Another Piece of History To Be Lost: Suffield Historical Society Determined to Demolish Historical Stables

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On December 4, 2023, Sara Zak, Suffield Historical Society (SHS) Trustee, and Art Sikes, SHS President, attended the Town of Suffield Historic District Commission (HDC) meeting to have their application for proposed demolition of the King House Museum stables reviewed. Per the minutes, “Demolition without a plan or a reasonable plan did not sit well with any of the commission members,” and the application was denied with Commissioners Bielonko, Mayne, and Quandt voting in favor of denial and Commissioner Schwemmer voting against denial.

Photo by Klaire Bielonko
Historic King House Museum stables with posted yellow condemned signs

Two months later, on February 5, 2024, Sara Zak, Art Sikes, and Barry Sisk of SHS attended the Historic District Commission meeting to have their application for a proposed new outbuilding and demolition of the King House Museum stables reviewed. Per the minutes, the SHS members stated,”Construction details are not yet available as they are still in the conceptual phase,” and in response the Commission highlighted, “details of what would be required on the application”, which are outlined in the Suffield Historic District Handbook. Commissioner Bielonko motioned, and Commissioner MacClintic seconded to deny the application due to insufficient detail and information. Commissioners Bielonko and MacClintic voted in favor of the motion and Commissioners Moryto, Schwemmer, and Tracey voted against the motion. Commissioner Tracey motioned and Commissioner Moryto seconded to approve the application for demolition only requiring the Society to come back within three months with the plan for demolition. Commissioners Moryto, Schwemmer, and Tracey voted in favor of the motion and Commissioners Bielonko and MacClintic voted against the motion, overturning the vote from two months earlier to deny the demolition of the stables.

At the March 5, 2024, Historic District Commission meeting, Commissioner Quandt requested that the recording be posted from the February 5, 2024, meeting for transparency to the public, but the motion by Chairman Mayne failed. Some of the same Commissioners also voted in favor of demolition of the tobacco shed at 510 North Main Street on February 7, 2022, which has since been saved by the Connecticut Office of the Attorney General upon intervention.

Per a discussion with the Town of Suffield Building Department, two days after the February 5, 2024 HDC meeting, the King House Museum stables were condemned upon request. Per the Suffield Historic District Handbook on outbuildings, “Every effort should be made to maintain and repair these historic buildings in keeping with your responsibilities as a homeowner within a Historic District. Complete deterioration that eventually results in the loss of these structures causes an even greater loss to the character of an historic district.”

In an attempt to persuade the SHS to consider prudent and feasible alternatives to full demolition, Bielonko arranged a meeting for March 21, 2024, with experts from the CT State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the SHS Trustees to better understand state-level grant options that would allow for various paths forward, including incorporation of a portion of the stables into a new building, while maintaining the integrity of the Historic District. On March 13, 2024, an unpublicized Special Trustee meeting was held, and it was voted to continue with the demolition of the stables and to cancel the meeting with SHPO.

This series of events has left many to question what the true values of the Suffield Historical Society are. According to the handbook, Suffield’s Historic District exists, “to promote the educational, cultural, economic, and general welfare of the town through the preservation and protection of the buildings and places of historic interest within these Districts.” The King House Museum property, including the stables, has played a significant part in defining Suffield’s history. The loss of the stables is substantial to the historic and farming communities of Suffield.

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