Historic Clarence house could become landmark - or rubble - The Buffalo News

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Historic Clarence house could become landmark - or rubble

The little white house at 10375 Main St. in Clarence has seen better days.

Its exterior paint is peeling, several windows are broken and its roof is worn. The Town Board in April asked for demolition bids.

But the house, built in 1890, is a good example of a Colonial Revival Cape Cod style home. It’s also the former home of Tom Todoroff, a producer, director and actor in TV, films and theater.

And it’s close to the nationally registered Clubhouse and locally landmarked Mennonite Church on the Main Town Park campus.

For those reasons, an effort is under way to save the vacant town-owned structure from further deterioration and return it to productive use.

“It’s part of our history,” said Carol Conwall, a lifelong town resident and local artist. “It’s old. It’s quaint. It fits in with what we have here.”

She’s seeking an adaptive reuse for the home and brims with her own ideas. It could be reborn as a community arts center, a welcome center to the hamlet of Clarence Hollow, a hub for the West Shore bicycle trail nearby, or something else.

“It’s all in how you dream it to be and finding the help to make it happen,” Conwall said.

The town’s Historic Preservation Commission on Monday recommended that the Town Board designate local historic landmark status for 10375 Main St. Conwall chairs the commission, but emphasized she is advocating for saving the home as a private citizen and not in her official capacity.

The home’s fate now rests with the Town Board.

“All options are open for the house at this time,” said Town Supervisor Patrick Casilio.

The town purchased the home and its six acres about four years ago to expand the adjacent park, he said. The home is “dormant” and winterized, while Eagle Scouts have maintained the grounds, he said.

“We have some feelers out there to see if anybody’s interested in it,” he said.

Town officials want to see a plan in place before funds are committed to improving the home. The cost to restore the home is estimated at at least $200,000.

“They want to know, ‘What are you going to do with it if it’s saved and rehabilitated?’” she said.

As a first step, Conwall has set out to raise awareness of its historic significance and recruit help.

Measuring just 1,551 square feet, the two-story wood clapboard home has four bedrooms and two bathrooms on a rough stone foundation. A circa 1920s garage with original doors is to the rear. On its north and east sides are fieldstone walls, like those built by farmers throughout Clarence to divide their fields.

Through her research, Conwall discovered that Todoroff lived in the home during the mid 1970s. She reached out to Todoroff about five years ago. He told her his single mother moved him and his brothers from South Buffalo to Clarence for better schools. They rented the home from Vivian Kreitner, who lived in the red brick home next door where the Clarence Fire station is now. Todoroff’s first job was as a waiter at the Coachman’s Inn across the street.

“I think it’s a beautiful idea. I love that house,” Todoroff said of Conwall’s vision. “Carol is so passionate about this and I love it.”

It was at Clarence High School as a junior and senior in 1974 and 1975 that Todoroff was first exposed to theater, Shakespeare and the arts. He went on to study at The Juilliard School and produce and act in the film “Cobb” with Tommy Lee Jones, among other credits. Today he's an educator with his own conservatory in New York City's theatre district and has taught thousands of students around the world.

“None of that would have happened if I hadn’t spent two years in Clarence,” he told The Buffalo News.

The Town Board last month initiated a coordinated review of the property under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which is required before any changes to a structure built before 1950 can be made.

But the Town Board in April also issued a request for proposals to knock it down or remove and relocate it. No bids were submitted.

“Once this comes down there’s no bringing it back,” Conwall said.

One option under consideration is moving the home closer to the town’s historical museum in the Mennonite Church. Whatever is decided, Casilio said the public will be informed.

“The Town Board has been very transparent on this,” he said. “Whatever action we take everybody will know about it. It’s certainly not going to disappear in the middle of the night.”

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