New London Landmarks purchases, plans restoration of Franklin Street home

New London — With an eye toward its future restoration, New London Landmarks on Thursday purchased at tax auction a condemned home on Franklin Street that used to be the home of a former president of the New London branch of the NAACP.

The 23 Franklin St. home was one of five houses sold during an auction of properties with delinquent taxes, run by state marshals at City Hall. Transfer of property deeds sold at the auction will not come until December, since owners have six months to pay outstanding debt to keep their properties.

New London Landmarks won the vacant, two-family home with a bid of $10,500. The group anticipates a historically sensitive rehab of the building using a mix of funding sources to include the state's Historic Homes Rehabilitation Tax Credit program.

“We are passionate about this house because of its architectural and cultural significance,” Laura Natusch, executive director of New London Landmarks, said in a written statement.

The restoration will give the house a new life and improve the Hempstead neighborhood while increasing affordable housing in an area vulnerable to gentrification, she said.

“Not only is it a beautiful Greek Revival house located in the Hempstead Historic District, but it is the former home of Linwood Bland Jr., who was president of the New London branch of the NAACP from 1962 to 1968,” she said.

Bland Jr. died in 2005. The owner of the home is listed on public records as Michael E. Bland and Adriel Antoine-Bland, with delinquent taxes in the amount of $2,854. Natusch said Landmarks also will pay outstanding water bills.

Michael Bland of Norwich, son of Linwood Bland Jr., said he was caught up in a bad mortgage and prepared to give up the home when the city placed it in the auction. He said he does not have the time or money to take care of the house, whose previous tenants had some run-ins with law enforcement.

“I tried to hold on to it as long as I could,” Bland said. “If (New London Landmarks) can make it look nice again and make sure my dad is not forgotten — I’m all for that.”

Bland said he has no plans to pay off outstanding debt to retain ownership.

Natusch said she is thankful to Bland for allowing her organization entrance into the building prior to the sale. She suspects it will take several years and cost upward of $400,000 for the complete renovation.

It remains unclear whether New London Landmarks would retain ownership or sell it as an affordable owner-occupied home.

“It’s a big project for us, but New London Landmarks is committed to improving this historic neighborhood and honoring Mr. Bland’s legacy by rehabilitating this house in a way which would make him proud,” she said.

She said Landmarks also plans either a plaque or other site marker to honor Bland.

Landmarks owns one other property: its headquarters, the David Bishop House at 49 Washington St., which the organization rehabilitated in the 1980s in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.

The city each year deals with dozens of properties with delinquent taxes and issues warrants taken up by state marshals who in turn compile a list for the annual auction, said Joe Heap, one of two state marshals involved in the auction Thursday. Marshals collect a 15 percent fee for the work.

Most of the taxes are paid prior to the auction. Heap said about 15 homes were ready for auction at the beginning of the week but just the five remained when bidding began Thursday.

He said this year’s auction was one of the smallest in recent memory, a sign that more people are paying their taxes.

New London Landmarks has set up a section of its website to accept donations toward its project.

g.smith@theday.com

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