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Flag House in Kent, Connecticut

Flag House of Kent, Connecticut

Chicago Tribune
Sunday, May 16, 2004 | Real Estate Page One
Mary Umberger

Citizens Show their Colors on Flag House

KENT | Every community has at least one house that's universally known among the locals -- maybe some notorious event occurred there, maybe it's flat-out the biggest house around, maybe it's architecturally splendid, maybe it's just odd.

The residents of Kent, Connecticut, know what I'm talking about. Kent has its "Flag House," which was the object of its owner's patriotic inclinations in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. That was when the circa-1900 white frame home was turned into an enormous, clapboard American flag. "It's the first thing you see as you come into town," explains real estate agent Bonnie Bevans, who faces the potentially tricky task of finding a buyer for the star-spangled home. "The owner is trying to decide whether he should paint it, whether it would sell faster if it became a white house again."

So Bevans, who apparently knows a marketing opportunity when she sees one, has taken her quandary to the people.
Early in May she posted informal surveys at five shops in the historic town, which has about 2,800 residents and is about 70 miles west of Hartford. The surveys asked the locals to weigh in on what would be best for the house. She attached a flyer that explained that the house was listed for $315,000, that zoning would permit its conversion to commercial use, and that it could be repainted, if necessary, to satisfy a buyer. The response sheets, with space for about a dozen comments at each location, filled up immediately, she said. Bevans replaced those surveys with fresh ones, and those, too, filled right away. On Monday, she estimated she had nearly 200 comments, which ran overwhelmingly toward the status quo. "Great patriotic statement. It's unique. It's part of the flavor of Kent. It lets me not forget Sept. 11," Bevans read as she leafed through the responses. She estimated 80 percent favored keeping the house as it is. That leaves 20 percent who aren't crazy about the place. "It's scary tacky. Without a pole in the middle of the house, it should go. Enough is enough," were representative quotes, she said as she read. "Here's an interesting one: `A white farmhouse is still All-American.'"

Of course, the unspoken mantra in the ad world is: Be careful what you wish for. "I think it's a Catch-22 situation," said Bevans, an agent for William Raveis Real Estate in Kent. "Now, if a buyer came in and wanted to repaint the house, they may feel public pressure to keep the flag."

She says she's hoping to avoid that by finding a buyer who would use it as a shop, gallery, etc., and who wanted it because the flag motif made it such a memorable address -- though she stresses the current owner, who wants to move out-of-state, is open to offers. Given the current political climate -- and the fact that it's sort of hard NOT to have an opinion on a house that's as visible as this one -- Bevans says she expects to get a lot more feedback before it's over.



PRESS | Litchfield County Times | 11/24/2004

Rescue Effort for Roxbury Property
by E.L. Lefferts

Having grown up in Roxbury, realtor Bonnie Bevans was startled when she saw a listing for five buildings that comprise a historic stop on the former Shepaug Railroad in what used to be called Roxbury Station.

The owners, Thomas and Linda Chipman, had the property on the market, but had received little response. They didn't know that Ms. Bevans, their daughter Gail's one-time best friend, had moved to Kent and become a realtor with William Raveis International. "I sat down with them, and they said they'd let me try to sell the property," Ms. Bevans recalled in a recent interview. "The only responses I got, though, were from developers. Well, Roxbury was my hometown, so that just hit my heart."

Rather than see the buildings, which are zoned for commercial use, torn down by an unthinking developer, Ms. Bevans has embarked on a one-woman quest to raise money and turn the area into a tourist destination. The Chipmans are asking $2.2 million for the property at 5 and 6 Mine Hill Rd. The estate consists of 3.4 acres adorned by a Colonial farmhouse that used to be a general store. It is perched on the banks of the Shepaug River and comes with a lovely view of the water as it flows over a low dam on the property.

Mine Hill Road splits the property in two, cutting close to the front door of a tobacco barn that was built in the 1830s, which still contains its old tobacco wheel. In addition, there's a former railroad station that has lost its platform, a lumber shed and a three-bay garage. The commercial buildings were all constructed between 1850 and 1870.
Ms. Bevans' "big pipe dream" is to have the tobacco barn transformed into a bed-and-breakfast with an attached tobacco museum. The general store, she hopes, could be returned to its former glory with a bakery, a penny candy counter, a soda fountain "and some other old-time favorites." She'd also like the former railroad station to be rebuilt and turned into a train and local history museum, which could also include an ice cream shop and bait and tackle emporium. "This property would not only draw tourists and local interest but also provide local jobs and earn income to support it and future preservation projects," she wrote in a letter of appeal that she mass-mailed to the residents of Roxbury.

Ms. Bevans has already pledged $10,000 of her own money to the cause. As for the rest of the funding, however, late last month she pressed Barbara Henry, Roxbury's first selectman, to approach the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen. Ms. Bevans was hopeful the town government could help with the purchase through a combination of taxes and grant assistance from the state. The town came up dry. "As worthy a cause as it is," explained Ms. Henry, "we've got a school renovation project we're looking at, as well as the schools' future budget, and we have a bunch of roadway projects lined up." The first selectman noted that the $2.2 million price tag is daunting enough for a small village without many resources, but that would only be the beginning of the expense. "You can't just purchase it," Ms. Henry pointed out. "It's a huge restoration project, and we already have so much on our plate. We all agree it's worth preserving, but I was not given the go-ahead to pursue it."

Ms. Bevans' mailing has not been any more successful. She said friends from her days growing up in Roxbury have contacted her and expressed their desire to preserve the buildings, but no one has offered any cash. "They'd like to pull something together, but they're not really sure what to do," Ms. Bevans noted. "Everybody's afraid that a developer would just go in there and tear down the buildings, but people just don't understand how we're going to afford this." Should Roxbury Station, as it was once called, fall victim to the wrecking ball, it would undoubtedly be an historic loss to the town.