FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) – Activists are stepping up their efforts to save a Connecticut aviator’s house from demolition.
Melanie Marks, head of Connecticut House Histories, says a title search found that Gustave Whitehead’s Fairfield house dates to 1914. A town ordinance requires a 60-day stay on demolitions of homes 100 years old or older.
Marks said she found a property tax record showing that Whitehead’s wife, Louise Whitehead, purchased four lots in 1914. She got a mortgage on the land on Jan. 28, 1915.
“She wouldn’t be getting a mortgage if she didn’t have a house and they couldn’t have built a house in 27 days,” Marks said.
Town officials say their documents indicate the house was built in 1918.
A demolition permit was issued last week for the empty house that Marks said was foreclosed. Wreckers are authorized to tear down what Marks called an “adorable little house” as soon as Sunday unless she can persuade town officials that the paperwork proves the home’s age of 100.
Protesters gathered in a show of support in front of the bungalow-style house on Tuesday and said they hope Marks’ information is enough to delay demolition, The Connecticut Post reported (http://bit.ly/1h2Jc0s ). They want to raise money to relocate the house or persuade developer Gary Tenk of Stratford to not tear it down.
A number listed in Tenk’s name rang unanswered Wednesday morning.
Whitehead was credited last year in state legislation for the first successful flight. His supporters say he flew two years before the Wright brothers lifted off from Kitty Hawk, N.C., in 1903.
Aviation experts insist Wilbur and Orville Wright were the first to fly a heavier-than-air flying machine. Marks, who lives in Fairfield but was raised in Dayton, Ohio, where the Wright brothers did much of their work, isn’t taking sides in the dispute over who was the first to fly. “I’m in the middle of something I grew up with,” she said.
Still, she and other supporters say the Fairfield house is a historical artifact and should be preserved whether Whitehead was the first to fly or merely the runner-up.
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