20 Maplewood Avenue: The Sequel

Maplewood Avenue is a great neighborhood, filled with older homes. Residents love the streetscape, and work hard to protect it.

In 1996, Bill Dohme — a restoration builder — and his wife wanted to expand their home, at 20 Maplewood Avenue. They drew up plans that kept the body — and historical integrity — of the house intact. But other expenses put the remodeling on hold.

20 Maplewood Avenue

20 Maplewood Avenue last year…

Right after Memorial Day last year, the Dohmes sold their house. Knowing that teardowns are rampant all over Westport, they made the remodeling plans available to the new owner.

In February — hearing that 20 Maplewood would be torn down — Bill gave the plans to the Historic District Commission. He hoped they’d meet with the new owner, and urge him to reconsider.

It did not happen. On Tuesday, the bulldozers moved in.

Yesterday, they were done.

...and today.

…and today.

37 responses to “20 Maplewood Avenue: The Sequel

  1. Wanda Tedesco

    It’s a sad time for Maplewood Avenue residents. Fortunately I have many, many fond memories of living and raising my family there. My daughter currently lives in the home we occupied as she was growing up with her brother and sister. Her daughter (my granddaughter) now sleeps in her bedroom. Unfortunately if Westport continues this way our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren will have no memory of what it might have been like to live on a quiet neighborhood street where the capes, modest colonials or average ranch style homes light up at night inviting you in. By day it was often Maria, do you have an extra egg? Would you do that elsewhere today? You may not even know your neighbors name. Keep the good fight going to make Maplewood Avenue an Historic District.

  2. The HDC’s charge, among other things, is to explore “reasonable alternatives to demolition” in situations in which a historic resource is imperiled. Existing plans for a sensitive expansion of 20 Maplewood would naturally have been at the center of the conversation between the HDC and the new owner of the property. The question is, were they? If they were not (as appears to be the case from reading the story) then this constitutes a serious lapse. And requires a serious explanation. Soon.

  3. For what it’s worth (a lot) (on a relatively small lot) — the proposed 5,200-square foot home is listed at $1.795 million: http://www.zillow.com/homes/#/homedetails/20-Maplewood-Ave-Westport-CT-06880/57416554_zpid/

  4. Jennifer Tedesco Alfano

    Dan, We cannot thank you enough for keeping our “situation” in the news. I cannot begin to tell you how awful it was for those of us who witnessed the demo of this house the other day. It’s quite a story, but the Dohme’s fought to “not” sell house to this person after the buyer “duped” them, so to speak. Maplewood Ave will forever be changed by this and NOT for the better. I take great pride in the fact that my husband and I now own the home where I grew up – and the fact that Maplewood had remained pretty much the same. This is one of the few neighborhoods left where young, middle class families can still afford to live and where some Westport Natives are still present in their original homes – small capes, ranches, farmhouses, craftsmans, and colonials. Maplewood Ave is not going down without a fight. We are in the midst of a Historic Designation process and in the meantime, we will fight this ridiculously over priced, over sized, way out of line with the streetscape home every step of the way.

  5. This is tragic…..another loss of character and history in our town.
    Everything these days needs to be BIG..what about conservancy issues
    of power and water?…Have we lost our foothold on living in harmony
    with Nature? Julie Fatherley

  6. Leighann Tedesco- Walther

    Maplewood Avenue, what once was story book Westport along with so many other quaint quiet streets. I grew up on Maplewood, so many great memories there. Neighbors more like family, long summer nights playing in the street, winter fun sledding and the beautiful field on the corner. When will enough be enough..the charm is lost now.. bigger is better? I beg to differ. If people love the street so much and love the location they need to love it’s character as well. If your life style does not fit into one of our beautiful homes on this street..well maybe you need to move on. It’s sad to read that, the previous owners tired to communicate to the Historic District Commission and there was no successful outcome. Keep up the fight MAPLEWOOD! Your passion is amazing and so is our street and all it’s rich history!! Thank you Dan.

  7. ellen patafio

    This is beyond sad. How can they build such a huge house on this lot? I am so incredibly disappointed that this is able to happen. In no time there will be very little trace left of the history of this beautiful town. I am utterly heartbroken. My sons and I watched the house be demolished and I can honestly say I was incredibly brokenhearted. It was such a beautiful home. This in no way is an improvement.

  8. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    I wish, with a story like this (and so many others), a street area map could be included with the photos in order to refresh memories. Or, turn to Google Earth, I suppose?

  9. Julie O'Grady

    Very sad – same thing is happening to Gorham and Washington Ave where I grew up…

  10. Unbelievable. Used to ride bikes on that street all of the time. That was a Leave It To Beaver street, a Wonder Years street.

