4 Stony Brook

For many years — as a teenager, and on through my 20s — Christmas carols at the Bacharachs were a cherished holiday ritual. Longtime Westport families like the Shermans and Leonards gathered at 4 Stony Brook to sing, eat and share in the warmth of the season.

DoDo Bacharach (Photo/Robert Colameco)

The warmth came both from the cozy, 18th century home and the family that lived there. James and DoDo Bacharach were committed Westport volunteers (the Bacharach Community emergency shelter homes on Wassell Lane are named for them), who raised 5 caring, compassionate children.

But the kids are long grown, and DoDo is moving to a smaller home. She and her children tried everything they knew, but 4 Stony Brook — a lovely home in the beautiful Old Hill section of town — may soon become a teardown.

DoDo’s grandson Dan Colameco wrote this tribute to the house he loved on his blog:

It was built in 1796.

A light blue farm house perched at the top of a hill. The family that built it owned the small farm encased by a stone fence. And there it sat for years, a picture of colonial New England.

The house survived the decades that passed, the presidency of Thomas Jefferson, a Civil War, an industrial revolution, a great depression, and 2 world wars.

Then one day, a young couple pulled in its driveway.

And roughly 150 years after it was built, this young couple would be just the 3rd family in a line to own the house. A husband and wife from Manhattan, with 4 young kids and 1 soon to join. A mother and father. A businessman and a social worker. A World War II veteran, and a survivor of the Great Depression.

My grandparents.

And this house they would call home for over 6 decades. They raised 5 children in it. The house saw countless birthdays, Christmas singalongs, the passing of its male owner, and the birth of his 13 grandchildren.

Low beams lend intimacy to the interior. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

Which is where my part in the story picks up.

I should start by noting that my grandmother, after decades of ownership, has sold the house. After 27 years, and countless holidays and celebrations, I’ve spent my last nights under its roof.

There will be no more nights spent in these bedrooms. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

And while this could easily be a story about the injustice of wealthy out-0f-towners pillaging and converting what once was a quiet town dotted with historically rich homes into a developer’s wet dream, and one-upsmanships of who can build the next house the biggest, it’s not.

This is instead a love story.

A story about a house.

Although this house was constructed 186 years before I was born, in my mind  it seems to have grown up along with me.

The kitchen first began as a maze of legs and feet, where giants roamed around in the forms of my aunts and uncles. The kitchen later served covert missions to raid ice cream containers after parents went to bed. One night not long ago I sat at the kitchen table for the first time with my girlfriend.

Countless conversations took place around the kitchen table. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

The “toy room” upstairs, the converted bedroom, was the closest thing we had to the Wild West. It was far removed from the rule of law, and parental supervision. Anything could go: knee soccer matches, pillow fights, epic fort construction to make Frank Lloyd Wright proud. The room once held the giggles of playing children, replaced by silence as teenage cousins slept long into the 11 a.m. hour.

The library held the flickering images of baseball games playing to a room full of adult male eyes, and 1 pair of kid’s: mine. I sat on the carpet, doing my best to echo the cheers of a game too complicated for me to understand. This same library last weekend held another group of adult eyes, as the sons of these men sat together in front of an updated television screen.

The library at 4 Stony Brook Rd. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

The dining room table saw it all: Thanksgivings, Christmases, and each breakfast, lunch and dinner in between. The table held a birthday cake as a man, his body hijacked by Parkinson’s, blew out candles.  Damp-eyed onlookers clapped, while the young onlooker in the corner knew he would never forget the moment. At the same table crowded bodies hung on each word of the warm, smiling white-haired lady as she recounted a first meeting with a young naval veteran on the corner of 43rd and Lexington.

Most of this has little relevance to you. Still, there is one last part of this house I’d like to talk about. It’s the part of the house that tells its story better than I could ever hope to.

Flat, rectangular stones serve as the sides of 3 walls that wrap around the heart of the house. But it isn’t a wall at all. It’s a giant fireplace. There are  3 separate openings, and the 2nd floor looks the same. In 1797 the fireplace was built to heat the entire house.

At the center of this house, its heart spread warmth as far as it could.

The beloved fireplace. (Photo/Robert Colameco)

Over the course of this final weekend at a house I’ve always known, I kept thinking of that old quote: “You can never go home again.”

