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Groton City to deliberate on fate of Mother Bailey House

January 27, 2019

Groton — The City Council has moved to declare the Mother Bailey House on Thames Street as “surplus property,” though the ultimate fate of the historic building with ties to the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 still remains undecided.

The Committee of the Whole on Monday will discuss the next steps and a request for proposals, after voting earlier this month to declare the house at 108 Thames St. and the adjacent property at 0 Broad St. as “surplus” properties. The city is considering submitting a request for proposals similar to what was done for the Groton Heights School, so the city would be able to pick a proposal based on the best use, not necessarily the price, though no decisions have been made yet, Groton City Mayor Keith Hedrick said.

He said the city took the first step to get the property out of the city’s hands, as it has owned the Mother Bailey House for a long time, yet there’s no will from local residents to put any additional tax money into the house.

“We don’t have the funds, and the house is continuing to deteriorate so we need to take some action,” he said.

Hedrick said the city has been working the Friends of the Mother Bailey House Foundation, a group fundraising to preserve the house.

Over the past 18 months, the Friends of the Mother Bailey House Foundation has worked to raises more than 100,000 to stabilize the foundation, among other work, Hedrick said. When the city tried to reauthorize some bond funding for the house in 2016, residents voted down the proposal at a meeting, he said.

Archer said her group has been working with the goal of raising enough funds to take responsibility of the Mother Bailey House and restore it and preserve Mother Bailey’s legacy, such as through displays and as a visitors center and by having it serve as a cornerstone for the historic Groton Bank. Group members also have been researching grant options.

“The group’s position is we would like to see the house preserved, and we want to make sure Mother Bailey’s legacy is part of that preservation,” she said.

Tom Althuis, the founder and president of the Groton Bank Historical Association, said that rather than declare the Mother Bailey House “surplus” property, the city ought to work with the Friends group to restore the house, which he called one of the most historic in Groton and the state.

“The house is a stately center hall colonial built in 1782 for Dr. Amos Prentice, who tended the wounded after the Sept. 6, 1781, massacre at Fort Griswold,” according to Althuis’ prepared remarks to the City Council. “In 1805, it was purchased by Elijah and Anna Warner Bailey. She had helped the doctor tend the wounded and Elijah was a defender of the fort in the battle.”

The house served as a post office in the first half of the 19th century, as Elijah Bailey was postmaster in Groton, Althuis said, and was visited by U.S. Presidents Andrew Jackson, James Monroe and Martin Van Buren, as well as the Marquis de Lafayette, who served as a general on the colonies’ side during the American Revolutionary War.

Members of the Friends group also point to Anna Warner Bailey’s national historical significance. Former U.S. President George W. Bush noted in the March 2001 Women’s History Month proclamation that: “Anna Warner Bailey’s and Clara Barton’s courage in war has inspired generations of men and women called upon to fight for America.”

The Mother Bailey House is a contributing property to the Groton Bank Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, according to Jenny Fields Scofield, national register and architectural survey coordinator for the State Historic Preservation Office. Properties on the National Register also are listed on the State Register of Historic Places.

“The mayor and the council understand the historic significance of the house, and we don’t want to destroy the house,” Hedrick said. “The challenge the city has is the house is continuing to deteriorate because money is not being put into the house to restore it and bring it back to conditions that are suitable for occupancy.”

Archer said the Friends group is asking for “a seat at the table” in the city’s discussions.

“There’s a lot of history to the site,” she said. “No matter what, we want to preserve (Bailey’s) legacy and her history.”

The Committee of the Whole meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at the Groton City Municipal Building.

k.drelich@theday.com

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