In historic preservation fights, two reasonable points of view are often in conflict. The developer will argue that they have the right to do with their property as they see fit. But when that land includes a treasured historic structure, concerned citizens may counter that such community heirlooms should not be bulldozed under any circumstances. Such was the case in 2001, when Marc “Cappy” DeMontigny purchased the land on which Milford’s historic Stone House stood and was just days away from razing it to the ground.
Perhaps due to a long-held partiality to property rights, Milford has always been a little late to the preservation movement. While some towns might have made sure that a structure like the Stone House had legal protection, in 2001 residents learned that the only house in town built from Milford-quarried granite was exposed. Indeed, DeMontigny held a demolition permit.
As the Granite Town in the Granite State, Milford certainly seemed to have an interest in preserving the Stone House. After all, the ten-dollar bill includes a picture of the U.S. Treasury Building in Washington with its 30 columns quarried from Milford’s Lovejoy Quarry. And the Stone House, built in 1818 by Benjamin Goodwin, was made entirely of granite from that same Lovejoy Quarry - once owned by John Burns, Milford’s first settler. The Stone House had been inhabited through the years by many residents and a few businesses, including the family of clockmaker Reed Dutton for more than a century.
Interviewed at the time of the controversy, New Hampshire historian Linda Wilson called the house “a witness to the granite industry.” She explained “There are other stone houses in New Hampshire, but they are exceedingly rare. Old stone buildings are truly works of art. The craft and skill that goes into them is astounding.”
But DeMontigny had parking, not preservation on his mind. As part of his plan to create apartment condos for seniors on the parcel, he had targeted the Stone House as the location for parking spots. A hastily assembled “heritage commission” was soon seeking protection for the house. In an article headlined “Countdown to Destruction” in the Milford Cabinet in May of 2001, Cappy argued, “That building is sitting in the middle of the lot. To work with it is a hardship.”
Scrambling to respond, the heritage commission stirred up support from the public, dominating the Op-Ed page during the spring. Matters came to a head in a “heated” planning review board meeting on June 19 during which preservationists begged DeMontigny to reconsider. Preservation leader Geri Dickerman pleaded, “There has to be some middle ground. We will not accept it being torn down.”
Various attempts at compromise followed. At one point the commission attempted to raise money to buy the house but came up well short. DeMontigny proposed turning the house into an inn while preservation groups lobbied for making it a stone workers’ museum. Both sides made their case to the planning board. Finally, on September 26 the Cabinet reported that DeMontigny had agreed to incorporate the Stone House into his senior condo project and “actually use it as 2 of the 21 apartments,” He also collected some concessions from the town on parking and easement requirements.
It was a victory for preservations but also a wake-up call. Today, the “Stone House Apartments” includes 22 units of housing as well as serving as a reminder of what can easily be lost.
The Stone House Apartments today with the Stone House just behind the sign.