Litchfield Public Works Director, Raz Alexe receives award.

For a job well-done in making the construction of three new parking areas along Whites Woods Road in Litchfield come to fruition, public works Director Raz Alexe has been named the recipient of the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust’s Preservation Award for 2023.

The award was presented to Alexe during the GLPT’s annual meeting Monday at the Litchfield Historical Society.

“We saw this opportunity and we made it happen,” Alexe said of the successful pursuit of a state grant that funded design and construction of the parking areas, two of which are on White Memorial property, in 2022. The third is on property owned by St. Anthony of Padua Church.

On his second try, Alexe gained a $399,000 Community Connectivity Grant from the state Department of Transportation. Construction of the parking areas with the funding has resulted in an orderly parking system for those looking to access White Memorial trails. Before the parking was built, recreation enthusiasts were parking on the sides of White Woods Road and causing not only safety problems but also aesthetic issues.

“It was unsightly and dangerous,” GLPT member Victoria Sansing said as she prepared to present the award to Alexe.”Raz persevered and coordinated the project with help from a lot of people.”

Alexe credited White Memorial Executive Director and Superintendent Lukas Hyder and former St. Anthony of Padua Church pastor Monsignor Robert F. Tucker for their cooperation. Both, Alexe said, were immediately supportive of the parking idea when he brought it to them.

Alexe also credited engineer Dennis McMorrow for designing the parking areas and Alibozak Construction of Goshen for building them. Text by John McKenna, Litchfield.bz



Veteran builder Mike Smith of Litchfield copped the top prize at the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust’s annual meeting Monday at the Litchfield Historical Society.

Smith, who was accompanied by his wife, Sue, received the GLPT’s Preservation Award for 2022 for his restoration of a dilapidated house at 127 Old South Road.

“It truly is an honor,” Smith said after GLPT member Victoria Sansing presented the award. “I’ve always worked hard to maintain the historic integrity of the homes and buildings I’ve worked on. The work (the GLPT) does is so valid and I’ve really grown to appreciate it.”

Smith paid tribute to his employees for their skillful labor and attention to detail when working on older houses and buildings in town.

Smith is the longtime owner of Woodmaster Builders, one of the most sought-after building contractors in Litchfield.

Sansing described Smith, a volunteer firefighter with the Litchfield Fire Company, as an honorable man who gives to the community in many ways. The Old South Road project, Sansing said, is his latest contribution.

“Other builders may have seen that house as a tear-down, but not Mike,” Sansing said. “Now it looks new again, right down to its details, columns, paint and stonework.”

The house, built in 1880, was in rough shape when Mike and Sue Smith paid $100,000 for it in January 2021. Smith, with help from friends, gutted the structure and rebuilt it as a classic Victorian. He and his wife rent it out through Airbnb. Text by John McKenna, Litchfield.bz


Meadow Street Restoration Earns Award

A restoration job some thought would be impossible to carry out caught the attention of the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust.

It took place on Meadow Street, involving a house that stood empty and unwanted for years and was in such poor shape that it even had no takers in a bank foreclosure sale two years ago.

Enter Nick Priola of Norwalk, who bought the forlorn property from the Federal National Mortgage Association for $101,750 in April 2020 with the intent of restoring it for residential use.

Priola hired architect Clifford Cooper of Litchfield, who is known statewide for his work in restoration, and Benovation, a remodeling business owned by Ben Buck of Litchfield, for the job. Work started in November 2020 and was finished by the end of May 2021.

For their efforts, Priola, Cooper and Buck were recognized by the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust during its annual meeting at the Litchfield Historical Society on Monday. The trio each received the GLPT’s annual Preservation Award that goes to individuals who have made a committed effort to preserve a house or building in town. Priola, who rents the house, was unable to attend the meeting.

“We saw a property that was in danger and we weren’t sure what was going to happen to it,” GLPT officer Victoria Sansing said before presenting the awards. “This is not a huge house, but it’s charming and is important in its own way.”

As Sansing noted, “You just don’t take buildings down in Litchfield.”

Cooper described the project as “quite an undertaking.”

“I’ll never forget walking into that house,” he said of first look at the rotting interior.

The right side of the house – looking at it from the street – was built around 1820 and was moved to the current location. Most of its architectural features were found to be intact as Buck and his crew began gutting the structure down to its post and beam structure. The left side of the house was an addition, Buck said, and its second floor showed evidence of a fire and a reconstruction in the 1950s based on the plywood that was used.

Buck recalled bringing his wife, Jessica, to see the house after he agreed to work for Priola.

“She walked in, turned around and walked out,” Buck said. “She couldn’t believe I wanted to take on something like that.”

Buck’s crew, he said, had a similar reaction of the first day of the job.

“We persevered and after two weeks, their opinion of what we were doing changed,” Buck said of his workers. “They began taking great pride in the job.”

The work to gut the house revealed not only the post and beam structure but also the lack of a foundation under the front left side and beneath a kitchen that extended off the rear of the house. Concrete was poured to support the front left side and the kitchen was demolished to make way for a foundation on which a new kitchen was built.


Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust member Victoria Sansing presented the 2020 awards of distinction to Lee Swift, Jim Lawson and Eileen Schmidt at West Cemetery as the 2020 meeting was held via Zoom. Linda Searles was unable to attend.

Hundreds of hours of labor in Litchfield’s two most historic cemeteries last spring and summer earned four dedicated volunteers recognition from the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust..

Schmidt and Swift began the job and were later joined by Lawson and Searles. They cleaned 650 gravestones, many of which are more than 200 years old, in East Cemetery and West Cemetery using a biologic cleaner known as D-2. The cleaning solution removed years of dirt and lichen on the stones without damaging them and left the inscriptions on the stones readable. So delicate was the work that it often required use of a toothbrush to clean the stones.

In addition to cleaning graves, the volunteers have added images and information to findagrave.com, an Ancestry.com website, that preserves the legacy of the individuals buried beneath the gravestones that have been cleaned.


The successful transformation of the previously-vacant and rundown Litchfield County jail in the center of Litchfield was recognized by the Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust on Monday.Developer Russell Barton, who led the effort to turn the landmark 19th-century building into an attractive location for business and residence, received the GLPT’s annual Preservation Award during the trust’s membership meeting at the Litchfield Historical Society.Barton’s partners in the project were his wife, Susi Stone, and Robert Meyers and Harriet Saltzman of Cornwall. They bought the old jail from the state in 2014 and gained local approval to turn it into a viable location for business and residential apartments.The Preservation Award was presented by GLPT member Victoria Sansing, who praised Barton for the quality of the renovation and its positive effect on the town.“This project was not an easy one, but in the end it turned out to be a very good example of what can be done when everyone works together,” Sansing said. “There was willingness to listen and work together to get a result that is good for the town.”Barton described the project as a large undertaking but one that was worth it given the outcome. The centerpiece of old jail is the Marketplace Tavern that opened last March.


Art Schmidt received an award for his work to repair and keep the courthouse tower clock in good working order. His award was given in appreciation for his limitless volunteer efforts toward the maintenance, restoration and preservation of the building.


Jim Katzin received an award for overhauling the 1930 Seth Thomas 30-day clock in the first floor of the former Litchfield County courthouse, which is owned by the GLPT. The award was also given in appreciation for Katzin’s heroic volunteer efforts to save the clockworks and preserve the tower bell in the building.


St. Michael’s Church for their quality renovation project that featured its new west-facing stained-glass window. South Street, Litchfield.


John McKenna in recognition of his keen interest in our shared objectives​ and his exceptional press coverage of all events, cultural, political, athletic and educational within the Litchfield area.


The East Litchfield Village Improvement Society for their steadfast and courageous efforts to identify, study, and preserve the historical and architectural treasures of East Litchfield exemplified in their work to preserve and restore the East Litchfield Chapel.


The Forman School for their outstanding preservation, restoration, and adaptive reuse of The Bronson Property on North Street in Litchfield, Connecticut. On this site stood the early iron foundry of Morse and Carrington. It is believed that this company forged the anchors for John Paul Jones’ Navy.


Masonic Lodge #11 For extraordinary efforts to preserve and restore their historic building at 17 Meadow Street, Litchfield, Connecticut.


David and Deborah Beauregard, 272 South Street For their architecturally appropriate addition to a historic house.


Perley H. Grimes, Jr. – The Greater Litchfield Preservation Trust in acknowledgment of the many years of your devotion to its goals and your uninterrupted service as a member of its Board of Trustees and Officers and your expertise as a wise counselor, legal consultant and inspiring leader during that time wishes to demonstrate the organization’s gratitude for the exceptional benefits it has received from you. This Award of Appreciation is bestowed by the current Board of Trustees and Officers but they are joined by former members who are equally grateful to you.


David and Deborah Beauregard, 272 South Street. For their architecturally appropriate addition to an historic home.


George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, for the restoration of the old firehouse in Bantam and the adjacent property and their conversion to an ice cream bar (and, prospectively, a wine bar)


The Sidewalk Committee, the Litchfield Board of Selectmen, the Litchfield Public Works Department, and the firms of Martin Laviero Construction and Clover Construction for the restoration of the sidewalks along “Merchants’ Row”


Lisa and Ray Parker, for significant enhancement of the exterior of their home at 314 South Street.


Jessica and Jason Travelstead for architectural improvements they have made to their home at 228 Meadow Street


Perley Grimes, Dmitri (Tim) Ilyinski, and Victoria Sansing, as members of the Trust’s Board, for their “exceptional skills and energies provided to Project 2000, the subterranean relocation of utility wires on “Merchants’ Row.”


Priscilla and Norman Hillman, for their careful and sensitive preservation work on The Corner House, aka, The Butler House, and the Carriage House which they reunited as one property.


Bruce Schnitzer, principal partner of The West Street Yard, for the rescue of the former Switzer Lumber Yard from neglect and deterioration


Carol and Malcolm Bramley for their painstaking and meticulous restoration of the “Catlin House” at 125 Chestnut Hill Road. “It is a wonderful example for residential preservation,” said Victoria Sansing.


The Seherr-Thoss Foundation for its enlightened and prominent role in local projects which have greatly enhanced Litchfield’s character. Susan Magary accepted on behalf of the Foundation