A Unique Restoration

Branford's Stony Creek neighborhood has a colorful history - and our building at 116 Thimble Islands Road played an interesting role on the local stage. Not designated a historic landmark, this building is one of the few commerical and residential (mixed use) buildings in the neighborhood that is actively operating much as it did throughout the 20th century.

The Neighborhood

Stony Creek was a boisterous village at the turn of the century. In the golden age of railroad travel, Branford was a popular summer retreat destination for New York city dwellers (and beyond) to escape the heat and enjoy respite in the cooling coastal breezes and hospitality of the many grand Victorian-style hotels that peppered Connecticut's rocky shores.

Stony Creek offered vistas of the Thimble Islands and docks packed with a flotilla of shuttle boats to ferry guests to the inns and private homes on those close-to-shore rock outcrops. A trolley car rail and the rough-and-tumble economy of the active granite quarry and loading docks all combined to an air of noisy, bustling life that co-mingled visitors of high social prominence with masons and shopkeepers.

Sadly, storms and fires brutally brought many of the fine old wood structures to ruin. There is still an architectural beauty on these shores where modern and modest find harmony.

Corner of Main St and Ridge

Streetside Saloon

Originally a one-story building built in the late 1800s, Stony Creek Depot's antique shop lives in a space that was once a bar to serve the local quarry workers. One of seven in the village, each bar catered to a different set of regulars (usually sharing common ethnic backgrounds). Old timers recall this as a watering hole for veterans after the war, "it was really loud" recalls one senior local "creeker" who still lives in his childhood home up the street. Creekers often don't fly too far from their nest. Many of the houses in the village have remained in families for many generations.

Built against a granite ledge that rises up an incline, the building doesn't follow the setback required by modern building codes. If you step into the back basement, you can still see the spikes and hammer marks left by the masons, along with the old timbers that form the building's foundation. Over the decades, the space has operated as a bar (probably the most popular), barber shop, antique store, office space and photography studio.

Family Residence

Pre Renovation ExteriorThe second floor residence was added c.1920-1930s and the construction techniques give clues to the times. Horsehair plaster and lathe, fir wood flooring were used in the older half, while and expansion later saw the addition of oak floors in the front entry (well, OK, so it faces the back of the house) and sitting room.

Originally a 3-bedroom residence, recent renovations utilize the space with 21st century amenities including an open plan kitchen.

Going Up

Purchased in the late 1950s by John and Alice Green, the roof was raised for a finished attic living space in the late 1980s to accomodate the family's need for expansion. With little practical horizontal landscape on the steep, rocky lot, the best solution was to add a third floor to the building, but apparently the use of plumb bobs and levels were considered extraneous by the builder, because there is not a straight line to be found up there.

The final, funky third floor features soaring ceilings with tounge-and-groove cedar and clean, smooth drywall. Ample skylights were added to maximize that natural light - which is most welcome during the winter months. When summer's leaves have fallen, you can catch a view of the sound, just across the road. It's a beautiful space to take in the treetops and occasionally hear the rumbling Amtrak Acela rushing past between stations.

Renovated + Ready

Exterior after Renovation

Claudio Riccitelli and Barbara Lucas (Riccitelli)Today, Stony Creek Depot is operated by husband/wife team of Claudio Riccitelli and Barbara Lucas Riccitelli. Claudio is a licensed home improvement contractor and Barbara is a marketing professional so their skill sets are an ideal marriage for this unique operation.

Both Branford natives, they formed Stony Creek Depot, LLC in 2014 to save the building and tackle an ambitious renovation for this ailing but charming building.

Locating their online sales operation in the first floor, they spent 2014-2015 repairing the two-story residential space to more code-compliant building standards while retaining the building's longtime footprint with the flavor of its traditional coastal architecture and quirky infrastructure.

Stony Creek Depot once again offers a bit of traditional retail and residence on Thimble Islands Road. Gone are many of the fondly remembered shops, like Payne's General Store, but with the promised revitalization of the historic Puppet House into the Legacy Theatre, it's going to be bustling once again near the Ridge Road intersection.
Who knows what role the building will play in the 21st century?