I kept thinking how I never understood it. It never made sense to me.

I never realized why until just this second.

The reason I never understood this quote is because I could never relate to it.

Because how could I ever go home again, when thanks to its warmth, I never left.

(Photo/Robert Colameco)

105 responses to “4 Stony Brook

  1. readermaniac

    What a poignant story, it is a tragedy that this historic home cannot be saved. My family and I can relate to this story, our parents sold our Westport home when they retired to Cape Cod (that house was built in the 1800’s, not as old as the Bacharach’s, and definitely not as historically significant, but just as special to us) . It was a happy occasion for my parents (who had built their retirement home on the Cape in the 1970’s),but hard on us ‘kids ‘. This past December we sold the Cape house and packed up all the antiques that had come with them from Westport …and the memories.

  2. timeandagain

    And this is where another’s story starts. They buy a house and …..
    We are all mere renters.

  3. Another McMansion I’m sure and no respect for the past.

  4. Thanks for sharing this touching story giving us a window into a family’s history through the spirit of a happy home. It would truly be a tragedy to see this house torn down, among others, to be replaced by a soul-less McMansion.

  5. Babette d'Yveine

    What a tragedy! Is nothing sacred any more?

    • Westport Convert

      Our freedom is still sacred. The freedom to do what you please with the property that you own.

      • Eric Buchroeder

        What value is freedom in the absence of character?

        • Westport Convert

          The actions of freedom should always triumph unless it is harming another or impeding on other’s freedoms. Thankfully, this teardown harms no one – except for those complainers who are afraid of change. Westport is not the quaint “artist’s colony” it once was. It’s time to face the facts.

  6. Eric Buchroeder

    It appears that the Bain management philosophy has diversified into real estate. The 1% are in the process of destroying everything. Property has assumed inflated $$$$ value and at the same time loses all its true value. The only people with the resources to buy a house, and destroy 250 years of historical and sentimental value are the people who don’t appreciate it enough to save it. Fifty years ago someone would have walked into this house, seen the beauty in it and bought it as much to preserve it as to appreciate it and carry it on to the future. Those days are gone. We have truly allowed all of our character to be surrendered to the 1% who have no character. And of our homes so of our livelihoods and our morality as a nation. Remember this in November.

    • Nonsense; 60 years ago people were building splitlevels and small ranch houses where beach bungalows once stood.

      • Eric Buchroeder

        Yep and they are the types of people who can’t see the difference between then and now.

    • Westport Convert

      Move out of town if it offends you that much. Unless it is a protected historic property, the new owners have the right to do what they please. Thank goodness for that freedom.

      • Eric Buchroeder

        I moved out of town in ’78 but I remember that house.

      • Dear Westport Convert. and others on this post.
        I grew up in Westport. It was the place my mother died. It has held my familes trust and love for decades. The truth is. Westport aka Farifield County was my home. There has always been an air of change in the community. People taking and rebuilding. Even those refurbishing. The issues here is this house, is historical. It has deep roots. The Trust for Historical Preservation should be notified immediately to help save the house. Landmarks like this, once on the national registry. can and do require protection from tear-downs. But, the community must find balance in all aspects of their lives for Westport to survive. In fact pick a city where an old village type town exists. I believe in change and progress, I also believe in sustainable practices. And, in Preservation. You are there now, You have a voice. Use it. As a convert, I think you understand how we all feel. We are not whiners and complainers, just big kids with deep rooted memories of great time in a great little community. Thanks

        • Annie, I am sorry but I do not want to preserve your childhood memories of Westport by giving up my property rights. That is my “sustainable practice”.

    • Forward thinking

      Eric, with all due respect – I do not think the 1% are only to be blamed. Perhaps the public who is so concerned about this (and rightfully so) should lobby the town to take a referendum vote on a tax incentive/waiver for those who restore/refurbish antique homes. The State could be involved here as well. If the public could start thinking creatively and urge their representatives to act in creative, thoughtful ways to save these treasures…..we can prevail. Please , let’s not blog about the 1% with no solutions provided. It is divisive and does not solve any problems. The public needs to give it a 100% effort with workable ideas or these tear downs will continue to occur.

