Preserving History Through Remediation Planning at Historic Scovil Hoe

Groundbreaking ceremony held for the Higganum, Connecticut, community.

May 05, 2023

Two vacant industrial buildings surrounded by woods.

As a farming town, Higganum, Connecticut, was once known for its abundant waterpower and busy town center and has been tied to the D. and H. Scovil Hoe Company since it laid down its roots there in 1844. The company was one of the town’s most prosperous businesses in the 19th century, inventing the Scovil Hoe, a self-sharpening tool with a soft outer edge and hard steel core. Over time its factory building gained multiple mills and this historic site has been a large part of Higganum’s past as well as its town center.

In 1941, the property was sold to the Connecticut Department of Transportation (CTDOT) following business decline and has recently sat vacant for many years. Now standing for almost 200 years, the Scovil Hoe structures’ bones are strong, and with the sale of the property back to the town in 2021, the time has come to reimagine its purpose and give it a new life.

As a result of various investigations from 1985 to 2022, certain areas were identified specifically for remediation and the town tasked VHB with designing and implementing a remediation plan to facilitate reuse of the site. VHB developed a draft Remedial Action Plan (RAP) as a reflection of the discoveries from the investigations to update the site for compliance within the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) Remediation Standard Regulations. Remediation identified by the RAP consisted of five release areas that will be either excavated and disposed off-site or capped in place. These include groundwater monitoring, abatement of hazardous building materials, sampling of Candlewood Hill Brook, and ultimately Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP) verification of the site.

Spearheaded by Amy Vaillancourt, VHB’s Director of Environmental Services, the Scovil Hoe Brownfield Remediation project serves as one of multiple property cleanups in Higganum, one of five villages within the Town of Haddam. Since 2012, Amy has been carefully obtaining funding for the remediation of Scovil Hoe, helping the town acquire $200,000 dollars from the Brownfield Assessment Grant in 2014, and an astounding $1.8 million from the Brownfield Cleanup Grant in 2022 from the State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).

“VHB is proud to partner on projects that restore the workplaces of those before us and prioritize their maintenance so they will live on from generation to generation,” Amy said. “Preserving the hard work embedded into historical sites like Scovil Hoe and allowing a new age of residents to enjoy and appreciate them is simply another way VHB hopes to better communities while honoring history.”

The VHB team, which also includes Pam Lind, Project Manager, Neal Hulstein, Lead Environmental Scientist, and Mark Grocki, Land Development Engineer, has now begun finalizing the remedial plan and preparing bidding specifications for contractor procurement. Project goals include developing a site design connecting interior space with the exterior landscape, developing climate preparedness solutions, as well as connecting the site to natural resources and village amenities.

To celebrate the work to prepare the property, developer Parker Benjamin recently organized an on-site groundbreaking ceremony for the community. For over two centuries, residents of Higganum have shared in the spirits of those who came before them through the community’s commitment to maintaining its roots within its historic structures. Scovil Hoe will now bring employment opportunities and an even greater sense of community through pedestrian traffic. Plans include converting the historic buildings into a market and café, maker space, office space, education center, and event space.

“Simply understanding every element that goes into such a massive project is a feat of its own, but carefully complying with various requirements while working towards an environmentally responsible, historically preserved, and functional site requires a specially curated team,” Amy said. “Reuse and restoration projects like Scovil Hoe brings a deeper appreciation for the work that VHB contributes to our growing communities.”

Construction is expected to begin this June with plans for completion by the summer of 2024.

Learn more about how VHB can provide valuable support to projects by visiting our site investigation and remediation page.