Fairfield, Southport & Bpt Invited to Submit a Nomination for the National Trust's Endangered Historical Places List

FAIRFIELD, CT — Fairfield, Southport, and Bridgeport now stand at a pivotal juncture in their historical narrative. Facing a devastating proposal by United Illuminating (UI) that would trigger profound and irrevocable environmental consequences, these communities have just been nominated for inclusion in the “11 Most Endangered Historic Places” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

The news came in the form of invitation from the National Trust to "Preservation CT", a statewide non-profit organization dedicated to preserving, protecting, and promoting the buildings, sites, and landscapes that contribute to the heritage and vitality of Connecticut communities. In making its invitation, the National Trust focused on the broad impacts that the entire UI project will have along the rail line in both Fairfield and New Haven Counties. This is a competitive program and only a select number of sites around the country are being invited to submit full nominations.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is so concerned about these issues that it has filed to be heard as an intervenor in the proceedings of the Connecticut Siting Council. Specifically, the Trust wrote that it "is extremely concerned about the threatened adverse impact of the Application on a wide variety of historic properties. The potential for unreasonable destruction of these resources could be avoided and minimized by alternative alignments for the project, which should be adopted. As a result of these threatened impacts, the [National Trust] has invited Preservation Connecticut to submit a nomination for this historic corridor to the 2024 list of 'America's Most Endangered Historic Places,' which will be announced in May 2024."
The National Trust went further, writing: “The construction and existence of UI's proposed towers and transmission wires will have a severe negative impact on the nationally recognized Southport Historic District, as well as many other historic properties, scenic vistas and the general character and harmony of this very sensitive historic area.”
Andrea Ozyck, co-founder of the Sasco Creek Neighbors Environmental Trust, Inc. reflected on the importance of the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s role in this matter:
"We recognize the significance of being among the distinguished few invited to submit a complete nomination for consideration. This nomination is not just a recognition of our community's rich history, but a stark warning sign of the imminent threat posed by United Illuminating's planned transmission line project. It serves as a testament to the permanent and irreversible harm this undertaking would inflict upon our heritage and treasured cultural resources,” Ozyck said.

The full application is due on November 21 and the final 2024 list of “America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places” will be announced in May 2024.

The implications of United Illuminating's proposal are profound, stretching across nearly 7.5 miles of coastal Connecticut. Their project aims to replace unobtrusive electricity infrastructure with towering poles and transmission lines, which will necessitate the clear-cutting of a 20-40 foot swath of trees. Ultimately, the project will bisect and disrupt several historic districts, impacting hundreds of properties listed on the National Register. 

The tract commences in the harborside neighborhood of Southport, CT a village of Fairfield and ends near the Barnum Museum, a recently designated National Historic Landmark, in Bridgeport. Along this path, a wave of disruption will leave an indelible imprint on Pequot Library, which serves as the cultural heart of Southport, as well as the Freeman Houses, the oldest Connecticut homes built by African Americans, recently saved in part due to their inclusion in the National Trust’s “11 Most Endangered” list for 2018.

Massive monopoles and disconcerting high voltage lines ranging in height from 95 -145 feet in Southport and Fairfield, reaching upwards of 200 feet in Bridgeport, will tower above treetops and steeples. Approximately 6 acres of trees face permanent clearcutting, while property rights will be forever relinquished by multiple businesses, churches, well-preserved residences, as well as a public library. Many properties will be at risk of complete seizure and/or demolition. Most residents and affected property owners only became aware a few weeks ago of the devastating consequences associated with this United Illuminating project. 

The overwhelming and far-reaching impacts associated with United Illuminating’s project are undeniable, causing irreparable harm to these communities for generations to come. The proposed 115kV transmission lines will span nearly 7.5 miles and involve the construction of over 100 towering steel monopoles, each with foundations reaching a depth of 40 feet. In doing so, they will disrupt waterways, wetlands and sites with long histories of toxic contamination. The United Illuminating project poses both direct and visual threats to cherished and sacred cultural resources in Connecticut, and its implications resonate on a national scale.

About SCNETI and Empowering Fairfield

Empowering Fairfield is a grassroots organization spearheaded by the Sasco Creek Neighbors Environmental Trust Inc. (SCNETI), a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The organization’s mission is to preserve and protect the Fairfield/Southport community by opposing the current United Illuminating transmission line rebuild proposal, and advocating for alternative solutions that better meet the needs of our community.

For more information visit EmpoweringFairfield

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  • Pequot Library, 720 Pequot Avenue, Southport, CT 06890 (Photo credit - Pequot Library, established in 1889 as a free public association library) 
  • The Freeman Houses - Recognized as the oldest homes in Connecticut built by and for African Americans, the Freeman Houses will be visually impacted by UI’s proposed transmission line. (courtesy Stacey Vairo, Preservation Connecticut.)
  • Southport’s future skyline - “Iconic skylines historically defined by steeples will soon be most memorably defined by transmission lines if UI’s proposal is approved.”(courtesy David Parker)
Submitted by Fairfield, CT

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