Saugatuck neighborhood toured for possible historic citation
WESTPORT — Eligibility for part of the Saugatuck neighborhood, nearby the 132-year-old Bridge Street swing bridge, for possible designation as a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places was scrutinized during a Thursday tour.
Jenny Scofield, National Register coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office, took a lengthy tour through the area along with several neighbors and preservationists. Scofield said inclusion on the register, which is a park service program, is an honorary designation that differs from a local historic district designation. For the National Register program, a district’s boundaries are based on the area’s history and surrounding resources associated with that history, Scofield said.
"I definitely think it’s eligible. There’s some very interesting historic architecture here that’s very well intact. That’s not a surprise to anyone that’s looking at this area," Scofield said of the Bridge Street area.
"The boundary that gets accepted by the park service has to be very carefully studied and based on exactly the historic theme," Scofield said. "I’m here to look at the boundary as it was proposed and I’m also interested in learning more about what the area historically known as Saugatuck is and what’s left of Saugatuck.
Scofield looked for resources around the proposed boundary that share the same history. She said she saw "a few properties that seem to be related."
The site visit comes at a time where the future of the 287-foot-long metal bridge, built in 1884, remains in limbo. The bridge, officially the William F. Cribari Memorial Bridge, was deemed "severely deficient" by the state Department of Transportation last fall, which prompted the agency to conduct a detailed study on the best way to address the span’s condition. That report is expected to be completed sometime in May, and a public forum on its recommendations expected to be scheduled in June.
Members of the Westport Preservation Alliance have been working to have areas abutting the bridge along the banks of the Saugatuck River as a local historic district. The bridge — the oldest moveable span in the state — is already listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Scofield indicated the boundary for a proposed district “is flexible (and) it may change as we do a study and get more information on it," Histroic District Commission Chairman Francis Henkels said. "It’s not a decision-making point, it’s part of the information-gathering stage.
"I think its promising, I think we’re on our way,” Henkels added. “Our next step will be to seek grant funding and what we’ll do is have a consultant put together the nomination form which involves quite a bit of research and that would be the next step.”
Scofield will continue to coordinate with stakeholders and the HDC’s consultant while they draft a nomination for the district. She also said, once the community plans to go forward, all residents within the boundaries will be invited to discuss the proposal.
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