29 North Avenue: The 2nd Story [Photos Added]

29 North Avenue — the charming saltbox home featured in Monday’s “06880” — has a long history.

Jacques Voris — whose roots in Westport go back to at least the 1700s — knows that home, and the surrounding area, intimately. He writes:

I am grateful that Annette Norton chose to restore the house, rather than turn it into yet another generic, soulless, overly large one.

29 North Avenue, today.

In Monday’s article I am quoted as a background, using words I have said over the years. I’d like to take this opportunity to clarify and update some of that information.

I know that for many people this story is meaningless. The people discussed are long dead, and in the grand scheme of history had little impact. However, I find it to be a remarkably human story that gives a sense, a taste, of what life was like in bygone days.

My family has always called it “The Squatter’s House,” because it was said that when it was built they squatted on the land without title. That is why it is so close to the road: It was built in the right of way, a gray area where no one had clear ownership of the land.

The situation was normalized later, in a land swap with the town. Alas, while it is a juicy story, we have little in the way of proof.

The first house on the plot of land was probably built around 1780 by Daniel Mills. He was born in Stamford in 1748. When the situation at Lexington and Concord drew militia from all over New England, Daniel and his brothers marched off with their neighbors.

He seems to have given perfectly good service in his time under arms. But his views later changed, to that of a Loyalist. He and his brother Ezra were tarred and feathered in Dutchess County, New York.

Daniel’s other brother John moved to Canada after the war, so strong were his Loyalist views.

What changed? We don’t know. I have long had a feeling that the death of his uncle Beebe fighting the French and Native American allies around Fort Edward played a factor. Defending your rights “as an Englishman” is one thing, but allying with the hated French is another.

In any regard, after the incident in Dutchess County Daniel moved to Greens Farms, where some cousins lived. They were children of Beebe, as well as his uncle Robert Mills, and the descendants of his great-grandfather Aaron Fountain.

Hezekiah Mills, Daniel’s son, next owned the house. Kiah was veteran of the War of 1812, and a blacksmith. His shop was further up the street, about where 59 North Avenue is now.

He married Charity Mills, his second cousin once removed. She was the daughter of John Mills and Eunice Frazier. John was Kiah’s second cousin, being the son of Ebenezer Mills.

It is likely Kiah and Charity remodeled the house about 1830 into something close to its present form. An architectural review of the house done some years ago noted elements that were consistent with the 1830 date, but also cited tool marks on timbers that would be from earlier.

Undated photo of 29 North Avenue. The barn is in the background.

I have little troubling seeing my frugal Yankee kin reusing much of the material when rebuilding the house.

An undated hand-drawn map of the North Avenue neighborhood. #29 is on the left side, labeled “House.”

The stories of Native Americans visiting the house referred not to random passersby, but allegedly were kinfolk to Charity. That we have such ancestry is a longstanding story in our family, but I can find no documentation to bear it out.

Their son, William Henry Mills, next owned the house. When he marched off to fight in the Civil War with Company C of the 28th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry he left 9 children in the care of his wife Betsey Ann Batterson.

While she raised the children, tended the farm and was midwife to the neighborhood, she was not alone. There were many kinfolk around her. She was also a good churchgoing woman, who sat in the front pew in the east center of the Greens Farms Church.

This undated story from the Fairfield News notes the Mills family’s pew at the Green’s Farms Church. Horace Staples sat in the first pew. Other notable names include Burr, Jennings, Bradley, Wakeman, Taylor, Jesup, Sherwood, Hyde, Meeker, Hull and Bedford.

Then the house was owned by Henry Eldridge “Hen” Mills, the last large-scale onion farmer in Westport according to his obituary.

Henry Mills, 1936.

His son Elmer owned the house next. He is the source of much lore about the house. Elmer seems to have been interested in a good story more than good history.

He was a colorful person. Shakespearean actor, manservant to powerful people, he had style and panache among a family of dour Yankees. Elmer was the last person surnamed Mills to own the house.

The story doesn’t quite end there though. Elmer sold the house to James Edward “Jimmy” Godfrey, his cousin. Jimmy was the son of Eugene Godfrey and Julia Mills. He added indoor plumbing to the house in the 1950s.

Julia Mills was the daughter of William Henry Mills and sister to Hen Mills. People today still recall his daughter Elizabeth “Betty” Godfrey, known as “Nurse Betty.”