  7. Pete Powell

    I very much enjoyed learning the history of this house. Jim and Do were crucial to the founding of Interfaith Housing and she has remained a volunteer in the Community Kitchen. She and Jim and a few others began feeding people first in the Save the Children Parking Lot and then the Vigilant Firehouse. This ministry continues and has greatly expanded in the Gillespie Center.

    Many meetings in the early years of IHA were held in this house. Most especially we worked to design the current Gillespie Center in the Bacharach dining room.

    To recognize their contribution to solving homelessness the IHA (now HwH) shelter for families is the Bacharach Community.

  8. interested reader

    Who wouldn’t walk into that house and love it! Why the tear down vs. some updating? It’s a beautiful house with a beautiful soul and have to agree with Eric on this one — well said. Too sad that Westport, a great town, is becoming gradually unrecognizable — we only go through about once a year and it’s sad.

  9. More whining from “progressives” who fight change. If you like the house ; buy it.

    • John McCarthy

      This might be a new record…..8 comments before the phrases “whining” and “If you like the house ; buy it” were used.

      • You should get the message by now. The bleating about evil oustiders and McCmansions is tiring and reflects a hostility towards people whose prefences do not coincide with yours.

        • Westport Convert

          Exactly. Speak the truth, my friend.

        • Richard Lawrence Stein

          Grow a pair anonymous… Same argument you don’t want to be named at least make one up… People whine on all fronts… But for those who have been here for decades or want to be in touch with what was updating is not a bad compromise for a place that is not falling apart.

          • I have been here for decades, and the hostility directed at those who would institute change has been evident for all of those decades.

        • The better anon poster

          Right back at you buddy

        • it is about this house, about the History of Westport. You are the one posting with hostility. If you really believe in what you say. Use your real name.

    • Eric Buchroeder

      If I could, I would buy it but I can’t so it won’t happen, I guess. What I do remember about Westport in my youth was having friends who moved into Westport after having lost everything in the Cuban revolution who bought a historical house that had been turned into a “fall-down” as opposed to a “teardown” for about $17K in ’60 and lovingly brought it back while working in NYC. Then when it had passed from my friends’ family that lived in it for 50 years it was bought at 20 times that 15 years ago by people who have maintained its character. I am not against people living their dream but is it necessary to destroy history and character in order to do it? Why not buy a vacant lot?

      • Westport Convert

        I do not think this is an argument about it being “necessary.” If anything I would say it is a luxury. Now, I do not agree with tearing down history and character just for that purpose but it’s not my house and it’s not my property and it’s not my money. The new owners can do whatever they want.

        Do you have a solution to propose if you are so against this? Should we simply ban the right of tear-downs? Incredibly silly. Let it be. What’s done is done.

  10. Shari Keeley Lovegrove

    Soo sad to see another charmer go. I remember Dying Easter eggs with the Bacharachs one year when I was a child. I moved out of Westport when charming became McMansion after McMansion. It amazes me how people moved here for the charm and think nothing of destroying it. What will they have left? Really high taxes and a path to the next charming village to destroy.

  11. This family has lived in this home for 66 years, they have contributed to the Town through their volunteer efforts, and they have exhausted all options to avoid a teardown. Please let them do as they choose.

    • Eric Buchroeder

      They are doing as they choose. This isn’t about them and I agree that whoever can buy it should be able to do what they want with it I simply lament that all they want to do with it is tear it down.

      • Demolition is not “all they wanted to do”….

        As stated in the story, “She and her children TRIED EVERYTHING THEY KNEW, but 4 Stony Brook — a lovely home in the beautiful Old Hill section of town — may soon become a teardown.” {Capital emphasis added}

  12. Property rights are great and I respect that, but faceless…tasteless new construction with no soul seems like the current theme and direction of Westport’s future…Additionally, who ever buys the place….and tears it down to be disposed of in a landfill will probably own a couple of hybrid vehicles and tout how “green” they are…I love the hypocrisy. Also, it always seems like the anonymous posters who like to hide behind their postings…

    • You might argue that new construction is more green because new homes can be more energy efficient. I know that my little, old house uses more fuel in a season than some of the big, new houses in my neighborhood.

    • Gary Singer

      No hybrids for those folks, Jamie. I’m betting there will be two Beamers and a Mercedes convertible in the driveway.

