A $1 million grant from the state has been accepted by Danbury officials to be used for infrastructure improvements at Richter House. The grant money has already been approved by the state Bond Commission. Danbury has set aside $500,000 in the City's Capital Budget for renovations to the first floor of the 1920 building.
During the City Council meeting last week Betty Bontempi of the Richter Association for the Arts says they have faced some challenging situations. She listed three of them: the heat, the plumbing and the handicap accessibility.
The improvements are part of a three phase plan for renovations and remodeling.
Bontempi says between the time they put up the thermostat and the first puff of heat is felt, it's two hours. Performers have been so cold, volunteers make them hot chocolate just to hold. For most of one season, they didn't have any hot water because something was wrong with the pipes. They had to heat water on the stove in order to wash hands and dishes.
She called the upstairs plumbing a disaster. The bathrooms upstairs have broken floor tiles, the public can't walk upstairs and they can't have art shows. Bontempi also noted that they can't plug in two coffee urns in the same room, let alone the same outlet.
Bontempi says handicap people have a hard time on the uneven stones of the front path. If they do manage to get to the door, she says there is no railing for them to hold when they try to negotiate the two steps into the house. She says they had to have two strong men lift a young woman in a wheelchair down the three steps into the salon so she could perform her poetry program. Bontempi added that most handicap people don't come to Richter anymore.
Richter House is listed on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places.