Henry Mills and family.

So Annette, there is a story about your house. It’s probably more than you will ever care to know.

You are now the trustee of a legacy of a family, a history that has deep roots in Westport. May you and yours add another long chapter to this history.

William Mills

“06880” Podcast: Bob Whelan

Greens Farms Academy head of school Bob Whelan is one of the most fascinating people I know.

For example: Before he joined the independent school world, he was a rock star.


The other day, Bob and I sat in the Westport Library’s Trefz Forum. We chatted about teenagers, younger kids, college pressure, GFA’s place in the community and commitment to inclusivity, his famous “snow day” videos — and of course, rock ‘n’ roll.

Click below for our wide-ranging conversation. In the spirit of education, you’ll do what I did: learn a lot.


Roundup: “Twelfth Night”, Stop & Shop Trees, Hillspoint House …

It’s easy to get audiences to see “Mamma Mia!,” “The Music Man” or “Guys and Dolls.”

It’s a lot harder for Shakespeare. Especially a play by The Bard that’s not “Romeo and Juliet” or “Macbeth.”

But Staples Players directors David Roth and Kerry Long rolled the dice.

“Twelfth Night” came up huge.

The show — the high school troupe’s spring production — is not what you would have seen at the Globe Theater.

In fact, this production comes from the Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the (Central) Park.

It’s a rocking, rollicking modern-ish musical, with music and lyrics by Shaina Taub.

The singing, dancing, pit and set are — as audiences have come to expect from Staples Players — near-Broadway quality.

There’s just the right amount of Shakespeare. There’s even a cheat-sheet synopsis in the program, telling you exactly what happens.

“Twelfth Night” was a gamble. Players relies on ticket sales to fund future productions.

Fortunately, the audience was near capacity last weekend.

Judging by their reactions — laughing, clapping, and a well-deserved standing ovation — there won’t be any empty seats this Friday (March 24, 7:30 p.m.) or Saturday (March 25, 3 and 7:30 p.m.).

So act fast. Click here to get yours.

Quinn Mulvey as Viola. (Photo/Kerry Long)


Just like the swallows of Capistrano, an osprey of Westport have returned.

Carolyn Doan reports that one of our town’s favorite raptors has returned from the south, to its perch near the Fresh Market parking lot.

“It most likely wintered in South America or Florida,” she notes. “This is probably the male, who usually returns first. The pair winter separately but meet back here every March.

“He’s a few days early this year, and is already sprucing up the nest. The female should join him soon.”

(Photo/Carolyn Doan)


Speaking of nature: “06880” has reported on the still-up-in-the-air fate of 2 cherry blossoms in front of Sakura.

What’s clear is that many other trees will definitely be removed — including those in the grassy Post Road median — between New Country Toyota and Volvo of Westport.

It’s part of a Route 1 improvement plan, in the works by the state Department of Transportation for nearly a decade.

The Post Road/Bulkley Avenue intersection is also in for some much-needed realignment.

Which means that some sycamore trees will come down there, too.

They’ve already been tagged for removal.

Red ribbons mean “removal,” in front of Stop & Shop. (Photo and hat tip/Debra McKinney)


It’s hard to tell from this photo, but Matt Murray saw at least one worker inside 233 Hillspoint Road — aka the former Positano/the current eyesore — yesterday.

(Photo/Matt Murray)

He lives nearby. It’s the first time he’s seen anyone doing anything there since a stop-work order was issued in December 2019, due to building permit violations.

A new home — minus the blue swaddling — is on the market for $7.9 million.


High school students can do advanced trigonometry. But they’ve never been taught to balance a checkbook.

Tom Henske will change that.

This Sunday (March 26, 2 p.m.), the Westport resident and financial industry leader brings his Total Cents program to the Westport Library for a talk, and panel discussion with fellow experts. It’s called “Raising Financially Savvy Kids.”

The goal: to help parents, grandparents and guardians get comfortable teaching their kids about money.

“Everyone sees the clear value and importance of developing good financial habits in our children,” Henske says. “It’s time for parents to take ownership of this part of their child’s development.”

He hopes that Westport becomes “the epicenter for teaching parents how to talk to their kids about money.”

Joining Henske are Caroline Barneyauthor, inspirational speaker, and parent of two Staples High School students; John Lanza, author of “The Art of Allowance” and an expert of youth financial literacy, and Kathy Soderholm, former Wilton High School personal finance teacher and founder of The Good Bookkeeper, specializing in nonprofit organizations.

Henske’s efforts with Total Cents include a book, “It Makes Total Cents: 12 Conversations to Change Your Child’s Financial Future,” and a podcast he developed in collaboration with the Library.

Tom Henske (center) and “It Makes Total Cents” panelists.


The Westport Library, Part II:

They host many non-book events: concerts, art exhibits, even the Fashionably Westport runway show.

This one though is right down the literary alley.

Westport Writers’ Workshop’s 2nd annual Pitch & Publish Conference is set for May 20 (in-person and virtual).

It’s a chance for anyone seeking an agent, looking to learn about the industry, or hoping to meet and be inspired by authors and editors. The event includes panels, and one-on-one pitches.

Keynote speaker Courtney Maum has written 5 books, among them “Year of the Horses,” the groundbreaking publishing guide “Before and After the Book Deal,” and “Touch.”

The conference also features a welcome party May 19 at the Westport Writers’ Workshop on Sylvan Road South, a light breakfast, and a wrap party.

Individual tickets for the conference only are $350 each. Tickets for the conference, plus 2 one-on-one pitches with literary agents, are $600 (early bird discount before April 1), $675 each thereafter. Click here to register, and for more information.

Liz Matthews and Julie Sarkissian of Westport Writers’ Workshop help organize the Pitch & Publish Conference. (Photo/Elizabeth Foley)


Over 80 students attended yesterday’s “Town Hall” meeting with Congressman Jim Himes at Staples High School.

He fielded questions about a range of topics, including the economy, inflation and banking; China and foreign policy threats; climate change; his experience inside the Capitol on January 6, and his optimism for bipartisan legislation and compromise in the 118th Congress.

Congressman Jim Himes, at the Staples Library.


Pianist Ted Rosenthal headlines this Thursday’s Jazz at the Post (March 23; shows at 7:30 and 8:45 p.m.; dinner at 7 p.m.; VFW Joseph J. Clinton Post 399).

He has performed worldwide as soloist, with his trio, and with greats like Gerry Mulligan, Art Farmer, Phil Woods and James Moody.

Rosenthal has released 15 CDs. His latest reached #1 on iTunes and Amazon. He has has soloed with major orchestras, and is on the faculties of the Juilliard School and Manhattan School of Music.

He’ll be joined Thursday by bassist Martin Wind, drummer Tim Horner and saxophonist Greg Wall.

Reservations are highly recommended: JazzatthePost@gmail.com.


Longtime Westport teacher Jane Fraser died peacefully in her home March 1, with her family by her side. She had just celebrated her 95th birthday.

The Illinois native began her 25-year education career In Westport in 1967. She taught at Burr Farms Elementary School until it closed, and then transferred to Greens Farms Elementary.

In the early 1980s she became the district’s K-6 literacy staff developer. During that time Jane was connected with the Writing Project, Teachers College, Columbia University. She presented workshops for teachers throughout the Northeast, and at national professional conferences.

She returned to the classroom to teach 2nd grade at Coleytown Elementary School for 5 years, before retiring in 1992.

In 1994 Jane co-authored “On Their Way… Celebrating Second Graders as They Read and Write.”

Her family says, “She enjoyed her family, chocolate, and being at the beach (in that order). She had an adventurous spirit, both intellectually and physically. She was not afraid to travel a unique path. She was always good company, with interests that stretched from classical music to books to teaching to hiking and gardening.”

Jane’s husband Julius died in 2010. She is survived by her daughters Carol and Ann, stepson Tom, brother Peter and their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Contributions in Jane’s memory may be made to Planned Parenthood or the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Jane Fraser


Yesterday was the first day of spring.

The weather was still late-winter-ish. But soon the wind will die down. The weather will warm up. And all will be right with the world.

In the meantime, enjoy today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo. It’s from Becky Keeler, taken from her deck across from the Saugatuck Rowing Club.

(Photo/Becky Keeler)


And finally … in honor of Tom Henske’s upcoming “It Makes Total Cents” financial literacy program for children and teenagers, at the Westport Library (story above):

(We couldn’t have said it better ourselves: Money does change everything. Including how well “06880” can operate. Please click here to help support our work. Thank you!)

