A new effort has been launched to save one of the oldest homes in Springfield. On the corner of Maple and Union Streets, at the edge of downtown, stands a once grand, now boarded-up Greek Revival brick house replete with two-story high columns.
“It is, I think, a very elegant home. It’s not an enormous home by today’s standards. But there are a lot of rooms. Many of them are smaller, of course, which was typical for that era.”
Jay Minkarah heads up DevelopSpringfield, a non-profit focused on revitalization projects. It recently purchased the 11-room, 4,000 square foot home and adjacent property for $160,000. The house was built in 1841 for Solymon Merrick, a prominent manufacturer and inventor of the monkey wrench. It later became the home of the city’s fourth mayor Ansel Phelps Jr., for which it is named. The house remained occupied until the mid-2000’s, when after a couple of unsuccessful attempts at rehabbing; it became vacant and fell into serious disrepair, becoming a den for squatters and addicts. The 2011 tornado contributed to its further demise. Minkarah says preserving a link to Springfield’s past is just one reason for acquiring it.
“This property, of course, as you can see is also a blight on this neighborhood. And so eliminating a blight to help improve the overall neighborhood was very important to us. In this case eliminating through restoration not through demolition.”
Minkarah says the first priority is stabilizing the building and meeting with consultants to determine the costs of restoration. He says DevelopSpringfield plans to collaborate with the Springfield Preservation Trust, which owns an historic building next door, to see, if combined, the properties could be used for residential, professional or mixed use purposes.