Driving Ms. Kelley

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:17

A windshield tour of Milford architecture, By David Hulse Milford - “Which building would you cry all night about, if there were a fire,” we asked Beth Kelley. The idea was to get the outspoken chair of the Milford Borough Architectural Review Board to pick some favorite buildings and homes in the borough’s historic district. Kelley grabbed her looseleaf notebook full of historic data, got in the car and said, “What do you want to see?” Down one street and up another, Kelley picked target locations, but invariably fell into lengthy descriptions of homes and buildings along the way. She pointed details about out the Dutch Colonials, Queen Anne’s, Arts and Crafts, French Provincials, Greek Revivals, Italianates, and Four-Square’s faster than the car reached them. She knew about which ones had copper downspouts, interesting stain-glass inserts, vinyl windows, colonial rifle port windows or termites. She talked about buildings that have been demolished as though they still stood in her mind’s eye. She knows because after 30 years in the interior design and building construction business and more than 20 years living in Milford, she’s been inside a good many of these buildings. ”I don’t do it for a living anymore, but I’m always helping someone with some design or construction issue in their home.” She was an original member of the review board and found herself appointed as its chair while she was away on vacation. There have been disagreements and friction from the job, but she believes people are beginning to see the value of it. She made a point of showing Milford’s oldest home, the Harford-Smith house, built in 1736. Although she recalled its fireplace and wide-plank floors, Kelley did not point it out so much as a favorite. Instead it was an example of why an architectural review board is a good thing in an historic community. The house has chipping paint, broken and mismatched siding, a rear addition that does not match the original structure and a code violation taped on the front door. All of the changes were made before the review board was created, she said. “It would not have looked like this. We never would have allowed these insensitive additions,” she said repeatedly as she ticked off one bad architectural decision owners had made after another. “This should be a home of pride, but it isn’t,” she said. Our tour continued, filled with information, but very little in way of choices as favorites. “The truth is, I can’t really choose. Every house in towns is a treasure, except the new stuff,” she said finally.