Staples Students Have IDEA For Inclusion

When Leigh Foran moved from New York City to Westport, Long Lots Elementary School classmates asked, “What are you?” Others made fun of the food she ate.

At Bedford Middle School, a girl wore a shirt with Japanese writing. “Ask Leigh what it means,” someone suggested.

“I don’t speak Japanese,” she says. “I’m half Korean, and half Irish.”

Lindsey Price had a different experience with differences. At a Westport “Stop Asian Hate” rally in 2021, a friend’s brother spoke about the racism he faced.

“I had no idea how Westport kids are treating other kids,” Lindsey says. “I was naive.”

Despite their differing backgrounds, Leigh and Lindsey — both Staples High School juniors — have a common goal. They want to teach children, from a young age, about the importance of inclusivity, particularly with peers who might not look like them.

So they started the Inclusion and Diversity through Education and Awareness (IDEA) club at Staples.

“It’s a natural instinct as kids to be rough around the edges,” Leigh notes. We teach them to embrace diversity. It’s great to have different foods and holidays.”

“Differences are good things, not bad,” Lindsey adds. “We want to make all kids feel welcome, and be friends.”

Working first with teachers Rebecca Marsick and Alexis Aaeng, and now social studies instructor Elizabeth McVaney, the girls researched and created lesson plans. They came up with a variety of themes, including inclusion, respect, empathy, diversity, holidays, families and activities.

They approached Westport Library youth services director Mary Parmelee. she was excited, and arranged for monthly sessions in the children’s library. Leigh and Lindsey read aloud, and do activities like drawing and crafts with the youngsters.

Reading to children at the Westport Library (from left): Ava Cordella, Leigh Foran and Lindsey Price.

The lesson on food was instructive. The girls asked the children to draw their favorites. Everyone had something unique — showing that even with people who may look similar, there are differences.

With several other IDEA Club members, they’ve also done programs with the Westport Weston Cooperative Nursery School.

A youngster draws different kinds of people.

Parmelee and parents have been pleased, Lindsey and Leigh say.

For the founders, “it’s so sweet to see kids come out of their shell as the lesson goes on. There really are personal connections.”

The next Westport Library session is Saturday, April 22 (11 to 11:30 a.m.; click here for details).

Westport Library children’s section book display on diversity and inclusion, with the IDEA Club logo.

Meanwhile, Leigh, Lindsey and other club members are creating more lesson plans, and looking for more preschools to work with.

What a great IDEA!

(For more information, email leighmforan@gmail.com)

(“06880″ includes every aspect of our community. If you like what we do, please consider a contribution. Click here — and thank you.)


Pic Of The Day #2163

Ready for summer (Photo/Karen Como)

Junior Oyebog: Rising Tennis Star With Westport And Cameroon Ties

Joseph Oyebog Junior — “Junior,” as he’s called — is a rising tennis star.

Just 15 years old, he won the BNP Paris Bas junior tournament in Indian Wells, California this weekend, with doubles partner Jagger Leach (son of former tennis champion Lindsay Davenport). They took the championship match in straight sets.

Junior Oyebog (right) and Jagger Leach, at Indian Wells.

Junior’s name is familiar to Westporters. His father, Joseph Oyebog, is a former Davis Cup player for Cameroon who has coached young tennis players in Westport for years. Junior is one of his many success stories.

When he’s not traveling to tournaments, Junior is often on the Staples High School courts.

But Westport is important to Junior’s family in another way too. Over 2 decades ago, Junior’s father created a tennis academy in his Cameroonian hometown.

With the help of local families, and a Westport-based board of directors, the non-profit Oyebog Tennis Academy bought land and built a school in the middle of a jungle.

Joseph Oyebog

For the past 24 years OTA has provided free tennis instruction, education and food to thousands of underprivileged children. The academy is famous in Africa, and the skills of the children who attend have improved dramatically.

This year, 2 OTA students received full scholarships to play tennis at American colleges.

The ties between Westport and OTA are growing even stronger. This spring, the academy launches a “Serving for Love” fundraising and leadership campaign, with local high schoolers and other supporters from across Fairfield County.

All proceeds will support children in need, and the OTA program in Cameroon.

Junior and his family are proud of their ties to both Westport and Cameroon, and are committed to making a difference in the lives of underprivileged children through tennis.