  13. Anne Leonard Hardy

    The Bacharachs! An incredible family! It seems this grandson is very astute, so warmly and inventively capturing both the family’s and the building’s zeitgeist…Bacharachs near and far, you have touched our lives over many years, (and over many Partridge in a Pear Trees) and now again today! Dan, thanks so very much for sharing this.

  14. Eric Buchroeder

    Never have I said that anyone shouldn’t be allowed to do what they want with their legally acquired property. And I couldn’t financially handle the requirements of continuing as a Westporter when I finished my schooling so I went elsewhere. I was simply lamenting what I view as a loss of character and by the response of several who appear to have taken that as an attack on them well I’m sorry but as they say if the shoes fits don’t put it in your mouth.

  15. Sylvia Corrigan

    Houses like this one are treasures with stories to tell about where we have been and where we are going. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could preserve this one? They are markers along the way. Spotted Horse, I’ll Have Another, – keep this; renovate it and maintain its wonderful character – like the Westport Country Playhouse, as a kind of example.
    Make new things, but keep the old – one is silver, and the other, gold!

    • Westport Convert

      It would probably be cheaper to tear down and build new. Renovating a house of this nature – just like the others – is incredibly expensive. Or maybe the owners desired the property, but wish for a new house. Whatever their reasoning, it is their right.

      My question: why wasn’t this house appropriately recognized as “historic” by the Commission? Perhaps that formality would have held some weight in considering the teardown process.

  16. Eric Buchroeder

    I’m outta this one having said my peace. May the house that replaces this one look as good when its 250 years old as this one does. And may it be the witness to as many good times as this one has been.

  17. Nick Thiemann

    The choice is not always between McMansion and classical old house. My understanding is that the new owners here attempted to keep the existing house however they could not renovate to code and still afford the house, Their effort to keep the old house was a major consideration in the acceptance of their offer and both parties were sad at the outcome..
    I guess then that we can blame expensive regulation for the tear down. But do we want to let people live in what are considered fire traps? Tension between safety, aesthetics, charm, character Ayn Rand rightiousness, and most importantly taste, make these debates never ending. All of these values has legitimacy. All have defenders. These comments used to be regular fodder for the Letter to the Editor page of the Westport Town Crier 50 years ago.

    • Westport Convert

      Thank you for bringing the truth out and providing a glimpse into the process. I hope the complainers can rest a little easier now. No more can be said. It is done.

  18. Marilyn Moran

    Thank you for sharing this story about the home of a very special friend.

  19. I certainly hope that someone will see this wonderful home for what it is,a part of Westports history.If people keep tearing down these wonderful homes there will be nothing left of the history.Westport was a wonderful quaint New England town that is loosing all that made it the town it once was.I hope that the people moving into this town will see and understand this,and charish the opportunity to own one of these wonderful olds homes and pass it down to their children so the history can be perserved for all to enjoy.

  20. Marcy Anson Fralick

    Newer and bigger must equal better. Nouveau Riche “if you’ve got it flaunt it” mentality. So much for historic homes with integrity and character. They’re being replaced by McMansions surrounded by bland, ticky-tacky, cookie cutter homes near strip malls. Isn’t that the way of America. Conspicuous consumption replaces reverence for artisan craftsmanship and integrity. Bring on the bulldozers, boys. Let’s make this Southern California in the east. And while we’re at it, tear down Saugatuck and Greens Farms churches and bring in Joel Osteen type Mega Churches to serve the people in the Mega McMansions. Those old, drafty churches are too expensive to maintain. Besides, who cares what the history of Westport is. That’s so 18th century. New residents only care about how they can outbuild their neighbors in a competition of massive consumer excess.

    When I came back to Westport for my high school reunion a couple of years ago, I was shell shocked at how decimated the character and flavor of Westport was with the addition of all the McMansions, the sellout of corporate Main Street to big box stores, and the collapse of the small town feeling. There was very little that I still recognized, and seeing it again with fresh eyes, I was appalled with the blatant displays of flashy largess. Yet, on that same trip, I re-visited other towns I’d lived in growing up in other parts of the country, and much was still the same; updated, but basically the same. The greed and shallowness of flaunting your wealth with biggger equals better hasn’t eaten the character of many cities and towns I remember. Only Westport with its excess and greed mentality disappointed me.

