Water district mulls demolition of historic New Canaan house

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Preservationists have 90 days to spare the Grupe-Nichols-Browne House, which has stood at the corner of Valley Road and Benedict Hill for over 200 years, from demolition. Preservationists have 90 days to spare the Grupe-Nichols-Browne House, which has stood at the corner of Valley Road and Benedict Hill for over 200 years, from demolition.
The district's attorney says the land is too expensive. The district's attorney says the land is too expensive.
NEW CANAAN -

Preservationists have 90 days to spare the Grupe-Nichols-Browne House, which has stood at the corner of Valley Road and Benedict Hill for over 200 years, from demolition.

Norwalk's First Taxing District bought the property in 2006 because it's close to a reservoir. Now the district's attorney says the land is too expensive and the municipal water district wants to sell it or recoup the $2.25 million it paid.

Preservationists say the house is an integral part of New Canaan's identity. It was once the homestead for a 250-acre farm. It also served as a shoe cobbler's home, a nut farm and more recently as a countryside landmark. Over two centuries, it housed several significant New Canaan families.

"We need to think back at what this town is like," says Chris Schipper of the New Canaan Land Trust. "Not just overrun or overdevelop it, or just wipe everything out."

Historian Nancy Geary and other preservationists say they're trying to negotiate what they consider a reasonable price with the First Water District so they can start fundraising.

Schipper says the property is worth about $1.2 million. The water district wants $2 million. Without an agreement, the historic house will get bulldozed on June 1.

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