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    Thursday, August 11, 2022

    Groton council to vote on sale of Mother Bailey House

    Groton — A local company's plans to purchase the Mother Bailey House from the city and renovate the 18th-century structure at the corner of Thames and Broad Streets into a single-family home are expected to be approved next week.

    City Council members on Monday spoke in favor of a proposed agreement with FTTB LLC, which will purchase the house at 108 Thames St. and adjacent property at 0 Broad Street for $1 and renovate the exterior of the house according to historical standards. A vote on the purchase and sales agreement is scheduled for Tuesday's Mayor and council meeting.

    City Mayor Keith Hedrick said the proposal will get the properties back on the tax rolls. The plan is to sell both properties for $1 due to the significant cost of the restoration of the Mother Bailey House, which requires extensive renovations, including work to its foundation, windows and clapboard siding. The proposed purchase and sales agreement requires the developer to restore the houses' exterior to its historic appearance.

    The developer could potentially develop three duplexes on the adjacent property, as discussed in the proposal the developer submitted to the city, but there are no specific plans yet for the property, Hedrick said. City Planner Leslie Creane said that whatever the developer ultimately decides for that property would need to go through the city's planning and zoning process.

    History of Mother Bailey House

    In 2010, the city purchased the Mother Bailey House, which was being used as a residence, to protect the historic structure, said Hedrick. The city made repairs to stabilize the house, but a proposal to use bonding money for the renovations was voted down at a freeman's meeting in 2016.

    A local group, the Friends of the Mother Bailey House, fundraised with the goal of restoring the house and creating historical displays to showcase Mother Bailey's legacy, but more funds were needed to restore the house than what the group raised. The city in 2019 declared both the Mother Bailey House property and the adjacent property at 0 Broad St. as "surplus," and began seeking requests for proposals for them.

    The 1782 structure had originally served as a home to Amos Prentice, a doctor who had helped soldiers wounded in the Battle of Groton Heights a year earlier, and then later a residence for Elijah Bailey, a postmaster and veteran, and Anna Warner Bailey also known as Mother Bailey, according to a 2012 city report. It also was a tavern and post office.

    Anna Warner Bailey was a "heroine of the Revolution and the Battle of 1812," according to a 2017 brochure from the Friends group.

    "At the tender age of 16, she fearlessly tended to the wounded at the Battle of Groton Heights in 1781," the brochure states. "Later in 1813, she attained national fame and recognition for being an inspiration to the soldiers in their defense of Fort Griswold." She was paid visits from presidents James Monroe and Andrew Jackson and then Vice-President Martin Van Buren in recognition of her patriotism.

    Restoration plans

    The city has been working on seeking a developer through Request for Proposals processes for about the past two years and most recently has been working with the selected developer, FTTB LLC, which is owned by the Jennette family, said Hedrick.

    One family member, Frank Jennette, said the plan is to keep the aesthetic look of the Mother Bailey House but to use more durable materials that will withstand the weather.

    At Monday's Committee of the Whole meeting, Deputy Mayor Gweneviere Depot said she's happy the city has a mutually beneficial agreement with a city resident, and it will be nice to have the building improved and look nice again when people drive by.

    Councilor Lisa McCabe described the Mother Bailey House as a beautiful house that needs a lot of love, but she said she is sure Jennette is up to the task.

    The council also discussed taking before and after pictures of the historic restoration project, which Jennette, who was joined by son and business partner, Torrence, said the council is welcome to do so.

    "All we want to do is rebuild this and make it a viable part of the city," said Frank Jennette. "It's been an eyesore for many years, and I think now me and my family — FTTB — we’re down for the challenge of making it a viable property again." 

    "For a local to step up and want to restore something to its historic heyday, it's a win-win all the way around so thank you very much," added Councilor Paul Norris.

    The City Council was slated to vote on the purchase and sales agreement on Monday, but the contract needs to be revised and now is slated to be voted on Tuesday, July 6. It had originally called for renovating the Mother Bailey House into a three-family dwelling. The Jennettes said there is not enough room in the house for three units while the cost of raw materials has risen since the initial proposal so it would no longer be economically feasible.

    k.drelich@theday.com

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