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By Wednesday, August 17, gone were the 208,888 square feet of Canaan House that had stood at Fairfield Hills since 1940. On Tuesday, August 16, nearly all of the former state hospital residential building was reduced to mounds of rubble and twisted steel awaiting removal — the last remaining evidence of a job effort that began in early 2016 with demolition preparations in the winter months.
On Tuesday, Land Use Director George Benson said, “It should all be down by Wednesday, and cleaned and seeded [for grass] by the end of September.” Work is on schedule and within budget. The work is paid for through $5 million in Capital Improvement Plan funds pooling together the demolition, duplex renovation, single-family house demolition, and a greenhouse removal.
Standing alone Tuesday was the building’s center section, beneath its cupola. Crews from AAIS Corporation, a demolition contractor out of West Haven, began razing the structure earlier this summer.
Crews first removed the roof, much of the interior materials, and the many windows before their heavy machinery tore away the façade, multistory wings, and main section. Residents traveling to the NYA Sports and Fitness Center in past weeks would have seen the diminishing structure.
“No major surprises” were encountered during demolition work Mr Benson said. “We learned a lot from other buildings and things we found [during demolition], so we knew what to expect and it’s clearer what we are up against.” Immediate plans for the Canaan House location included seeding the area, “and see what the future holds for its use.”
Across the street sits another former state hospital building that now houses municipal offices following renovation work completed several years ago.
From her corner office, First Selectman Pat Llodra could easily track progress at Canaan. Mrs Llodra said this week, “The Canaan demo project is proceeding very well. It is by far the smoothest demo project we have done on campus — on time, under budget, no surprises in terms of unexpected hazardous materials.” She agrees with Mr Benson that the site should be clean by the end of September, then grass will be planted. Could the space serve as parking, a playing field, open space for recreation?
Mrs Llodra said, “There is no development plan for that site at this point.” Regarding future demolitions or Fairfield Hills projects, she said that the Board of Selectman is now developing a Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for approval by the Board of Finance and the Legislative Council, which has additional funds slated for abatement/demo in upcoming years.
Canaan House was a former state hospital staff residence with three stories, an attic, and a basement, also containing multiple corridors, nurses’ stations, common areas, and elevators. The building was heated and had air-conditioning installed in 1990. After the state closed its Fairfield Hills facility in the late 1990s, the town for several years used Canaan House for some town departments.