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September 30, 2016 – We at the Hamden Historical Society (HHS) know that many of you are concerned about the homes along Whitney Avenue being demolished by Quinnipiac University. We share that concern. The HHS board and the Hamden Historic Properties Commission have met with a representative of the university, who agreed to extend the demolition date for the most historically significant structures while we write and submit a proposal to preserve them. Towards that end, we will be engaging an architectural historian to evaluate the condition of some of the buildings.
But there is still something concerned citizens can do. The Historical Society encourages you to continue to send letters of objection to local newspapers and to Hamden’s Building Official Robert Labulis, at Hamden Government Center, 2750 Dixwell Avenue, 06518. Also, HHS will soon be publishing an online petition for you to sign; we’ll keep you updated on that.
August 26, 2016 – The Historical Society had a meeting last night to discuss the impending demolition of 13 houses along Whitney Ave by QU. Three are gone already. HHS is working with the Historic Properties Commission to preserve those with historic designation. We will be posting updates here and on our Facebook page. If anyone would like to become actively involved please email us directly at email@example.com
Aug. 29, 2016
Mr. Bob Labulis
Hamden Government Center
2750 Dixwell Avenue
Hamden, CT 06518
Dear Mr. Labulis:
On behalf of the Hamden Historical Society and other organizations, I am writing to object to the demolition of several structures on Whitney Avenue by Quinnipiac University, as given in Legal Notices in the New Haven Register of Aug. 26, 2016. These structures include nos. 3217, 3235, 3341, and 3367-69. Nos. 3217 and 3341 are listed in Historic Buildings of Connecticut, and no. 3369 is on both the Historic Buildings of Connecticut list and on the National Register of Historic Places.
All of these structures have great local historical import. No. 3217, one of Hamden’s few surviving pre-Revolutionary homes, was built by Ezra Dickerman, who served on the New Haven Committee of Inspection during the Revolution; this was also the home of a famed Civil War hero. No. 3235 was built in 1875, in the Italianate style, by Elam Dickerman, train stationmaster and general store owner. No. 3369, built by carpenter and joiner Orin Todd c. 1815, has been called the “finest surviving Federal home” in Hamden by former municipal historian Martha Becker, though the details have been largely concealed behind later applications. And no. 3367, the old Cheshire Toll House (which formerly stood on the other side of the street), is an extremely rare example of a utilitarian structure dating from c. 1800.
I and representatives of other concerned organizations, including the Hamden Historic Properties Commission and the West Woods Neighborhood Association, would welcome an opportunity to meet with representatives of Quinnipiac University to discuss the rehabilitation rather than destruction of these residences. My contact information is below.
Kenneth P. Minkema, Ph.D.
President, Hamden Historical Society
Member, Hamden Historic Properties Commission
Member, West Woods Neighborhood Association
August 29, 2016
Save Our Historic Homes
By the Hamden Historical Society
Quinnipiac University plans to knock down historic homes along Whitney Avenue. Brought to our attention by concerned and vigilant citizens, this decision was made without any input from our society or from the Hamden Historic Properties Commission. Although the university plans to knock down at least twelve buildings, we urgently request that four of these treasures be saved.
The first is the ornate 1815 Orrin Todd House at 3369 Whitney Avenue, called the “finest surviving Federal home” in Hamden, listed in Historic Buildings of Connecticut and the National Register of Historic Places. Todd was a carpenter, and the architecture of the house shows it, from dentals embellishing the cornice to a Palladian attic-story window with star carvings. Next door at 3367 is a Cheshire Turnpike Toll Gate House from 1800, a rare survival of these early features of the American landscape. The third house of note is at 3341 Whitney, another Historic Building of Connecticut, built by Joseph Miller, an Ives Axle Works employee. An 1875 Italianate, it keeps its old sash and clapboard exterior and round-arched attic windows.
Lastly and perhaps most importantly, at 3217 Whitney Avenue, the nine-window colonial house built in 1770 and owned by Ezra Dickerman is one of the only Pre-Revolutionary houses in Hamden, listed in the Historic Buildings of Connecticut. Dickerman was one of the town’s leading lights, and helped build the Mount Carmel Congregational Church. In 3217 he and his wife Sarah brought up one of Hamden’s greatest families. Two sons left Hamden to pioneer Illinois, becoming early supporters of Abraham Lincoln. Another son became a New York writer and chronicler of Mount Carmel’s past, while three daughters, Elizabeth, Abbie, and Fannie, became models for the neighborhood. Built by local industrialist James Ives, the Mount Carmel Female Seminary (which still stands, for now, on Murlyn Road) was where Abbie and Elizabeth taught local girls grammar, mathematics, and morality.
The most amazing of 3217’s children might have been Ezra Day. He became a carpenter and Sunday-school instructor, but when Abraham Lincoln called for volunteers for the Civil War, he answered, fighting with distinction and becoming captain of the “Whitney Rifles.” With a wounded hip he walked twenty miles from a train depot to serve at Gettysburg. Shot in the temple in Georgia, he came home to Connecticut to start a family, but succumbed to the effects of the head wound a few years later.
We understand the need for Quinnipiac to expand, and plans for an “academic village” in Mount Carmel have been proceeding for some time. However, the destruction of these historic properties without public debate seems a grave error. We hope that they will instead incorporate these treasures into their plans. After all, what better way to greet visitors and students than the beautiful architecture of a New England village? What better lesson for students than to demonstrate how conservation can coexist with progress in the 21st century?