Junior’s goal is to play professional tennis. He’s already attracting attention from scouts and coaches.

With his talent — and the guidance of his father — Junior will ace this.

To learn more about Oyebog Tennis Academy — including how high school students can help — email Jnova76@gmail.com.

(Hat tip: Stefanie Lemcke)

(“06880” is your hyper-local blog. To support our work, please click here. Thank you!)

Roundup: Staples Hoops, Blau Gardens, Special Olympics …

The Staples High School boys basketball team reached the end of the line yesterday.

#1 ranked St. Bernard-Uncasville topped the #7 Wreckers, 63-50 in the state Division II finals, at Mohegan Sun.

But Staples’ heads are high. First-year coach Dave Goldshore’s squad enjoyed a storybook season. They reached the FCIAC championship game, then electrified everyone with a stunning 4th-quarter comeback from 18 points down in the state semifinal to advance to the title game for the first time in 86 years.

And they did it all with talent, teamwork, tenacity, passion, poise — and plenty of class.

Thanks, Wreckers, for entertaining and inspiring an entire town, all season long!

The 2023 Staples High School boys basketball team.


Blau House & Gardens is one of Westport’s hidden gems.

High on a Bayberry Ridge hill, the mid-century home (designed by noted Broadway set designer Ralph Alswang) and bountiful gardens (inspired by the Villa Ephrussi de Rotshchild) were developed over more than half a century by advertising entrepreneur Barry Blau.

Blau House & Gardens.

It’s a special property. A recent visitor called it “spectacular! Soothing, cool and wonderful to experience the calm and peacefulness of this environment.” Another described it as “nirvana in Westport.”

BHG is a public charity. Its mission is to acquire and transform the intimate, beautiful midcentury building and space into a public asset for arts, horticulture and garden enjoyment.

Blau house, designed by Ralph Alswang.

Pilot programming has included a book reading by a New York Times best- selling author, a college horticulture field trip, a garden lecture for the Garden Conservancy, and several garden tours.

But Blau’s widow Eileen died last week. The future of the property is uncertain. The estate will have to sell the property to meet mortgage and property expenses.

BHG has the opportunity to acquire it — essential to supporting their mission. They need to raise funds now.

$3 million would include:

  • $1.5 million for the house and gardens
  • $1 million for adjacent property on Fairview Drive, for parking and support facilities
  • $500,000 to start an endowment for operations and maintenance, for 5 years.

The minimum needed is $1.5 million, for the Bayberry Ridge property and gardens.

To help, or for more information, email r@blauhouseandgardens.com, or call 203-952-3335. For a PowerPoint presentation on the project, click here. For the Blau House & Gardens website, click here.

Another view of the gardens.


With March Madness in full swing, this event tonight seems quite timely:

Positive Directions sends news of a Region I Gambling Awareness Team webinar tonight called “Betting on Your Future: What Parents, Teens and Young Adults Need to Know About Sports Betting.”

The Zoom session covers, among other topics, the import of sports betting on youth and the developing brain, and its correlation to mental health.

The webinar is tonight (Monday, March 20, 7 p.m.). To register, click here.


Long-time Westporter, watercolorist and Save Westport Now board member Matthew Levine has one more passion: healthy vision.

Having worked in eye research grant-making for the past 20 years, he knows that 80% of vision loss is preventable — if people practice healthy habits.

“I wish I’d known years ago what I know about eye health,” he says. “I might have been able to help my father (renowned caricaturist David Levine) from losing his career to macular degeneration.”

But Matthew Levine is helping many others. He appears in a new documentary, “Losing Sight, Finding Hope: Loving with Macular Degeneration,” created by the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.

It premieres tonight (Monday, March 20), at 8 p.m. on YouTube. Click here to see.

If you miss it, no problem. The film will be available afterward, at the same link.

Click below for the teaser:


For over 45 years, Our Vision has provided recreational and social activities for people with disabilities.

Among the most popular activities: Special Olympics competitions in bowling, track and swimming.

On April 15, nearly 2 dozen Our Vision members and friends will take part in a Penguin Plunge at Fairfield’s Jennings Beach in Fairfield to raise money for Special Olympics.

As of this morning, Westporter Michael Johnson led, with the most number of donors. Click here to contribute to his campaign, or the team in general.

To learn more about Our Vision, email ourvisioninfo@yahoo.com.

