Victorian Building Loses to Cheap Junk from China

stafford springs victorian
Maple Grove Inn / Parley Converse House

This beautiful Victorian/colonial house in Stafford, CT was demolished Monday morning. When I drove by in the morning it was standing, by the end of my workday it was a pile of rubble. I had known it was going to be torn down since winter and felt so sad over it. Such a gorgeous building, it deserved to be preserved and cherished by the town. I drive by every day on my way to work, musing about how nice it would be to have a fabulous bakery and tea room residing in it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the funds or really enough experience to make that work.

The colonial house had been built in 1816 by Parley Converse, one of the founders of the local wool mills. It received a Victorian renovation in 1870, then became a restaurant in 1930s, lasting up to recent times. The building was over 5,000 sq. ft. There had been efforts to save it, including a Facebook page but they failed.

It was in very good shape and had served upscale French cuisine. From the story I remember hearing, about ten years ago the owner would only sell it to someone who would renovate it. The listing read, “Turn key opportunity with a little elbow grease and paint….All equipment in place and inventoried…includes period moldings, ornate stairway and porches, 5 marble and 1 slate fireplace.” The new owner did fix it up, and rented it out as a restaurant again. My husband and I were so excited to go to the new Italian restaurant. We get there and were terribly disappointed! Whoever did their “decorating” should have been shot! They ripped out the ornate trim in the seating area and gave it all the personality of a Subway sandwich shop. Awful. In the hallway you could see some marble and a nice stairway, and the front parlour was intact, but only being used to store boxes. The food was okay, but not great. So sad. The restaurant didn’t last long but that wasn’t due to the economy. In fact another restaurant within walking distance was thriving – and even added on in recent years. Oddly enough that place has an ugly exterior but nice decor and the food is excellent.

According to what a friend overheard the owner was tired of trying to rent it out to places that couldn’t make a go of it and he felt it was the building’s features that inhibited his ability to find a viable tenant. So he decided to demo it and put up – a dollar store! When I told my boss what was about to happen, she was nonplused: she said, “That’s the town with the race track, right? They’ll be happier with the dollar store.” Grrr….perhaps she’s right. The townspeople didn’t put up enough of a fight to save it: people will move on, forget all about the beauty of their town, let people come in and replace it with ugly concrete and steel boxes…and cheap junk from China.

Save the Maple Grove has this video and several great pics on Facebook: