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‘I just wanted to have it over.’ Auction stalls for 350-year-old Connecticut homestead after 9 minutes

The historic farmhouse in Farmington passed down by the Wadsworths for 350 years will be staying in the family, at least a little bit longer.

An auction in the backyard of the house at 107 Main St. Wednesday afternoon broke off after just nine minutes, after bidding stalled at $125,000, with just two bidders upping the ante in modest $5,000 increments.

The auction then entered into private negotiations with the two bidders, and there wasn't any agreed upon sale price as of late Wednesday afternoon.

"It's disappointing, very disappointing," John R. Wadsworth, a family member, said, after the auction. "I've put a lot of time into this place over the last five years. I wanted to move on and have this phase of where we're at done. I just wanted to have it over. It's hard to keep dragging it out."

John Wadsworth and his brother Adrian, who grew up in the house with four other siblings, have been at the forefront of mapping out a future for the property.

The Wadsworth name goes back to the earliest days of Connecticut. One Wadsworth was in Thomas Hooker's band of settlers who founded Hartford, and it was his son, John, that built the Main Street house.

Since then, Wadsworths have for 11 generations lived in the house that has grown in size and added architectural flourishes over the past centuries. The house was once part of an expansive dairy farm, which shut down in the early 1970s.

As the 21st century has unfolded, however, no one in the extended family wanted to purchase the house and take it over. Even John and Adrian Wadsworth now live in other states, relocating after most of the farm was sold off.

The push to sell became more urgent after John and Adrian Wadsworth's mother, Lois Reeve Wadsworth, 92, entered a residential center in Farmington a year ago. The proceeds of a sale are needed to help pay for those expenses, they said.

Attempts to sell the house and land – the last list price was $350,000 – a little over a year ago drew interest but no offers. The age of the house and what would have to be invested to update it were factors, the Wadsworths said.

The Wadsworths then turned to an auction. There was an undisclosed reserve price, and a right of first refusal if the reserve was not met. The house went to auction to be sold "as is."

James Wadsworth, John and Adrian Wadsworth's brother, traveled up from his home in Washington, D.C. to offer support.

"It's sad selling the house," James Wadsworth said. "But we've come to the point, we have no other choice. I came up here hoping to see it go. Hopefully, it will."

At Wednesday's auction, one of the bidders was Yisroel Rabinowitz of New York, who owns three properties in downtown Hartford and headed the conversion of the former Masonic Temple on Ann Street into apartments.

Rabinowitz said he also owns Bridge Healing Arts Center in Farmington, nearby on Main Street.

"One of our things that we have been planning for a while is to start doing weekend retreats, so this would be a perfect fit being that it is so close to the Bridge," Rabinowitz said.

The competing bidder was Matt Kowal of Southington, who attended the auction with his wife, Heather, and two sons, Matt, 3, and Benjamin, 2.

Kowal said he is a heating, ventilation and cooling contractor and works with a real estate investor on commercial renovation projects.

"It comes down to they have their number and we have ours," Matt Kowal said. "Everyone has their limits."

The auction also drew the curious, like Thomas and Jean McCarthy, who run an antique store in town.

"You don't get to see this very often," Jean McCarthy said.

"Changing of the guard sort of thing, see if it goes into other hands or they are going to retain it," Thomas McCarthy said.

Kenneth R. Gosselin can be reached at kgosselin@courant.com.

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