Our Vision Penguin Plunge. (Photo/Bob Schroeder)


“06880” has been proud to feature photos by Tom Kretsch. The Westporter — a retired educator — has a keen eye for compelling landscapes.

The Wilton Library appreciates his talent too. A pair of Kretsch’s shots were just awarded prizes at their “Focus 2 Photo Exhibit.”

Three judges scored images based on content, execution, subject matter, lighting and visualization.

“Winter Peace for Two, Southport” earned a 2nd place ribbon.

“Winter Peace for Two, Southport” (Tom Kretsch)

“The Poetry of Barns, Serene” — taken in Litchfield — placed 3rd.

“The Poetry of Barns, Serene” (Tom Kretsch)


Rock sculptor/photographer Jerry Kuyper submitted today’s “Westport … Naturally” photo, from his property on Rayfield Road.

He asks: “Nurture or nature? This stood for years. But I needed to rebuild it after recent strong winds.”

(Photo/Jerry Kuyper)


And finally … Bobby Caldwell died last week, of long-term complications of a toxic reaction to antibiotics. He was 71.

The New York Times called him “a singer-songwriter whose sultry R&B hit “What You Won’t Do for Love” propelled his debut album to double-platinum status in 1978 and was later covered by chart-toppers like Boyz II Men and Michael Bolton….

“Over his 4-decade career Mr. Caldwell swerved freely among genres, exploring R&B, reggae, soft rock and smooth jazz, as well as standards from the Great American Songbook.” Click here for a full obituary.

(From basketball to beauty, “06880” covers Westport. As a non-profit, we rely on readers’ contributions. Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

29 North Avenue: Big Story Behind Small House Rehab

Westport is known for big — okay, gargantuan — homes.

But one of the smallest is also one of our most beloved.

#29 North Avenue — the tiny saltbox just south of Staples High School, which juts almost into the sidewalk — has long been an object of admiration (and curiosity).

29 North Avenue, in 2014.

There’s some dispute about its history. It dates, in some form, to the 1770s.

Jacques Voris — a descendant of the area’s famous Mills family — says it was built by Revolutionary War veteran John Mills (1760-1829) for his daughter Charity and her new husband Hezekiah Mills (a cousin).

Charity Mills — who lived to be over 100 — had 13 children, “all born in that Mills homestead” on what was then called Eleven O’clock Highway.

Jacques’ research shows it was constructed in the right of way — without title to land. In fact, John seemed to have no claim to the spot whatsoever. Nevertheless, he set up a blacksmith shop for his daughter and son-in-law.

In 1950, a local newspaper described it as built before the Revolutionary War. It featured a huge chimney; “Indians” sometimes seated themselves before the fireplace.

Other sources say the house was built in the 1830s, using beams from the original kitchen of a previous dwelling on the site.

At any rate: It’s old. And in recent years it was vacant, mouse-infested and deteriorating.

An investment group bought it, in foreclosure. When they listed it for sale (at the lowest price of any property in town), potential buyers lined up. All wanted to tear it down and build a new home — just like the ones behind it on Greystone Farms Road, which in the 1990s replaced the orchards and fields behind it.

Never mind that #29 North Avenue stood on a small, awkward piece of land that would make rebuilding difficult and costly (and require numerous zoning variances).

The barn at 29 North Avenue. (Photo/Michelle Perillie)

Annette Norton — who’d grown up in Fairfield, always loved Main Street, and after opening the funky, eclectic Savvy + Grace helped revitalize downtown — had other ideas.

She saw promise in the 930-square foot house. Despite dark rooms, a cramped kitchen and ugly 1970s tiles, she loved its charm.

And she knew it had potential.

As the pandemic raged — and her store remained closed — Annette bought the house.

Most contractors were slammed with work, on much bigger projects. She found Javier Pasato, who shared her passion.

“It was disgusting,” Annette says of the condition of the house. Mice feces dropped from the ceiling. There was termite damage throughout. Even the insulation was gone.

Together, they embarked on a year-long, top-to-bottom renovation/ rehabilitation project.

29 North Avenue, today.

They’re not architects or interior designers — but you wouldn’t know it from their work.

They refinished the floors, retiled the kitchen, opened up a skylight to the second floor, combined 2 closets to make a new bathroom, and used lighter paint (and new windows on the door) to brighten the interior.

The 2 bathrooms blend old and new.

