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War on Mystic's Library Street is over

By David Collins

Publication: The Day

Published July 11. 2012 4:00AM

There has probably never been a neighborhood feud around here to rival the decades-long Gretchen Chipperini saga on Library Street in Mystic.

And now, with little fanfare, it appears to be finally over.

It dragged on for more than 20 years, with charges and countercharges and lawsuits and acrimony.

Chipperini provoked neighbors from the outset with her elaborate renovation of the 1908 mansion, which she endlessly remodeled and rebuilt over the years but never finished.

Nothing in the building permits she received ever indicated a deadline, Chipperini said, and the years-long construction, with scaffolding, weed-strewn, house-high piles of dirt and rubble, even an excavation so severe it forced a closing of the adjacent sidewalk, enraged nearby residents.

One legislative remedy promoted by neighbors would have included a deadline in building permits, but the proposed law never made it through the General Assembly.

When someone torched the house in 2008 - when it was exactly 100 years old - it looked like that the ordeal might have been over for residents of that corner of the Mystic Historic District.

But then it went on, when Chipperini complied with an order to tear down the burned shell of the house but left standing one of the tall masonry chimneys, pointing like a middle finger at the neighbors she had warred with over the years.

It took another court order to force the removal of the chimney.

The final note for this opera of Mystic was sounded quietly not long ago, when Randy Russ of Russ Real Estate posted a sold sign on the part of the property facing Route 1.

The deed conveying ownership of the lot at 23 Library St., by Chipperini's LLC, for $220,000, was filed in town land records June 28.

The small sold sign might have gone unnoticed, since it went up when downtown Mystic was still torn up for the completion of the streetscape project.

But I suspect it was celebrated around the neighborhood.

I couldn't find Chipperini this week to ask about the sale.

She hasn't spoken on the record to anyone from The Day for many years on the dispute. Her lawsuit against the volunteer firefighter who admitted setting the fire that destroyed the house and the fire department he worked for is pending.

Russ told me the couple who bought the lot plan to build on it. They own a business in another part of the state but have come to love Mystic, he said.

They also purchased another house in the neighborhood, which they will remodel until they begin building on Library Street, Russ said.

Perhaps the lot at 23 Library will one day again be a pride of the neighborhood, as The Day history columnist, the late Carol Kimball, once described it.

"Many Mystic people remember the place fondly as the home of Stacia McGuire, who bought it in 1947," Kimball wrote about the shingle-style house at 23 Library.

"It was so beautiful when she lived there, warm, sun-basked shingles, lawns carefully mowed, every blade of grass in place and sky blue hydrangeas blooming in the yard.

"Her guests lazed contentedly on the wide porch in their rocking chairs overlooking the peaceful village, while across the way the carillon of the stately Union Baptist Church tolled the hours."

That was life before the war.

This is the opinion of David Collins

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