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Letter of Intent

The West Haven Historical Society, Inc.
September 13,2004
Hors. H. Richard Borer Mayor
City of West Haven 355 Main Street West Haven, CT 06516

Dear Mayor Borer:

At a meeting of the membership of the West Haven Historical Society on Friday, September 10, I was authorized to set forth this Letter of intent.

The West Haven Historical Society proposes to enter into an agreement with the City of West Haven to purchase the property known as The West Haven Buckle Shop and its surrounding parking and out-building properties, located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Wood Street, free and dear of all umber, for the sum of one dollar ($1.00). The completion of this transaction would be contingent upon the review of a Feasibility Survey as described below.

This building would serve as a permanent meeting site, museum and exhibit hall and orientation center, gift shop and tearoom, and may house other non-profit social or service organizations under our advisement.

The West Haven Historical Society shall consider the following as contingencies in the acquisition of The West Haven Buckle Slop, surrounding properties and out-buildings

a) survey of the aforementioned site;
b) environmental and structural analyses; c) zoning regulations/application,
d) space application;
e) designation as an endangered historical site; f) potential for public and private funding.

It is expected that we shall have accomplished the feasibility Review within a six month period from the time of your response.

The West Haven Historical Society has been in existence since 1954. We have been responsible for the purchase of the Ward-Heitmann House and much of the activities related to its fund raising and programs, the restoration of the two Central Burial Grounds on the Green, several Outreach Programs including the restoration of the Bell Tower at Christ Episcopal Church and Founders' Day activities at the First Congregational Church. We own the gravesite of Major William Campbell, and conduct 2-2½ hour public tours of Historic West Haven during special events. We have supported the Bicentennial program and placed a commemorative stone across from the original Williston homestead, placed plaques on houses of significant historic interest in West Haven and worked with the City during the Campbell's March. This past year we were involved in two costumed reenactments including an East-West Shore commemoration of the British invasion 225 years ago, and the dedication of the 300 year old gravesites of our own 30+ Revolutionary War Patriots. Among our goals for this year are to publish the pictorial History of West Haven with Arcadia Press, and the Autobiography of Thomas Painter.

We do hope that, on the eve of our 50th anniversary, you will give serious consideration to this proposal and to the greater, positive impact we will have in the West Haven community.

We look forward to hearing from you.
Carole A. Laydon McElrath President
cc: Beth Sabo, Comm. Public Works

Adams Gift Boosts Society Coffers
West Haven Voice January 6, 2005

The holiday season was filled with surprises for many, but a local organization got a financial boost even Santa Claus would have trouble putting under the tree.

A gift of $10,000 was given to the West Haven Historical Society from local philanthropist Theodore "Ted" Adams. WHHS president Carole A. McElrath made the announcement.

Adams, long associated with the society, has designated his gift as seed money in the society's search for a home. Adams became interested in the organizations' efforts to purchase and restore the endangered West Haven Buckle Shop on Washington Avenue for that purpose through a recent article in the Voice.

"We are so excited about this generous donation, as it affords the opportunity to seek out matching gifts and to help make the community aware of our programs and projects," said McElrath.

"The Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and our goal is to establish a permanent base where we may exhibit all of the items which represent the history of West Haven - its families, their homes and businesses." McElrath noted that having the current headquarters in the city's Noble Community Center has allowed the flexibility to assimilate current collections and to add to their acquisitions. Recent donations include doll, children's and baby memorabilia, rare books and family records, wedding slippers from the turn of the century, albums and maps, patriotic memorabilia, quilts, clothing, furniture and photographs from local families whose histories go back several generations.

Adams, 86, was best known for his activities with his wife, the late Libby Adams, in saving the city's shorefront from over development. Through his efforts, first as the president of the West Haven Chamber of Commerce, and later as the head of the Independent Movement for Positive Action (IMPACT), he was able to gain a compromise on the 1966 development plan that would have allowed more than a dozen high-rise apartment and condominiums from West Walk to Bradley Point.

He and IMPACT forced three separate referendums on the redevelopment plan, all overturned by the courts. The courts ruled the seven original Project II area developers could only change the plan because they were recruited under its auspices. The controversy later propelled Adams to run for mayor in 1975, where the IMPACT Party, an offshoot of the civic organization ran a strong third and gained minor party status.

That political clout later fostered the West Haven Taxpayers Association and the ultimate run of Lawrence Minichino for mayor under the "Save our Shore" banner. Four years later, Adams abandoned Minichino when it became clear he was working with interests to develop the shore. However, Adams was instrumental in laying the foundation for the bike/walk path residents enjoy today.

Mayor Azelio Guerra later used the 1979 compromise plan in 1988 to purchase the former Casino Restaurant, now the Savin Rock Conference Center. The city became a developer in the Project II Redevelopment Area, and had an equal voice with the other developers in the actions taken.

In his later years, Adams has made several large donations to various organizations, including the Ward-Heitmann House Museum and Land Trust of West Haven, Inc.

Besides giving more than $50,000 to the museum, he has offered a matching grant with the foundation board, that could bring in excess of $100,000 in funding. His wife's portrait has been placed in the school room at the city's oldest edifice. She was a school teacher in New Haven for several decades.

But his philanthropy has included many valuable antiques, collected by the couple.

Meanwhile, the historical society is looking for artifacts to enhance its anticipated move into a new headquarters. Anyone interested in donating photographs, business documents, organization histories, old movie house memorabilia, copies of genealogical charts, or any other items, may do so by writing to The West Haven Historical Society, c/o 682 Main Street, West Haven, 06516.

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