They removed sheetrock, exposing original beams. Annette found a historic fireplace mantel in Bozrah. She and her daughter Chloe drove there; Javier then installed it, replacing bricks installed by a previous owner.

Fireplace before (left) and after. Note the narrow staircase, and refinished floors.

They repaired the cedar roof, replaced the siding, fixed the pipes, added central air conditioning, and installed energy-efficient windows.

The kitchen is small. But with restored tiles, a skylight and a serving island, it works well.

Every inch of the small house makes sense. A reading nook hides the air conditioning unit; hooks on the wall work in place of a coat closet.

From hooks to storage under drawers, Annette Norton takes advantage of every available inch. Original beams and white paint give the small, historic space a bright look.

Outside, the stone wall dating back to the original Mills masons was rebuilt. (Annette constructed a new one nearby too — herself — using leftover stones.) There are new entertainment areas outside in back and front, with heat lamps.

Everyone driving by — and that means everyone in Westport — notices all the changes. That’s because the exterior is painted a welcoming white, and Annette removed the imposing, deteriorating fence that half-hid the house.

She moved in in August. “I understand why people like tiny homes,” she says. “My life is so much easier. When I lived in a 3,000-square foot Colonial, I spent every weekend cleaning. Now it’s just an hour.”

The barn is Annette Norton’s next renovation project.

She’s not the only one who loves her house. A constant stream of passersby — drivers, joggers, walkers — thank her.

“Great colors!” one person said. “It looks so bright!”

“It’s beautiful. Such charm!” another added.

Some people even knock on her door. That’s a bit intrusive.

New front door, with entertainment area.

Annette has given everyone who lives or drives on North Avenue a gift. But it hasn’t been easy. Along the way, she doubted what she was doing.

Annette had similar thoughts when she opened Savvy + Grace. That space too had needed plenty of work.

One day, a sparrow flew into the store. It took a while to shoo it out. Someone who watched it happen told Annette that sparrows — though tiny — have survived a long time, against larger birds of prey.

“When you see one, it reminds you that even if you feel small, you’ll make it,” the woman said.

In the midst of both COVID and renovation, a sparrow flew into #29 North Avenue. That was a sign, Annette thought, that eventually everything would be okay.

Soon, she found a small wooden sparrow. Javier installed it at the top of her bannister. Every day, it reminds Annette that despite whatever else is happening — with both her store and her home — her life will work out fine.

(At “06880,” we keep our eye on every part of town. To help us do it, please consider a contribution. Click here — and thank you.) 

The sparrow, at the top of the stairs. (All photos courtesy of Annette Norton)


Pic Of The Day #2162

Saugatuck River, downtown (Photo/Rachel Konstantin)

Photo Challenge #429

Westport does not lack for old, Federal-style homes, with handsome features like cupolas and widow’s walks. (Though, like many venerable houses in Westport, they are an endangered species.)

So it’s particularly impressive that 17 readers quickly knew exactly where last week’s Photo Challenge — portraying just the top of the home — was.

Peter Barlow’s well-cropped photo (click here to see) showed 16 Bridge Street, next to Saxon Lane near Imperial Avenue.

It’s a well-traveled road. When back-ups occur — as they frequently do — at least drivers have a wonderful streetscape to occupy their time.

(And despite recent new construction, Bridge Street is now part of a Historic District.)

Fred Cantor, Seth Schachter, Doug Weber (who should know — he owns the home!), Andrea Cross, Dave Eason, Jonathan McClure, Andrew Colabella, Diane Silfen, Michelle and Steven Saunders, Werner Liepolt (who lives across the street), Nina Marino, Clark Thiemann, Jo Kirsch, Adam Starr, Shirlee Gordon, Bill Scheffler and Mary Ann Batsell all knew their architecture. Congratulations!

As for that widow’s walk: A kerfuffle broke out in the Comments section when a reader claimed the term referred only to those on homes in whaling communities. That’s not true. Any coastal house can have a widow’s walk.

However, the definition of that feature refers to a “railed rooftop platform” where women could stare out to sea, waiting for their husband’s ship to come in.

16 Bridge Street does not have that raised platform — it’s all enclosed (though perhaps it once did). The debate continues.

Today’s Photo Challenge is a bit tougher. If you know where in Westport you’d see this, click “Comments” below.

(Photo/Scott Smith)

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