Preservation Awards Honor “Walk Into The Past”

NHPT Photo When officials at the New Haven Preservation Trust told Chris Schaefer they wanted to recognize his work over the last 31 years in lovingly restoring his 1871 oysterwoman’s home on Second Street in City Point, his first response was, “But I’m not done yet.”

He told them he needed about six more years to finish up before being considered for an award. Their response: “We don’t want to give it posthumously.”

Schaefer recollected the conversation Tuesday afternoon just before he received an award for his work on his “Italianate pearl” at the New Haven Preservation Trust‘s (NHPT) 2017 Awards ceremony.

Allan Appel Photo A crowd of about 40 preservationists, officials, and admirers gathered on the second-floor foyer of City Hall as NHPT gave annual preservation laurels to individuals and organizations whose work focused on what the awards committee’s chair, Duo Dickinson, called “the most essential type of building there is”  —  the home.

Schaefer received his Merit Plaque for decades of history-conscious improvements, both inside and out.

When he repainted the original interiors, he left some spots unpainted, as in the case of one of two closet door frames, so future owners could see what was.

“To see this is to walk into the past,” said Dickinson.

Schaefer, a neighborhood activist who has also written a history of City Point, said in his notes to NHPT officials that when he came to the end of his “multi-year exterior painting,” which sought to approximate original colors, he bowed to other urges, using trim colors that he termed “over-the-top” for such a simple house.

It provides a little relief to the largely monochrome exterior colors of the neighborhood, he observed, and “it always makes people smile to walk past my house.”

Betsy and Len Grauer received NHPT’s House Preservation Award for their elegant restoration of a 1912 house on Bishop Street, originally built by Laura Sargent of Sargent Hardware. The citation called the house “casually majestic.” Dickinson said the manner in which the Grauers preserved the essence of the house and made it modern “did it proud.”

A third award, NHPT’s landmark plaque, was given to architects Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake of the architecture firm Kieran Timberlake for their 2011 renovations and additions to Eero Saarinen’s original 1962 Morse & Stiles residential colleges at Yale University.

Calling both the original —  and the restoration work —  “a poetic wonder,” Dickinson said the renovation added and enhanced functionality, while the outside of the now classic buildings’ exterior and their silhouette don’t seemed changed a jot.

Finally, the NHPTs most prestigious award, its Margaret Flint Award, which has not been given in a decade, went not for a single building but for an organization’s career as one of New Haven’s anchoring preservation-minded affordable housing groups in our town: Neighborhood Housing Services of New Haven.

The award noted that NHS has in 37 years of work acquired and transformed blighted houses into affordable housing, with the tally up to 275 houses and rising.

Rather than bulldoze or wreck houses like the fleet of turn-of-the-century homes at the intersection of Whalley Avenue and Ella Grasso Boulevard, over the years NHS has found a way — often through clustering its work in carefully chosen areas as in Newhallville, so that the result is a group of historically preserved homes that helps the working families who move in and the neighborhood as a whole.

The group’s longtime director of design and construction, Henry Dynia, accepted the award on behalf of founder Jim Paley, who himself could not be at the ceremony for medical reasons.

“This is really an honor. Jim would be thrilled,” said Dynia. He recalled his own family’s New Haven roots going back to 1900; at one point, future Mayor Bart Guida was a tenant in a building Dynia’s family owned.

Schaefer, a neighborhood activist who has also written a history of City Point, said in his notes to NHPT officials that when he came to the end of his “multi-year exterior painting,” which sought to approximate original colors, he bowed to other urges, using trim colors that he termed “over-the-top” for such a simple house.

It provides a little relief to the largely monochrome exterior colors of the neighborhood, he observed, and “it always makes people smile to walk past my house.”

Dynia and his crew reported that Wednesday, they are cutting the ribbon — with a new homeowner — on their latest project. It’s a renovation of a 1950s ranch, an unusually “modern” house for them, on upper Sherman Avenue.

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on May 16, 2017  4:54pm

All great choices.
New Haven has an extraordinary inventory of wonderful architecture and it should be preserved for both the sense of history and just sheer beauty.
Development is inevitable, but let it be sensitive to its surroundings. Very little going up now will be
worth preserving in 50 years, so let’s protect the heritage already in place.

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 17, 2017  10:33am

This is awesome! Great job!

Now, on to the NHPT,..

Why you destroying the culture of Upper State Street?

Your presence on both sides of a ground floor shop has cut a hole in what used to be a vintage clothing store.

Can you please MOVE and give back to the historic CULTURE of the neighborhood?

Your presence on State Street creates a dead zone that used to be filled with a shopping / restaurants.

PLEASE MOVE to a different location and let someone else utilize that space. There isn’t much wiggle room for small shops on that strip and you could do everything you do from a SECOND FLOOR.

Consider this, as you talk about preservation but are taking up an historic shopping spot for office space that is almost always closed.

Give back to this community by leaving that space for someone else to fill.

posted by: Bruce R. Peabody on May 17, 2017  2:20pm

When The Preservation Trust decided to move four years ago, leaving the storefront location it had for many years on the corner of Bishop and State Streets, we deliberately wanted to keep a location in the historic Upper State Street corridor so that we could be accessible and visible to all.  Our storefront location serves as a reminder to the community of the important mission that we carry out all over New Haven.  Having a mix of offices like ours, and the insurance agency which took over the Preservation Trust’s former corner location, on a street with stores, restaurants and professional services like barbers and hair salons,  is a sign of a healthy community.  As such, the Preservation Trust contributes to making Upper State Street more than just an evening entertainment district—the Preservation Trust’s presence contributes to making Upper State Street a real neighborhood.  —Bruce Peabody, President, Board of Directors of New Haven Preservation Trust

posted by: Timothy G. ORourke Jr. on May 18, 2017  5:06am

Congratulations Chris!

posted by: theNEWnewhaven on May 23, 2017  3:45pm

I’m sorry for the delay.

I disagree. Your presence on Upper State Street has put a HOLE in the neighborhood’s only true stretch of shops/restaurants.

Why not move to a spot that isn’t so coveted? Stay with us on a second floor?

You’re taking up TWO SIDES of one of the best locations of the Upper State Street corridor.

THANKFULLY Subway has left and someone can move in to that spot that better would fits the neighborhood.

Please consider moving as well, it would really help the area stay more active.

A 5:00 p.m. closing does nothing for the vibrancy of that stretch - Even the real estate companies seem more active than you.

Thank you!