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Historic Clinton Home Slated for Demolition

A fire ravaged this antique house four years ago. According to the town, the owner has not repaired it and has violated the town's blight ordinance.

Historic Clinton Home Slated for Demolition

 

Known as the Munger House and built in 1759, this historic house at the corner of High Street and steps from downtown Clinton is slated for demolition.

Stemming from a Town of Clinton Blight Complaint, the issue has been turned over to Superior Court in Middletown which in turn has issued an order to "permit the demolition of the dilapidated structure...and the removal of garbage and refuse by the plaintiff (town) in the event of a failure of the defendant (owner) to do so by the date ordered, Jan. 30, 2013."

The home, which is composed of four apartments, is owned by Karla Munger of Clinton. She also owns #26 High Street, the barn behind #22 and #22 1/2.

The Owner's Story:

Patch spoke with Munger who said her situation is not a pretty one, indeed. She is 70 years old with "multiple disabilities" including being blind in one eye. She says she has had some good tenants over the years, but many bad ones, too. She owns a total of seven rental units.

"I had a tenant who smashed the furnace, I've had some with great credit and work histories fail to pay me any rent," she said.

The fire started, Munger alleges, because one of her renter's was smoking. She also believes that same tenant disabled the fire detectors by removing their batteries.

"I'd like to proceed with renovating the house, I don't want to see it demolished," she said. "But I am so tired. I can't do it alone. I have no family to help me.  I have no income because people are not paying me rent."

The Town's Story:

First Selectman Willie Fritz said that even before the fire, the house was in violation of the town's Blight Ordinance.

"We don't want to tear the house down," noted Fritz, saying conditions at the property cannot continue as they have been.

Fritz said something needs to be done about the house and yard and he's hoping that the owner will sell it to someone who can fix it up.

Zoning Enforcement Officer Tom Lane said the reason the property is in the courts and under order for demolition is because "the owner of the property has been unwilling to anything with it."

The courts can allow the town to put a lien on the property. Then any costs for clean up/demolition would return to the town after the property is sold. 

"They didn't seal the building properly after the fire," said Lane. "There is water damage, all sorts of critters have been in and out of there, and the yard is overgrown."

Any person or organization who wants to help clean up this property and make proper repairs to it first needs the permission of the owner, stressed Lane.

The Clinton Historical Society's Story:

Megan Stine, vice resident of the Clinton Historical Society (CHS) said that "the demolition of this house would be an irreparable loss to Clinton's historic legacy."

"It is an essential element defining the character and charm of the neighborhood and delineating High Street as an historical residential neighborhood," said Stine.

Stine has created an online petition that people can sign. Click on the link to the online petition if you wish to ask the town/courts to stop the demolition proceedings.

"Time is of the essence," added Stine.

Additional background about the house provided by CHS:

The Munger House, as it is now called, was identified as a beautiful example of a Georgian style building by the architectural historians recently hired by the Clinton Historic District Commission (HDC). They recommended a High/John Street Historic District to be listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Located at the base of High Street and the entrance to Clinton, the Munger House would be the anchor property for this proposed Historic District. The architectural historians went a step further in recommending the Munger House be nominated individually to the National Register. They called it: "the best example of [a Georgian style house] in the survey area....[with] a rare fanlight over the entrance and a later two story bay on its south elevation."

The house has social-historical importance as well. Although we are calling it The Munger House, named for the current owner, it was originally built by John B. Wright who served for many years as the Connecticut collector for the Internal Revenue Service, a position to which he was appointed by President Abraham Lincoln. Wright also served many years as a State Representative, and 1861 and 1862 as State Senator. 

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