Waterford’s former Poor Richard’s restaurant razed
Waterford — Excavators on Monday ripped through the long-vacant and dilapidated Waterford home that once housed the bustling Poor Richard's restaurant, making way for an office building set to open next year.
A New London public accounting firm, Ed Lorah & Associates, plans to build a two-story, 6,400-square-foot office building at the site by next fall after renting space at Shaw's Cove in New London for almost 20 years.
"We're getting it down now, but will we get the foundation in before we get hammered with weather? Your guess is as good as mine," Lorah said Monday with a laugh.
Lorah noted neighbors, Waterford town officials and nearby Café NV have all been cooperative and largely happy to see the eyesore come down.
Richard Rocchetti, who has lived on Pine Street within sight of the place since the 1950s and was described by contractor Tim Bonanno as a "sidewalk superintendent," said the razing and new construction was "really good news to us."
"It's going to clean up our neighborhood, finally," said Rocchetti as he watched Bonanno's crew tear down the building Monday morning. "It's just been idle for many, many years."
Bonanno noted the front portion of the rambling green structure was more than 100 years old.
"Three or four years ago, we could have saved it," Bonanno said, but the building, which had changed hands many times since the 1980s, had deteriorated consistently as time and weather wore on.
Poor Richard's opened in the spring in 1977, seating 300 people and featuring wood-paneled walls, leaded glass, furniture with brass and stained glass from the U.S. and Europe.
The stained glass, which was "in windows, panels and Tiffany-type lampshades" according to a 1983 review in The New York Times, had largely already been removed by previous owners by the time Lorah closed on the building this summer, he said.
Zoning quarrels and cash problems led Poor Richard's owner Richard Maynard to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1986.
In 1988, Jon Kodoma bought the place and opened Post Victoria Steakhouse, which closed shortly thereafter. A brewery opened in the 1990s, but the home's been vacant for at least a decade, according to neighbors and Bonanno.
Lorah said he bought the building from a Madison-based realtor for about $175,000. The new office building will cost between $800,000 and $1 million, he said.
"There are too many unknowns" to try to renovate it in its current condition, Lorah said, though he noted he salvaged a couple chandeliers from the once-popular spot and planned to incorporate them into the new office's reception area.
Bonanno said the demolition should be complete Monday, with cleanup expected to take the rest of the week. If construction kicks up in the spring, the new office building should be complete next fall, he said.
Lorah's accounting firm, which employs about a dozen people, will occupy the first floor of the new building. Lorah plans to rent space in the top floor's 2,900 square feet.
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