Oysterman’s Eyesore Becomes Historic Pearl
by Allan Appel | Dec 16, 2010 3:09 pm
Posted to: Fair Haven
As Nancy Greenberg and Corey Stone opened the verdigris door on the historic and “green” restoration of 13 Lewis St., the saga of the foreclosed and abandoned 1876 oysterman’s house in Fair Haven neared a happy conclusion. The remaining task: find a buyer.
The house that perches above little Lewis Park near the Fair Haven waterfront had been owned since 1997 by Jason Bartlett (who’s currently a state representative from Bethel). Lacking money to fix it up, he let it lapse into becoming a neighborhood eyesore.
In 2008 the house fell into foreclosure. Local couple Pete and Yang Bellacicco outbid Deutsche Bank by one penny at an auction. But their $76,000.01 offer was disallowed by the court. (Click here and here for previous stories.)
Jump ahead to January 2010. Greenberg and Stone went into business to launch an energy-smart, green approach to restoring local historic properties. They call their company Verdigris Ventures.
They plucked up the oysterman’s gem for $47,500 from Deutsche Bank. During the height of the foreclosure crisis, the German bank held more than ten percent of the foreclosed properties in New Haven.
“When you looked through the walls, you saw daylight. It was a hovel that needed to be gutted,” said Stone, a community-minded business consultant who sits on the board of the about-to-open START bank.
So he and Greenberg, an East-Rock based attorney, put their minds and cash together to the tune of more than $200,000. They researched the building for how it might have looked in the late 19th century. They replaced cheap vinyl windows with historically appropriate two-over-twos, among other features.
They also put in wainscoting that an old oysterman might recognize, though he’d be agog at the fine granite countertops and stainless steel appliances.
Wherever possible, Stone and Greenberg preserved original elements such as the white pine floors and this stained-glass window, which was restored by John Cavaliere of Westville’s Lyric Hall Antiques.
Saving bucks as their own general contractors, they used 18 subs, all local. They blew in foam insulation on the roof, purchased the most energy efficient appliances, and installed a high-performing gas furnace.
In the process, they also applied for utility rebates and state tax credits.
Greenberg said an owner could live in the tight little house and pay no more than $600 to $800 a year on gas and utilities. The place is so efficient that the house consumes only 44 percent of what comparable new construction requires, Stone added. Sale price for the house: $287,000.
So they were pleased to put their National Historic Register plaque back on the house.
Chatham Neighborhood Association (CSNA)’s Lee Cruz said he and his group are committed to helping Stone and Greenberg find a buyer through dissemination of the opportunity through local Fair Haven networks..
“If we’re going to have investors come into the neighborhood to buy and sell them, this is the kind I’d like to see,” Cruz said.
Chris Fergusson lived in the little house at 13 Lewis St. for his first ten years, between 1976 and 1986. It was more than a nice place to live, he said. It was a place to play to hang out with all kinds of kids. “Very diverse neighborhood. We always played in little Lewis Park.”
It was his parents first house and they were drawn to it because of the nearness to the water. Fergusson now lives in Westville but he keeps an eye on the old neighborhood. “I loved the house. After we moved, I dreamed about visiting.”
Having made Corey Stone’s acquaintance, now he can.
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I’m surprised they used foam insulation as it often causes allergies. The urethane takes years to seep out of it.
Bravo on a job well done! It’s always great when a private developer takes the time (and the tax credits!) to do a job right, rather than vinyl side and vinyl window a building into oblivion, destroying both it’s value and history.
Bill, the foam insulation that they use is one of several more modern ones, which are a different formulation than what was used about 20 years ago, some of which is even soy-based rather than urethane based.
The new foam does not exhibit the same off-gassing that caused so many problems with the initial foams.
posted by: LeeCruz on December 17, 2010 12:55pm
More information about the house and the neighborhood for anyone interested in buying the house at the Chatham Square Neighborhood Association website:
13 Lewis was an eyesore??? Interesting word use for a home that exists two doors down from the worst eyesore in the City of New Haven- 17 Lewis Street. Which is too bad the City can’t seem to move on that. It will definitely hurt the sale/sale price of 13 Lewis….....which is a shame because Corey and Nancy have done a beautiful job.
Pedro is somewhat right that newer foam insulation can be made with soybeans or Castor oil to replace a portion of the petroleum content, but there are even healthier blow-in alternatives like cellulose and cotton fiber insulation. In any event, one has to be very careful about building products these days,...even those with a supposedly green label and often with pretty run of the mill materials. There have been massive problems created by gypsum wall board contaminated with sulfur (which offgases and causes deterioration of copper pipes and wiring, AC systems and also causes respiratory problems). Those problems were thought to be confined to Chinese products but its emerging that US producers may also have the same problem. Its supposedly green to recycle fly ash from coal power plants and use it in in concrete. 50% of US produced GWB now is made of another byproduct of coal burning and its called flue gas desulfurized gypsum. Problems similar to the Chinese GWB problems are beginning to emerge.
Please note that it was a STATE REPRESENTATIVE who most recently let the property fall into disrepair. Our leaders setting a great example!
The value of this scenic neighborhood along the river has really gone up ever since the new speed humps were put in on Front Street. I don’t know that many people who previously would have considered living on such a speedway.
Does anyone know if speeding has gone down? There should be detailed before/after measurements taken so that other neighborhoods, not just the higher-income streets, can advocate for traffic calming and more pleasant public spaces too. Speeding is still a huge problem on Chapel and Ferry, for example.
Neglecting low income areas hurts everyone in the city, not just the areas that get neglected.