The 250-year-old home at the corner of Roosevelt Drive and Route 188 is filled with musty rooms and warped floors.
But owner Tony Mavuli wants to renovate the building, build an addition and open an upscale restaurant in its place.
“I think it will be a big asset for the town of Seymour,” Mavuli said Thursday, as he toured the 1757 saltbox home, known as the Smith-Tomlinson House.
He hopes to serve a variety of food — including sushi, steak, brick-oven pizza and Italian offerings.
Mavuli owns the Villa Bianca banquet facility on the same corner, and has experience as a successful restauranteur in Milford.
He opened Gusto, an Italian restaurant on Route 1 in Milford, in 1993, and sold the business to his brother a few years ago.
For the past 20 years, Mavuli has had his eye on opening a restaurant in the historical home.
Mavuli purchased the land and the building about three years ago, he said.
This year he filed site plans with the town.
The restaurant was on the agenda of the Seymour Planning and Zoning Commission Thursday. However, it was tabled.
Michael Horbal, a planner hired by Mavuli’s Sunlite Realty, said Mavuli must get approvals from the Inland Wetlands Commission, the state Health Department and the state Department of Transportation.
Mavuli wants to create a bar and lounge area off the back of the home, where an empty field now exists. He said a side yard will accommodate up to 30 parking spots.
He plans to renovate the existing building — gutting out damaged floors, replacing moldy walls and cleaning up historical details like old fireplaces — to house a kitchen and several small dining areas.
He hopes to be able to seat 115 to 120 guests, and said business from his adjacent banquet facility will likely help the restaurant.
Mavuli’s picturing rehearsal dinners and drinks for early birds to weddings at the Villa Bianca.
“They won’t have to wait in the Dunkin’ Donuts,” Mavuli said.
He said after the approval process, he hopes to have the renovations complete in a year.
He hasn’t set a budget for the project.
“Whatever your budget says, it’s always double,” Mavuli joked. “If I think about how much it’s going to cost, I’m not going to do it.”
Jon Szuch, the chairman of the town’s Economic Development Commission, said he hopes the plans come to fruition.
“Mr. Mavuli has been an outstanding resident of Seymour for a very long time and operates a beautiful banquet facility along Route 34,” Szuch said in an e-mail. “His proposal for an upscale restaurant in Seymour is ideal, even in these economic times.”
Szuch said residents often tell him Seymour needs more steakhouse or seafood restaurants.
Mavuli said he sees a market in Seymour for that type of restaurant, based largely on the customers who used to frequent Gusto when he owned it.
About half drove to Milford from the Valley, Mavuli said.
Marian O’Keefe, the curator for the Seymour Historical Society, was relieved the plans don’t involve tearing down the home.
But she said she would like to see the renovations take place while preserving the outside historic look of the house.
“My only concern would be if they destroyed the architectural integrity of the outside of the building,” O’Keefe said. “I would like to see it remain as a saltbox.”
O’Keefe said the house is the last remaining historical saltbox in Seymour, and has architectural significance as a result.
It was built by Ephraim Smith in 1757, with a center stone chimney. The house was used as an inn and stagecoach stop for people traveling along the road to and from Albany, O’Keefe said, citing research the historical society compiled in the 1970s.
The outside basement door was wide enough to move kegs of cider in and out, O’Keefe said, a sign that the house was used for travelers looking for drinks on their stops.
Contrary to urban legend, George Washington did not once sleep at the house, O’Keefe said.
Mavuli said the historical society does not need to worry — he plans to preserve as much of the house as possible.
Of particular interest are the deep brick fireplaces in each of the rooms.
“I don’t think it will be any problem,” Mavuli said. “I’ll be preserving it.”
Melvin Mason contributed to this report