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Monday, June 16, 2008

Home for vets moves forward

By Ed Stannard
Register Metro Editor
NEW HAVEN
— A future home for homeless veterans, to be run by Columbus House, will be given a historically faithful makeover, thanks to a $22,500 grant.
The grant, awarded by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, will be used for design and planning of 470 Howard Ave., an 1882 Queen Anne-style house known as the William A. Beard House, said Helen Higgins, executive director of the trust.
"It’s a contributing structure in the Howard Avenue (Historic) District," Higgins said. Columbus House will use the money to finish designs, said Alison Cunningham, executive director of Columbus House. New Haven architect Paul Bailey has been working with the agency to be sure the job is done to high preservation standards.
"It’s not Joe Construction on the street to do this project," Higgins said. "It’s going to be a historic rehabilitation."
Higgins gave kudos to Columbus House for the project. "Today some of these houses in historic districts, particularly in urban areas, are not going to work for private homes anymore, but they can work."
Cunningham said the agency decided to go with a historic rehab because "it’s a building that does have some historical significance" and deserves to be restored to its "once shining beauty."
The Beard House is boarded up right now and looks the worse for wear, but Higgins said there are still many historic elements to it, both exterior ornaments and interior items like cabinetry. It will require major safety and environmental work, though.
In its day, when the City Point area was home to wealthy oyster boat captains, the Beard house was "one of a row of ornate Queen Anne-style homes on a fashionable avenue," Higgins said. The historic district, which extends up Howard Avenue from the harbor to Cassius Street, comprises 320 acres and 151 buildings.
Columbus House also received a $774,895 grant in November 2006 from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The vets who live there temporarily will receive VA medical and mental health services and Columbus House will provide social and employment services.
State veterans officials have said there are about 5,000 homeless veterans in Connecticut at any given time, with up to 20 percent of them considered chronically homeless.
Cunningham said she has no time line for when the project will be completed, and that historic projects tend to take longer than others. "This is just another step in the process in getting things done," she said.
Ed Stannard can be reached at estannard@nhregister.com or 789-5743.

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