  11. So, so sad. I loved that house.

  12. Ugh. Ugh.Ugh. So sad. I’m sorry, Westport of my youth.

  13. I grew up very near the Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan where Henry Ford endeavored tirelessly for years to create a snapshot of Early America.

    Their effort continues today with structures that have been relocated from all over the North and North East including period homes, a country store, functioning craft shops of all kinds, a chapel, tavern, postoffice and town hall; a working farm with its livestock and crops, a covered bridge and windmill. Henry moved the home in which he, himself, grew up to be a part of the Village; the Wright Bros’ bicycle shop is there; the court house where Lincoln practiced law and Edison’s workshop where he invented the first incandescent light bulbs are there as well. He even brought Menlo Park soil and positioned the shop and boarding house where his workers lived, on top of it.

    This effort to preserve America at all costs goes on today, not only in museums like Greenfield Village, but in communities that understand the responsibly we take on in choosing to live in the footprint of our great (and sometimes not so great) past. WE LIVE IN A HISTORIC COMMUNITY!

    But our local history is becoming an endangered species. People who understand this want and need to be able to connect with it. By staying here we choose to coexist with history in a unique way. Those who do not are destroying something that will be hard-pressed (impossible) to regain.

    We need to take an even harder look at protecting our local treasures. If not, we should choose another place to live.

  14. I grew up on Sunset Strip (Willowbrook Drive To some), I played on that street with the Tedesco’s, the Palmers, O’brians, and many other children. It was the kind of neighborhood where everyone looked out for all the kids. We all played ball in the corner lot at the end of Maplewood ave. skipped rope on the street, rode our bikes and skated. I miss that street, it is a shame that greed is taking it over

  15. Yes, Shari — I felt the same about Richmondville Ave which kind of hooked around past the dam and we would end up sometimes on Maplewood – not always sure how we got there?? Same kind of feeling in both neighborhoods. Every year, Westport seems more and more foreign when we return for a drive through and dinner. I agree with Susan that Westport is an historic treasure and should be preserved by those who care about it’s roots.

  16. don bergmann

    To All:
    I do not know the facts about 20 Maplewood Ave. I do know that a huge and correctible problem arises because the Westport Zoning Board of Appeals grants variances that support the tear down re-build process. The Historic District Commission may, on occasion, also play a role. The HDC, however, can only delay a tear down for 180 days. The ZBA can prevent tear downs by refusing to grant any variances to a property owner when that owner elects to tear down and then build a new house. Most of the tear downs re-builds are driven by the desire of a builder to make money. Buy an old house having a zoning “coverage” violation that predates Town zoning regs. for $750,000, tear it down and build a new house at a cost of $600,000 with a somewhat larger, non conforming footprint and sell the new house for $2.2 million. This practice impacts neighborhoods dramatically. It could be stopped if the ZBA did not grant variances to people who come before the ZBA and argue they should be granted a “hardship” variance” to permit them to replace a perfectly sound house with something new..
    Don Bergmann, RTM Dist. One Rep., Member of the RTM P&Z Committee

  17. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Westport is running out of History. It’s too exhausting now to put in, or repeat, any two cents of common sense. No one seems to be home.
    Good luck and best wishes, Westport.

    Nancy Hunter Wilson

    • Almost like that Minute Man poised and ready at Compo do we have to remain diligent and not allow that which we are be in jeopardy. Our historical footprint is grandfathered into this community but without such diligence it could be swept away like so many footprints in Compo’s sands…

  18. Well said Susan!

  19. don bergmann

    If anyone is interested in writing to or attending meetings at which the ZBA is addressing a tear down re-build, please contact me. I am engaged in this effort to reduce the variances granted by the ZBA. Don Bergmann donlbergmann@sbcglobal.net

  20. The original streetscapes in Westport’s non-historically designated neighborhoods are being rapidly altered in ways that are, in many instances, unfortunate. Often (but not always) the replacement structures are almost comically over scaled relative to their modest settings. From the postings, it is apparent that, in addition to the aesthetic issues, there is a cultural/quality of life cost here as well. Of course, people seem buy these awkward, self-referential houses quite readily, so it’s really a tough situation. In any event, my heart goes out to the residents of Maplewood – every time a house on our street goes on the market I whisper to myself “thank God, we’re in a Local Historic District…”.

