The city may demolish the 110-year-old building that houses Curt’s Barber Shop in New London .
The first step of the process was passed Wednesday, March 6, when the Finance and Personnel Committee unanimously approved the sale of city property.
The barber shop’s building, located at 201 S. Pearl St., is part of aparcel the city plans to sell so that Dollar General can build a new store in New London.
Dollar General would move from its current location in New London to this new location.
The property in the proposed sale is located next to the vacant riverfront parcel the city has for sale.
New London City Administrator Kent Hager told the committee the offer for the land is $100,000 on the condition the city pays to remove the barber shop’s building. Hager said it would cost and estimated $20,000 to $30,000 to remove the building. He also said the city is not sure of the extent of asbestos in the building.
The committee was also informed by Hager that once the project is completed, the property will have an estimated taxable value of $700,000 to $800,000.
If the property were valued at the low end of $700,000, it would generate $16,315 a year in taxes, of which the city would receive $5,314.
Todd Platt, manager and broker for Project Development LLC, a company that that works with Dollar General to find locations and build new stores, said Dollar General wants to relocate in order to be closer to the urban center of the city.
Platt told the committee that the “site has unique challenges.” One of the challenges is the slope of the property. This may require fill to be added to the site.
Preliminary engineering work has already been completed, Platt said.
“We believe, based on preliminary analysis, this building would work on this property,” Platt said.
A picture of the layout of the new building on the site was presented to the committee. The new Dollar General building and parking lot would be located behind where Curt’s Barber Shop and John’s Bar are currently located. Curt’s Barber Shop would be removed to create an open area in front of the store.
If the sale is approved, Platt said engineering would take place for the next six months. Ground would be broken about one year from now, and the store would open Aug. 1, 2014.
Committee member Dave Morack echoed concerns about the slope of the property.
“We have to figure that out,” Platt said.
Concerns about John’s Bar losing parking and if the configuration of the area would create difficulty for beer trucks to maneuver in the area were also brought up by committee members.
New London Mayor Gary Henke said he hadn’t previously thought about this type of a store for this location, but thought it was a good idea.
“I would really like to see this go through,” Henke said.
New London City Attorney Earl Luaders said he reviewed the contract to purchase the city property.
“I can’t identify any concerns that would cause me to comment negatively,” Luaders said.
The committee members present voted unanimously to approve the sale of city property. It will go before the entire city council for approval at its next meeting, Tuesday, March 12.
Looking back at history
The following information about the history of the building located at 201 S. Pearl St. was provided by the New London Public Museum.
In 1903, E. Polly and A. Mason were commissioned to construct this building by New London’s International Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF) fraternity. The upper floor was intended for use by the fraternity as a meeting and social hall.
The Odd Fellows was a secret fraternal organization that had its beginning sometime during the 1700s in England. Thomas Wildey and four other Odd Fellows from England organized this Order in the United States on April 26, 1819. The New London IOOF was founded in 1861 and disbanded sometime in the 1950s.
Because of their dedication to their community, the Odd Fellows opened their hall for use by other local organizations such as the Grand Army of the Republic, the Women’s Relief Corps, the Modern Woodsmen and Royal Neighbors. Social gatherings and dances were not an uncommon site at the Hall.
While the fraternity used the upper floor for their own purposes, the first floor of the building was rented out as retail space.
The first business in this location was The Continental, a fine men’s clothing store run by the Abrams brothers. In 1921, the Ostreich Brothers moved their hardware store into the building and ran it until 1927. At that time, Clarence Tribby bought the Ostreich’s stock and operated Tribby’s Hardware store.
The basement area was fitted for a barber shop in 1908. Charles Rogers was the first barber located here followed by Henry Allen. The barbershop came upstairs in 1972 when Curt Sommer relocated to the first level of the building.
“It always makes me sad to see the historic fabric of a community ripped and a historic building lost,” said Christine Cross, director of the New London Public Museum. “The city’s intention for this building has always been clear, it was purchased in order to remove it, so it’s no surprise that that day has come. I have worked in many communities and seen many historic structures demolished. What we can do is try to save the history of the building through photographs, stories and other touchstones. It is my hope that the museum will be able to preserve some of the architectural elements of the building so that at least there is a record of it for future generations.”