    It’s too bad that a home like the one at 4 Stony Brook, that holds so many cherished memories for so many friends, family and acquaintences of the Bacharachs will be lost. It’s also sad that in this day and age, it’s less expensive to tear down and rebuild a cold, sterile McMansion than it is to preserve the history, quality and integrity of of a beloved family home.

    • Right, you want what you want and someone else should pay for it, but you are not greedy. Got it. People choose to live in Westport, no one forces to them to live in the land of McMansions; if you don’t like it you can leave, and if you are lucky, sell your house to be torn down.

  21. Should the day come we can afford it, my husband and I hope to buy a nice house in Westport that our family can live in. It may very well be one of the new big houses, or what some people like to call McMansions. It may be an old Colonial. In any event, let’s say we buy a “McMansion” (a term almost as overly exhausted and silly as “baby bump” or “just sayin’), what makes that any less of a HOME for the people who live there? The house I live in, no matter how new or old, big or small, one garage or three, will have a door with the measurements of my children (I hope I get to have more than one baby!), fun art projects from school hung on the walls, a wonderful Christmas tree with ornaments that have been passed down, an Easter egg hunt in the yard, art that was my great grandmothers, pitter patter of baby feet, then childrens’ feet, teens’ feet (teens are more likely to stomp than pitter patter) then even a bedroom for them to sleep in on trips home from college, maybe a dog or two, and lots of chatter about the days’ events, laughter, tears and most likely a bit o’ chaos at times. No matter where I live, it will be a home for my family. Just because it looks big and impersonal to you from the outside, does not make it any less of a home on the inside to those who live there. A home is what you make of it from the inside.
    I know people like to complain and vent, but can we all agree that we are lucky that that’s the complaint? A big house? A pop up cafe? A rude driver? A bad parker? If that’s the biggest complaint, than lucky doesn’t even begin to explain the situation!! As long as I have an apartment to keep my family safe and warm, a car to share with my husband, a healthy baby and food on the table, I feel luckier than many!
    There is plenty of charm left in Westport … we have old traditions and new, old stores and new, old homes and new … it’s life, life goes forward. I’ve been here since 1971 – born and bread. Yes, I miss Selective Eye, yes I think many of the old houses are/were charming and wonderful. Yes, I loved knowing everyone around town and even knowing the shop owners and the people who worked in the stores. It’s not the 80’s, they are gone. Change is upon us, so I try to appreciate and love the history of Westport and learn to adapt with the good and bad of new Westport. At the end of the day, is it really so bad when all my needs are met? I have far less than most people in this town, but I have so much more than others and I am thankful for what I have every day. I’ll take these complaints over the complaint of being really hungry, homeless, jobless, etc. Even with the rudest Westporter, worst parker/driver, fewer historic homes, I will take Westport, the Saugatuck River, Compo Beach, the Memorial Day parade, sitting my daughter on a stool at Westport Pizza for a slice the way my mom did, the roof over my head, the fridge with food in it and being able to show my daughter where her Daddy and I met (well, Burr Farms School is gone, but I can show here where it used to be) over any complaint.
    I guess that makes me simple, but that’s okay! Have a great day!

  22. Jamie Walsh

    I will argue with the right architect and contractor the cost of renovating as opposed to replacing can be a wash. In terms of making old homes energy efficient…happens everyday… Nothing can beat old growth lumber….how many years has this house been around? I defy any new construction to endure the test of time… When the engineered and new growth lumber starts to go…it goes… But this comes down to preference…new and shiny vs. an old and well worn shoe with many more miles to go with a little TLC.

  23. David J. Loffredo

    Has anyone driven past the crumbling Victorian on Morningside South that’s now part of a larger new home? Too bad you couldn’t employ the creativity they’ve employed (and there are a dozen other examples in town) to save at least part of this structure even if you’d still demolish and/or relocate the rest of it.

  24. The Stony Brook house may not survive, but Dan’s lovely love song to the house does. This discussion helps me to understand why memoir writing is such an increasingly popular genre in literature (and in our writing workshops). We are hungry to hold on to our histories, many of us. But our homes – our parents’ and grandparents’ houses we (as children) assumed would always be there – don’t do that for us, because they do not last. Bungalows and beach cottages become suburban split levels, which are themselves replaced by modern-day-mansions, which will eventually be torn down and replaced by something else. There is no place for blame in all this – it’s just the way it works in our time and in our economy. But the written word endures. We can hold on to our histories by recording them, every last detail. No one can tear down a memory. Thanks to Dan Colameco for reminding us that.