    On a semi-related note, there are usually two sides to every story. I want to believe that the HDC, which is part of our local government, has a perfectly good explanation for what is implied by this story. Theirs is a difficult and often no-win kind of job – sort of like the tree warden’s. Having said that, it has been several days since this story was posted. I won’t dwell on HDC’s apparent decision to remain silent except to point out the obvious: the public is being left to reach its own conclusion – one that might not be fair or accurate.

  21. jerrymacdaid

    I, too, yearn and despair for our history. Housing developments scarring the countryside destroying the bucolic farmland that was once much of the town. All these intrusive houses should be torn down and the land should be restored to farmland like it was a century ago.

  22. The wailing and moaning about the loss of a Westport that never was is amusing. The hostility in evidence towards anyone who would build a house deemed “excessive” verges on bigotry.

    It will cost close to $120,000,000 to run Westport’s school system next year. Who will pay the taxes necessary to finance that system? Mom and Pop? I don’t think so. Those who value the school system ought to look at the tax rolls, figure out who pays the taxes that fund the Westport schools, and then rethink their hostility towards those who probably pay more taxes than they do.

    • First and foremost, I have not seen anything that I would deem as hostile on here, All of us that grew up in that neighborhood have just stated what a waste it was and is. Having historical neighborhoods is good for communities, people like to visit historical areas, this brings revenue to small towns. Obviously you did not grow up in that area of town otherwise you would realize where our disappointment comes from. I had friends that lived in that house. I just think it is a shame that family friendly neighborhoods are losing their place in this world. Westport has always been a fairly expensive place to live, why? It seems that the whole area is full of expensive places, even Norwalk is getting expensive. How can anyone afford to live there anymore? In my opinion, Westport and the surrounding areas are making it so that only Doctors and Lawyers can afford to live there, that my friend is bigotry.

      • Why do you dislike doctors and lawyers? Are places where they live with their families not family neighborhoods? Why should they not be given the choice to live where they want in houses they prefer? Because you don’t like them?

        If no one could afford to live “there anymore” the prices of houses would decline; that is how the market works.

        When you declare what has happened to “your” neighborhood to be a “waste”, you have revealed your bias. BTW why did people leave the neighborhood, and after they left what did they think would happen?

  23. Michael, I do not dislike Doctors and Lawyers, I was just using them as a reference. If you don’t earn a wage such as a Doctor or Lawyer, then you would be hard pressed to be able to afford to live in Westport anymore, that is the reason I and my family no longer lives there. My family had to sell their business and house partly because of the rising cost of living there. If the cost of living had stayed neutral, I at least would still be there. I know a lot of the people I grew up with moved away for the same reasons. It is a shame that it has come to this and that the history of Westport is not so important. I know there is nothing that I or anyone else can do, progress will happen with or without us. I am just saddened to see such a lovely neighborhood disappear. It seems that everywhere you go, bigger houses are being built, or worse yet sub-divisions and developments. The family friendly neighborhoods are endangered, nowadays you are lucky if you even know your neighbor, much less trust them around your children, just saying and this is just my opinion.

  24. The bottom line is if a neighborhood has the historic resources to put a district together, and wants to preserve their street scape, then giddy up! People who live in neighborhoods which qualify for Historic district status should run…not walk…to the HDC office and start the process. This issue is not about class warfare but protecting some of the more modest and qualifying resources available in these tight knit neighborhoods. By the way…doctors, lawyers, CEO’s, hedgies, and Indian chiefs live in our neighborhood and we somehow manage to co- exist harmoniously.

  25. On the subject of historic districts and “giddyingup” I have a question:

    It is my understanding that a study report for the proposed Maplewood Historic District was completed by the HDC sometime back in November of last year. If that is, in fact, the case, then why hasn’t it been forwarded to the relevant state and local bodies for review, comment and approval? Since the support for the establishment of local historic districts is notoriously evanescent, it is unclear to me who exactly is benefitting from the apparent unexplained delay in this case.

  26. Our neighborhood was in the process of forming a Historic District when a developer threatened 8-30g… The neighborhood galvanized and …in the end…a happy story… no condos and no over scaled homes for the lower part of Gorham Avenue. Instead, the developers agreed to build homes that was architecturally respectful and reflected the scale and architectural rhythm of the surrounding homes. Just drive up or down Gorham Avenue and you can see how things have changed abruptly in the last year or so. Two of the developers liked the neighborhood in the end…and moved in. Although, It seemed like “Nightmare on Gorham and Wildrose Road” at the time it seems to have had a decent ending for all involved. Oh…I want to add local developers to my previous post. Developer comes right after Indian Chief.

  27. Jamie, you stopped development? You’re obviously a doctor and lawyer hating preservationist infidel in need of re-education. I’m afraid I’m going to have to report you.