted “unanimously,” Williams replied, “Including those with property interests on Richmond Hill.” He appeared to refer to three members of P&Z with property in the immediate vicinity of the Barn, including two on Richmond Hill Road.

The Barn, also known as the “Richmond Hill Garage,” is where Standard Oil’s horse-drawn delivery wagons used to fill containers for fuel delivery in New Canaan. 

Under the Town Charter, the Board of Selectmen is “the purchasing agent” for the town, and is responsible for the purchase of “all goods and the contracting of all services required by the Town Council or any elected or appointed board, commission, committee, officer and department of the Town.”

25 thoughts on “‘Mead Park Brick Barn’: Preservationists Ask for Demolition Sign’s Removal; Selectmen Divided

  1. For heaven’s sake let’s get rid of that awful eyesore once and for all. This has been going on for years now & no change, decision. Stop wasting everyone’s time and demolish.

  2. This barn was once a significant building for the town, but that is no longer the case. In all fairness, if I lived across the street from this eyesore, I would want it gone. It does distract from property values. Anyone driving past it has to think the same. Perhaps a “memorial” to this antique could be provided by the NCPA…a small garden area or a beautiful tree….with a plaque. If the building remains, it will continue to require maintenance. New Canaan, spend our money prudently!

  3. Before decrying the appearance or condition of the Mead Park Brick Barn (“MPBB”), we must all recognize that our own Town Of New Canaan has assiduously and unapologetically pursued this building’s “demolition by neglect” for nearly 20 years.

    We must similarly recognize the cant that is New Canaan’s latest criticism and accusation–that the First District Water Department Of Norwalk continues to “demolish by neglect” its Grupe-Nichols-Browne House at 1124 Valley Road–to justify an eminent domain action against this old house’s institutional owner.

    I urge all thinking New Canaanites and others to carefully review the New Canaan Preservation Alliance’s (“NCPA”) detailed plan of repair, restoration and adaptive reuse of the MPBB that is provided at its savemeadparkbrickbarn.org website. Speak with one or more NCPA directors and discuss the details.

    Upon review, the cognizant will see that the NCPA’s plan will promptly reverse our Town’s “demolition by neglect” of the MPBB and right the wrong that this negligent asset stewardship is and has been.

    Carefully study the NCPA’s plan details, and one sees that what this organization offers is the best property lease deal yet offered by a non-profit organization to the Town Of New Canaan–a deal that will save our Town unnecessary costs and the insult to we taxpayers that our Town’s own negligent management of its MPBB asset is.

  4. Are the plantings around the barn part of the structure or are they part of the park? Who will be responsible for maintaining the landscape surrounding? If the building is leased will the surrounding plantings be controlled by parks and rec or the tenants? Will the adjacent parking area be designated as parking for tenants of barn?

  5. Where was Nick Williams spine when he voted yes to a contract that left taxpayers with a million dollar cost overrun on the athletic fields?

  6. (To Richard Condon: Well, it’s never too late to get financial religion . I agree about the fields and their great and ongoing costs.) As respects the brick barn, it is the town that has been a bad neighbor for all these years. But it seems to me that the NCPA is offering a potential solution and opportunity to the Town of New Canaan, which has so egregiously neglected the (architecturally and historically) interesting brick bard at Mead Park. I think we should give them a chance to enact their plan. If they are successful it will save the town money and enhance the park and the neighborhood. If they cannot pull it together then the barn should be removed. Perhaps the town and the NCPA could agree on a firm but reasonable deadline. Yes, let’s bring this to a conclusion but in a thoughtful way.

  7. Hooray for Mr. Gregorio! If NCPA is successful in fund-raising, we will save the Town the expense of demolition and future maintenance, and we will immediately improve this little historic building’s appearance, and utility. We just ask for the chance to move ahead and start improvements now, but we also depend on the Town’s Parks Dept to clean up the grounds around the site, which THEY have let deteriorate for 20 years!
    Looking forward to seeing you supporters at the barn this Saturday and Sunday from 1-3 PM for donuts and hot cider!

  8. I can’t improve on what Michael Gregorio or Charles Robinson have said. So well articulated! And I would like to thank Lillian Toll for succinctly adding to the case on the Barn’s historic status & bragging rights to it’s State designation: “This barn was once a significant building for the town….” The opportunity for the Town is to preserve an established, important record of the past at no tax payer expense! (The demo would not be for free). Why not allow the NCPA to clean up the surrounding exterior while discussions continue? What’s been presented by the NCPA benefits the Town in a myriad of ways.

  9. Giving the NCPA the chance to repair, restore and reuse the Mead Park Brick Barn is a no-brainer. The Town will only benefit from the proposed plan. Let’s take the demo sign down and start working together to give this unique building a new life!

  10. I LOVE the look of the barn and would welcome it in my neighborhood at Talmdage Hill – it reminds me of charming buildings in Edgartown and Nantucket – we are lucky to have such a handsome barn which Augusta Simon painted in her famous portrait of Mead Park – this painting graced the 2003 “New Canaan Historical Society” Calendar COVER and the month of July! You can see the painting in this recent article:

    This building has lovely features that can be enhanced with window flower boxes, white carriage barn doors and landscaping. The building has an intact original horse stall and hay loft which can figure in greatly in an event next year “The History of the Horse in New Canaan 2009” – which is also the 100th anniversary of Mounted Troop in New Canaan founded by another prominent NC resident – Margaret Cabel Self! Perfect!

    • Leslie:

      In a word: yes; as our Town does for all of its assets.

      There is more to this answer, as you, a real estate professional likely know. Landlords regularly require tenants to provide separate, additional insurance, with landlord as additional named insured.

      Again, Leslie, please telephone me on my mobile number, which I left in your voicemail box yesterday afternoon, to obtain detailed answers to all of your good questions.


      Charles L. Robinson

    • Leslie:

      I hope you attended at least one of the two public forums that the NCPA held at the Historical Society, in which the NCPA detailed its Plan.

      Several of your local neighbors and Town officials attended, and obtained detailed answers to their good questions.

      I will be more than pleased to meet with you and address your good questions.

      Come into the light.



  11. If offices are allowed at the brick Barn, does that mean offices would be allowed in any structure on Richmond Hill in the same zone?

  12. Actually, people who live along Richmond Hill may have professional offices in their homes right now! Please remember the Mead Park Brick Barn has a footprint of 800 square feet. When you add the accessible toilet we are not talking office building, it is a structure that can house an office. Also, not sure how we can continue to talk about the residential nature of Richmond Hill Road at that location, when Grove Street is commercial, which is directly across from the Brick Barn.

  13. I am opposed to spending Town money to demolish the Mead Park Brick Barn. Let’s give the responsible, caring Preservation Alliance a chance to renovate, maintain and use this historic building. It is a gem.

  14. following terry spring’s example about rules, who gave permission to the person who put the Christmas wreath over the demolition sign on the MPBB?? Mike, you might want to get a picture of it.

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