108 Cross Highway: NOT A Teardown!

In June 2011, 108 Cross Highway came on the market. From all indications, it would be the next Westport teardown.

An uproar ensued. The 2-story “vernacular” — with a barn — on the well-traveled stretch between Roseville Road and North Avenue was built in 1805. Records indicated it was one of the few Westport dwellings constructed by a “free black man.”

(That assertion was later challenged. The “Henry Munroe House” may, in fact, have been built by an Indian.)

The usual Westport battle raged. On the one side were those decrying the destruction of a handsome old home — one with historic significance.

On the other side were those who say that property owners are free to do whatever they want. After all, it’s their money.

108 Cross Highway

108 Cross Highway

A few months later, the house was taken off the market, and rented. It came back on last June. The listing price was $999,000 — reduced from the original $1.25 million.

Not long ago, Raveis realtor Amy Swanson was showing homes to Rachel Ember and Jeff Porter. They live on Eno Lane, but wanted something closer to their kids’ schools: Staples High and Coleytown Middle. They were thinking of contemporaries, but Amy took them to 108 Cross Highway.

They fell in love.

“It was so appealing,” Rachel said this morning. “It felt so pastoral and warm. And the barn is awesome. It’s a perfect place to hang out.”

Rachel and Jeff are the new owners of the old house. They closed on Monday (final price: $895,000).

The couple plan to renovate the kitchen and bathrooms, and do very minor touch-ups. But, Rachel said, “we definitely plan to keep it as is. It has so much character. That’s what we love.”

19 responses to “108 Cross Highway: NOT A Teardown!

  1. How many towns in America could boast teardown real estate that later sells for $895k?

  2. I would like to congratulate Rachel and Jeff and welcome them to the unique experience of calling an antique “Home,” especially one with such obvious historical significance. Thank you for saving this little gem (at least for now) from both the wrecking ball and the wagging tongues of some our good town’s less thoughtful residences who had called to have it raised for no good reason other than to exercise their own short-sightedness. Bravo to you and welcome home; I’m sure you will be well-rewarded.

  3. Fantastic result for those who have an interest in preserving our ever-decreasing inventory of historic buildings in town; also a great result for those who wish to see an individual property owner’s rights to modify or rebuild their home as they see fit (within zoning regulations of course!) remain unfettered – an open market result. Congratulations Rachel and Jeff, and thank you.

  4. Thanks for the nice followup story Dan – and thanks Rachel and Jeff for conserving an important part of our town’s historic fabric. The Munroes were respected members of the Greens Farms Congregational Church; it is said that Henry’s wife (Phoebe, was her name, I think) would stand in front of the couple’s house on Sundays and heckle those driving into town for anything other than honoring the Sabbath. How she made this determination is unclear, but the story has a ring of verisimilitude nevertheless. Precious few historic structures owned by African Americans remain upright in our state – which is why the State Historic Preservation Office placed 108 Cross Highway on the Connecticut Freedom Trail (a listing of documented sites and structures associated with African American history) some years ago at the urging of local officials. It is quite gratifying to have such a significant historic resource in Westport. Even more to know that it is safe.

  5. How about some credit to the seller who knocked $450,000 off his asking price to preserve the home’

  6. Finally a positive story about a beautiful home in Westport that is not being torn down. The tear down of the day stories are what first attracted me to this awesome blog, I spent several hours going through all the pictures and stories of all the beautiful homes being destroyed and seeing the ugly modern things put in their places. It made me sad to see the beautiful unique and historic town of my childhood being ruined bit by bit! I could probably never afford to buy a home in Westport these days and to see multi million dollar homes ripped down just because somebody wanted a better view just upset me. I just hope there are more folks like theses folks who appreciate our heritage and restore and continue the lives of these antiques!

  7. Sounds like the house found the right owners. Owning an antique house is a labor of love. Chestnut floors and plaster walls. I hope you find the right people for the renovations. Being part of history is fun.

  8. nationec@aol.com

    just goes to prove that old homes can still be appreciated and worth strong money even if they hold historical value Robert Mills- Fighting for the Maplewood Ave Historic Neighborhood

  9. Bobbie Herman

    As a Real Estate appraiser for twenty-four years, I inspected houses of all ages and styles. I found the Antique or Vintage houses had so much more charm and warmth than any of the new McMansions. It’s too bad more people don’t feel that way. They seem to want “New and Big.” I’m so glad Rachel and Jeff appreciate this historic house.

  10. Re: credit to the seller for reducing the price, thereby insuring its preservation. Fair enough; credit to the seller it is. However, for whatever it’s worth, I’m reasonably sure that the price reduction was not principally a reflection of the seller’s interest in the preservation of the house at issue but more a result of market forces as well as other mitigating factors peculiar to the property. As I recall, this whole imbroglio commenced when the seller applied for (and eventually received) a DEMOLITION PERMIT for 108 Cross Highway. This was, he explained quite candidly at a subsequent public hearing, part of his marketing plan for same. While he certainly seemed, at that time, altogether unmoved by the historic nature of the property, I’ll concede that he may have subsequently developed a sense of stewardship and had a change of heart about this approach – nevertheless, the demo permit was, to the best of my knowledge, never revoked by the seller and remains in force at this very moment.

  11. Leslie Greene

    So glad to read this story! Congratulations Rachel and Jeff–having grown up in a house built in 1750 (my parents still live there) I can attest to the fact that these homes are indeed–priceless!

  12. Wendy Crowther

    Thank you, Rachel and Jeff, for recognizing the charm and potential in the Henry Munroe House and investing in its future. Thank you, Amy, for taking a chance that a customer who was looking for something more contemporary might unexpectedly be swooned by the lovely bones and historic stories that this house, and many antique houses, possess. Thank you to all the people who did their best to slow the swing of the wrecking ball as it descended on this house – the controversy it generated allowed for alternatives to be explored and time to pass so that the right preservation-oriented buyer could end up on its doorstep. Thank you, Dan, for reporting on this story – you made my day.

    • Thanks Wendy. It’s funny, but contemporaries and antiques buyers are sometimes one and the same… both are looking for something “a little different”. So glad Rachel & Jeff saw those great qualities in 108 Cross Highway as well.

  13. Yes, thank you, all–Rachel and Jeff, Amy, the seller(s) and, of course, Dan! Love that this house was saved.

  14. Amy you are so very right about antique and modern buyers. I live in an antique house that I love but love moderns equally. Maybe it is, as you commented, just that they’re “different”. Go figure.

  15. Thank you all for your kind words. And a special thanks to Amy Swanson for bringing this property to our attention. We love the house, are thrilled to be making it our home and contributing to the preservation of Westport history.