- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Many of the properties on the Hartford Preservation Alliance’s top 10 list of endangered buildings this year aren’t much to look at, considering the boarded-up windows, peeling paint and splashes of graffiti.

But the alliance sees something different. This is historic architecture that’s worth rehabilitating. The properties - many of them blighted - chronicle the city’s history, but even more so, can function in the 21st century.

“The greatest thing is that this list raises the awareness of buildings that people drive by all the time that are at risk or may be demolished,” said Frank Hagaman, the alliance’s executive director. “It’s opened the doors to some interesting conversations on these properties.”

Milgrid Guzman just hopes that it might help end the leaks and squirrels getting into her home.

Guzman owns one-half of an Italianate “Double House” on Sigourney Street in Asylum Hill. The other half, joined by a common wall to Guzman’s home and long abandoned, earned a place on the alliance’s list this year.

“The abandonment of this home not only affects the neighborhood but also is directly impacting the homeowner of the adjoining home,” the alliance said in its description of the property.

Guzman said she has had to put up with burst pipes from the other side as well as squirrels finding their way into her home. The house needs a new roof, but since the roof is shared, Guzman isn’t willing to foot the entire bill that she estimates to be $25,000.

On Monday, she pointed to a tarp draped over a portion of her roof. On the ground, there is a decorative roof bracket that fell off that day. Even so, Guzman sees plenty of potential in the property.

Since buying it in 2010, Guzman estimates she has invested more than $50,000 in renovations, including new electrical wiring, plumbing and heating systems. The three-story home had been cut up into a rooming house, which Guzman has now returned to the single-family home it once was.

There are built-in bookshelves in the first-floor living room, gleaming wood floors and a renovated bathroom on the second story. Guzman, the mother of two daughters, 7 and 4, served in Iraq with the National Guard for a year in the 2000s. She is now taking courses to become a nurse.

“I love this house,” Guzman said. “Look at those marble fireplaces. This is like a diamond in the rough.”

Guzman’s “Double House” was a popular style for upper middle class residents who chose Asylum Hill, or “The Hill,” for their residence in the late 19th century.

Other properties on the alliance’s list have strong pedigrees. There’s the Queen Anne on Newington Avenue that was part of a city neighborhood that grew up around trolley lines. Then there is the 1870s Italianate on Oxford Street that was part of the first wave of residential development in the West End. And the Second Empire on Liberty Street was purchased in 1905 by African-American Booker Jones, who was born in slave-holding Virginia in 1858.

Also on the list is the North-West School on Albany Avenue in the Upper Albany neighborhood. The alliance said rehabilitation work by the city on the historic property has stopped because of the city’s budget crisis.

The Comet diner at the corner of Farmington Avenue and Laurel Street made the list for the third year running. Plans by the property owner to raze the 1948 stainless steel and chrome diner were put on hold last year, with the hope of finding a new use for the long-shuttered diner.

The alliance’s list only contains nine properties this year. The 10th spot was used by the alliance to advocate for the legislature to institute a higher cap on the state historic tax credit program. The tax credit program needs to expand to support revitalization projects throughout the state, particularly in Hartford, the alliance said.

The cap is now set at $31.5 million, and the alliance is pushing to have that increased to $64 million.

The list has been released each year on Valentine’s Day, with volunteers placing strings of hearts on the alliance’s listed properties to call attention to preservation of historic properties.


Information from: Hartford Courant, https://www.courant.com

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