RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — Work finally began Thursday to knock down the eyesore house at 28 Catoonah St. in Ridgefield.
"They just started the demolition," Kathy McGroddy-Goetz, who lives on Catoonah Street, said in a text sent late Thursday afternoon.
"They spent most of the day digging and laying down stones to put the equipment on," she added.
McGroddy-Goetz said she saw one of her neighbors by the Ridgefield Post Office who said, "Finally," when she brought up the subject of the house.
The demolition company had been scheduled to arrive at the dilapidated house on Monday, Dec. 12, to take it down, according to Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi.
Once the house — which was built in 1815 — is torn down, a pocket park is planned to go in its place.
“We will be very glad to see that (happen)," McGroddy-Goetz said. "When we first moved here, it was totally falling down and looked incredibly dangerous. It appeared people could still get in there, and we worried about what could happen."
“They did some work to board it up, but it still looks pretty awful. And it is sad to see something in such a state of disrepair on a street of pretty houses," McGroddy-Goetz said. "It's a shame they weren't able to find a way to restore it and preserve the historic nature but something has to be done."
Marconi said the change would be a positive one for Ridgefield.
"To preserve the character has been goal No. 1 in anything we do in our town. Ridgefield is going to continue to grow in the way that continues to preserve the character of our community," he said.
With the help of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4th District), asbestos was already removed from the house over the last two weeks, Marconi said.
The lot, which is being leased by the U.S. Postal Service, is owned by the Benenson Funding Corp., owner of the nearby shopping center.
With permission of the post office, the long-term plan for the property is to build a pocket park in the front and an additional parking area to the rear, which is badly needed, Marconi said.
The house fell long ago into disrepair, and it has become an extreme safety issue, according to Marconi.
“All the doors and windows are boarded up. In addition, the abutting property’s house is approximately 10 feet away so if there is a fire, the abutting property would be a major concern," he said.
About a year and a half ago, the town passed an anti-blight ordinance on the home, "which I have to believe has helped move this up on the agenda of expenditures for the USPS," Marconi said.
The Ridgefield Historical Society had tried to save the house, but it was tied up in the court system between the Ridgefield Post Office and the owners of the CVS development, said Kay Ables, Ridgefield Town Historian.
“We had many solutions for a repurposing, but for various reasons, none of those came to fruition, and as a result the home continued to fall into disrepair," Marconi said. "This became a real issue for the neighborhood as well as the immediate neighbors."
According to Ables, the home at 28 Catoonah St. was formerly occupied by Helen and Dan Cumming.
“Helen McGlynn was born across the street at 31 Catoonah, which still stands today. She married Dan Stub Cumming, at No. 28,” Ables said. “She spent her entire married life in that house. She lived to be in her 90s."