Andy Thibault on Litchfield's
Historical District Stating
the Star may not Comply with the District:
NY TIMES FLOWER BOX STORY
February 8, 1998
Mrs. Murphy's Window Boxes
By BILL RYAN
A COUPLE of years ago, Colleen Murphy decided to spruce up the front of her 1782 home in the center of Litchfield by adding four window boxes, held up by metal brackets made by a local artisan, ''I think they're beautiful,'' she says today of the boxes and the brackets.
But she does not think that the reaction of the Litchfield Historic District Commission to the window boxes, and the brackets, has been beautiful. She thinks it has been just the opposite. ''I think I'm being made a spectacle of,'' she says.
When she showed up at a meeting of the commission on Jan. 8, to defend her window boxes and brackets, she says, she was patronized and intimidated by one member, Oren Boynton, a former chairman. She said Mr. Boynton pulled out some comic Groucho Marx eyeglasses, with bushy eyebrows and fake nose, and asked her to put them on, then said she was pretty but the glasses would make her ugly, as, he explained, the window boxes made her house ugly.
Mrs. Murphy has lived in Litchfield for 15 years and is employed as a teachers' aide in a special education class at the high school. For the past three years -- after obtaining permission from the Planning and Zoning Commission -- she has opened her home on West Street to visitors as the Abel Darling Bed and Breakfast (named for the owner of the house in 1782).
Mrs. Murphy says she has improved the house considerably -- ''It hadn't been painted in 10 years'' -- and faithfully replaced many ''six over six'' windows that were beyond saving with expensive counterparts. And no one objected when she put up the window boxes. ''Nobody said, 'Colleen, what are you doing?' ''
The Historic District Commission, however, did. It let it be known window boxes were inappropriate on an 1782 home. By the time the issue got to the commission's hearing stage, The Litchfield County Times had had its say about the historical commission. In its lead editorial for Jan. 2, headlined ''Common Sense in Litchfield,'' the paper charged that for more than a year the historic commission ''has been tormenting a local businesswomen for the felony of flower boxes.''