Award to Frank Chiaramonte, Harwinton First Selectman and Roger Plaskett, HarwintonTown Historian
“Harwinton House is going to be demolished!” was a call to action.
The familiar red house on Canoe Hill Road had been moved to New Canaan by Mary Bradley Clark, recently wed to the Congregational Church pastor, Merrill Clark. Her new position as the minister’s wife forced her to retire from her career as an interior decorator. After restoring and decorating their historic manse, in 1931 Mary Clark moved two antique houses to New Canaan and placed them on her father’s property on Canoe Hill Road, with the help of the noted authority on colonial architecture, Richard Henry Dana Jr. Architect. These houses were rescued from demolition by their local water companies in the creation of reservoirs. The reassembling of these houses provided jobs for local trades people in the midst of the depression.
The 1795 Harwinton House had an illustrious life in Harwinton, built by the Tory, Stephen Graves, after the Revolutionary War. The Sons of Liberty had pursued him, captured and beaten him, and tarred and feathered him before the war, but he survived. Near the end of the century Graves built this elegantly paneled house and in the spirit of reconciliation was elected First Selectman of Harwinton.
When told of the expected fate of this house last winter, the current First Selectman, Frank Chiaramonte, a known preservationist, responded quickly to the Alliance’s frantic emails and telephone calls by coming to the public hearing before New Canaan’s Historic Review Committee, who decides whether or not to impose a 90-day delay on the demolition. Roger Plaskett, the Town Historian, also attended and by then had established the Harwinton House web site, describing its history and anticipated fate.
Immediately following the granted a 90-day delay, a tour of the house was permitted so that the Selectman and the historian could examine the interior architecture – extensive original wood paneling, fireplaces, flooring, structural elements, etc.
Within weeks Frank Chiaramante had an agreement by the owners to allow him to remove the house, had managed to convince the State to allow him to transfer a previously designated grant to be used for this new purpose, had the agreement of the Alliance to prepare a nomination for listing on the State Register of Historic Places, and had located a building mover to examine the house and prepare an estimate for its removal back to Harwinton.
Meanwhile, Roger Plaskett rallied the members of the Harwinton Historical Society to vote to maintain and interpret the structure to fulfill its mission, while using it as its first headquarters. Plaskett will be presenting an illustrated lecture on our “Harwinton House: Its History and Dissassembling” in New Canaan on Sunday June 12, in the Library’s Lamb Room at 4:00, sponsored by the Alliance,
Finally, at an historic Harwinton Town Meeting the majority of voters present agreed to bring the house back home, having funds to disassemble the house, put it in trailers and store it until adequate funds could be raised to reassemble it on one of three potential public sites.
For their quick response to an emergency, their understanding of the necessity of preserving their town’s cultural artifacts, and for their persuasive abilities –
This Special Recognition Award goes to Harwinton First Selectman Frank Chiaramonte and Harwinton Town Historian Roger Plaskett