‘Last connection to Stamford:’ Badger selling her Shippan lot
STAMFORD — Madonna Badger was looking to start fresh in 2010 when she bought an 1895 Victorian home on Shippan Point.
But the purchase began a saga she could not imagine — one that stripped her of everything.
Now Badger is cutting her last tie to the house, where fire broke out before dawn on Christmas Day 2011, killing her parents and three young daughters.
She has listed the lot at 2267 Shippan Ave. for sale. A sign advertising Lorraine Leonard of Keller Williams Prestige Properties as the agent is posted beside Badger’s curbside mailbox, which for months after the fire was a shrine strung with rosary beads and lit with candles. Flowers, messages, and teddy bears were piled underneath.
The .34-acre lot is newly listed on Realtor.com for $850,000. It is “flat and easy to build — a rare opportunity” that is “minutes from some of the most beautiful beaches on the Connecticut coastline,” according to the website ad.
The lot near Long Island Sound is ideal for “developers looking for a profitable investment,” it says, and “for those looking to build their custom dream home.”
That was what Badger was looking to do in December 2010, when she paid $1.7 million for the 3,350-square-foot vintage home.
She was divorcing her husband of 15 years, Matthew Badger, and wanted new digs for her daughters, who lived with her in a 2,000-square-foot apartment in New York’s Greenwich Village.
Badger, founder of a successful Manhattan advertising agency, chose the three-story house with a turret and wrap-around porch so Lily, Grace and Sarah could have their own rooms and play in a yard shaded by old trees. Long Island Sound sparkled nearby, a beach just steps away.
She immediately set about renovating the house and, in the fall of 2011, with the interior work mostly complete, moved her family in.
She believed that the smoke-detector system she’d purchased was working, Badger has said, but no alarms sounded that Christmas morning. Thick smoke woke her and stopped her from entering the hall, so she crawled out her bedroom window, ran along the porch roof and climbed scaffolding leading to her daughters’ bedrooms on the other side of the house.
Arriving firefighters pulled her from the scaffold. “My whole life is in there,” Badger told them. Her then-boyfriend and contractor, Michael Borcina, also escaped.
Lily, 9, and Grace and Sarah, 7, died along with Badger’s visiting parents, Pauline and Lomer Johnson.
Badger told the fire marshal that she and Borcina had swept ashes from the hearth after using the fireplace on Christmas Eve, placing them in a mudroom.
Marshals, after a few hours of investigation, determined that was the cause. But when the building department ordered the still-smoldering house torn down the next day without notifying Badger as the law requires, she questioned the thoroughness of the investigation.
Three lawsuits resulted.
The late Matthew Badger brought a wrongful death suit against the city that was settled last year for $6.65 million. Madonna Badger’s brother, Wade Johnson, filed a similar suit on behalf of his parents, which the city settled for $1.35 million, also last year.
Madonna Badger said she sued because the city improperly destroyed the house without giving her a chance to have it examined for answers to questions that agonized her - was it the ashes, even though they were cool when placed in the mudroom? What happened to the smoke-alarm system? Why was the electrical meter exploding as she ran across the roof?
Her settlement earlier this year required that the city pass two ordinances — one saying the state fire marshal must be notified whenever a house fire results in a death, and another mandating that the state marshal and homeowner be notified when a structure involved in a fatal fire is demolished. The city also agreed to install reflective markers on all fire hydrants in Stamford. Badger got $150,000 to cover her legal fees.
Her attorney, Frank Corso of Corso Law in Boston, said Wednesday Badger decided it was time to sell the property.
“It’s the last connection to Stamford,” Corso said. “The cases are over, and there’s no need to interact with the city anymore.”
Leonard said there is already interest in the property, which hit the market Friday. The buyer will have to be “someone who feels they can make it work,” the broker said.
“The lot is non-conforming, as many older parts of Stamford are,” Leonard said. “It’s in an R-20 zone, where lots should be .5 of an acre. This is .34 of an acre, and the frontage is not as large as R-20 demands. So it is buildable but whatever goes there will be a non-conforming building. It means the buyer will have to build within the footprint of the original home.”
In June 2012, six months after the fire, real estate agent Martin Nirschel - noting Shippan Point’s history as a resort for wealthy Manhattan executives since the 1800s and a sometimes home to celebrities such as actors Tom Selleck and Faye Dunaway, and singer Harry Connick Jr. - said the Badger house now “is part of the lexicon.”
Another agent, Ken Delmar of Shippan, agreed.
“It probably will become a fable,” Delmar said then.
Leonard said she doesn’t know whether the history of 2267 Shippan Ave. will play into the sale now.
“I really don’t have any experience with that,” said Leonard, whose daughter, Victoria Lorusso, sold the house to Badger. “I’ve never had a situation like this before.”