Citizens Join Forces to Protect Historic Properties

Milford Chronicle Building on SW Front Street in downtown Milford, now Verde cooking school
Milford Chronicle Building on SW Front Street in downtown Milford, now Verde cooking school

By Terry Rogers

Patti Persia, Dan Bond and Millie Pedersen have a common goal in mind, to protect the many historic properties located throughout the city of Milford for future generations. In order to achieve that goal, they have banded together to form the Milford Historical Preservation Group, and they are seeking others with a passion for history to join the organization, one that Ms. Persia and her friend Lisa Flowers began a few years ago.

On Tuesday, April 29, from 6 until 7:15 PM, the group will hold their first “Coffee and Conversation” meeting at the Milford Museum. Members of the public are welcome to attend as the group discusses their plan to gain support for their mission and methods for educating the public on the importance of an ordinance to protect historic properties.

“Patti has created a Facebook page, and is maintaining our website and blog,” said Ms. Pedersen, who also chairs the Downtown Milford, Inc. Design Committee. “Our focus is on buildings we have lost and buildings that are still with us that need some special attention and care. Milford is a treasure trove of architectural gems, both residential and commercial. There is much work to do to preserve and appreciate these buildings and neighborhoods.”

Currently, there are three sections of Milford listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The North Milford Historic District is located on the north side of the Mispillion River, with a western boundary along Silver Lake and an eastern boundary on North Walnut Street, extending as far north as Northwest Third Street. Milford’s Shipyard Area Historic District lies south of the Mispillion River, extending for only a few streets, but including the Vinyard Shipyard, which is now a museum, and the houses that surround it. The Victorian South Milford Historic District begins on the south banks of the Mispillion, extending south to the railroad tracks that were laid in 1859. South Walnut Street is the center line of this historic area, with east and west boundaries that extend about one block on either side of Walnut Street.

Many people believe that when a building is placed on the National Historic Registry, it is protected from demolition or significant remodeling. In fact, the owner of a property on the registry can do whatever they want as long as no federal money has been granted for preservation of the property, according to the National Register of Historic Places website. However, local municipalities can place restrictions on demolition or remodeling of any building designated as historic, which is the group’s ultimate goal.

“We need a local ordinance so that tearing down historic buildings in the city would be a last resort,” said Ms. Pedersen. “There have been too many buildings lost in Milford that held historic significance. We need to seek ways for owners of those buildings to get the financial support they need to keep them around for future generations.”

Several notable historic buildings fell victim to wrecking balls over the years, including the home of General Alfred T.A. Torbert, which was located on the corner where the M&T Bank parking lot now exists. The home of John Pettigrew, which was on the vacant lot next to Avenue United Methodist Church is now only remembered by the plaque that sits where the home used to be. In 2012, the Ralston-Sudler building, which had been partially destroyed for many years, was demolished. The building was the home of Milford’s first paper, “The Milford Beacon,” which was published by John Emerson.

It is the hope of the Milford Historical Preservation Group that other historical buildings in the city do not become additional victims. By creating local ordinances requiring preservation, the group hopes to connect owners of those properties with grants and assistance offered through federal, state and local agencies to refurbish their property and bring the buildings back to their original glory. Ms. Pedersen plans to open a home furnishings, fine art and carpet business in the old Derrickson’s Men’s Clothing Store at 27 South Walnut Street in June, and has spent a considerable amount of time bringing the building to what it once was.

“At the turn of the 20th Century, the building housed a home furnishings and carpet business,” Ms. Pedersen said. “This is a case of history repeating itself, and we would like to see this type of thing throughout Milford.”

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