CHESHIRE — A local developer and owner of the town’s second-oldest house is considering how to develop the 50-acre property he bought last summer.
Preservationists hope John Ricci, owner of Ricci Construction Group, will salvage the Nathaniel Ives house, which was built by one of the town’s earliest settlers around 1749.
Ricci said the historical value of the home and property at 257 Fenn Road has made him pause with development plans.
“Something that’s 300 years old? How often do I come across something like that,” he said. “I’m treating it a little different, because I feel a little different about it.”
The land stretches along town-owned property to the east from Fenn Road nearly to Old Lane Road. The historic house was last owned by John Moran.
Ricci estimated that the “tired” house needs $150,000 to $200,000 in roof work, new siding, and other renovations. He wasn’t sure he could recoup the money selling the house and said the market for historic homes is small.
The front door of the house originally faced the Mill River which runs through the property, a convenience before running water. The land has stone walls that delineate old farmland and pasture.
“It’s an incredible house, an incredible piece of property,” Ricci said. “It has made me pause… It’s got so much history. People have come out of the woodwork to talk to me about it.”
Ricci said he can build six houses on the northern portion of the property and two or three on the southern.
Diane Calabro, president of the Cheshire Historical Society, said the house is unique.
“The components of the house are pretty much original, or at least original to 100 years ago,” she said.
Calabro said two New Haven brothers have taken an interest in the property, hoping to get it on the national historic home registry. They have also suggested making the house into a museum. Those plans require the cooperation of the owner.
“Our wish is that that building be preserved. Do I have the authority or privilege to tell someone who owns a property what they can or can’t do? I don’t. I can only make a suggestion,” Calabro said.
Residents of the Ives house were among those who identified a neighbor living on Cook Hill as a witch, a story featured in the historical society’s cemetery tours. Ricci said he’s heard from historians that the house was used as respite for Revolutionary War volunteers who had just suffered a defeat in New York under General George Washington.
“This house and the original residents of the house figure prominently in our Cheshire history,” Calabro said.
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