  25. Eric Buchroeder

    As much as Westport may try….it will never be Greenwich.

    • Westport Convert

      Was there some traumatic event that caused you to move out of town? I feel you have serious, deep-seated resentment and bitterness towards the influx of new Westport residents — simply because they have money and can afford to live here. Let these people be, for goodness sakes.

  26. Eric Buchroeder

    Nope, no trauma. No event except a company transfer. I still have friends in Westport, although few are left. I enjoy visiting the town every year or so and appreciate its beauty much more than I did growing up. If expressing an opinion of general observation on how the character of the town I remember is slipping away for no reason other than keeping up with the Jones’s is something that you take offense at perhaps it is you who harbors “deep-seated resentment and bitterness” towards anyone so presumptuous as to comment upon the nouveaux riche in a public forum. Westport has been the object of commentary much more scathing than mine since before Paul Newman was making films about it. Sorry if I wrecked your day or to have become the excuse for having done so.

  27. look folks i moved here in the mid 60’s…my mother an artist could not stand the tracts of land that had “builders houses” built on them, split level after split level along Colony, Salem, Hillspoint, Valley. That’s why we bought an 1840’s special. It’s not the 1%er’s, its not the wealthy, not the new yorkers … it’s just the way it is … and has been for 50 years, or more likely than not even LONGER.

  28. Rick Leonard

    Thank you Dan C. for your wonderful capture of life at the Bacharachs. No holiday season was complete without their annual sing-along, which drew kids of all ages, friends, neighbors, teachers and even college “legends.” In a way, the annual gathering was not only a place to celebrate it was also a place to grow up.

  29. Mike Hermann

    fascinating thread….and people like Anonymous and Westport Convert are the perfect example of why this happens consistently in Westport these days….they don’t really care about the history of the town or its historical structures….they weren’t here when there were gas stations and grocery stores and a smoke shop on Main Street instead of the soulless mall full of expensive chain stores that exists there now…..sure, it’s the new owner’s money and property and they can do what they want with it….it is exactly this attitude that is why Westport is just a mere shell of what it once was….and these newcomers will never know what I’m talking about because they haven’t been there long enough to feel what I am referring to….so go ahead and tear down a 212 year old home that saw a brand new, 20 year old nation fight for its freedom – AGAIN – and that was actually built DURING George Washington’s presidency – and another little piece of Westport’s history dies and is gone forever….sorry folks, but we’re not talking about a split level house built in the 60s, or one of those properties on Valley Rd like the one my parents bought in 1962 and still own and live in…..someday that house will be sold and probably torn down and yes, I will be sad about that but also understand….but that house has no historical significance other than to me and my family….so hey, why stop at this house from 1796??….let’s tear down those houses in Portsmouth, NH that are from the 1600s and put up more modern homes that are more efficient or even ‘safer’ if you want to reach for that argument….who cares about the past…..this is America….let’s plow on forward, right??…..and I wonder why I come back there for visits and feel what I feel…..the argument to let the new owners tear this house down only confirms what I feel when I do come back.

    • Marcy Anson Fralick

      Excellent post, Mike. My sentiments, exactly. I lived in Westport many years ago. I went through Burr Farms, Long Lots and Staples. I remember many friends’ houses; split levels and old Colonials, and everything in between. Back then, Westport had character, had purpose, had soul. Residents had pride in Westport’s history and maintaining that history going into the future. Somewhere, that vision got off track. Greed and superficial values replaced honesty and integrity.

      Going back to Westport in 2010 for the first time since I graduated in 1970, it was a massive shock to see the blatant greed and the pretentiousness. I was honestly slack-jawed at the excessive and gaudy show of money. So many homes I played in as a child were gone. In their place were huge monstrosities of a non-descript architectural style. They had no character or charm, instead they were cold and ostentatious. Gone were the beautiful, old Colonials, the Cape Cods and beach homes near Compo that exuded warmth and coziness.

      It was also sad to see my old Main Street haunts replaced by big box stores that can be found in Anywhere, U.S.A. Where’s the uniqueness in that? I walked around the downtown area, and felt nothing but bland, non-descript stores of no interest. The stores of my youth that made going downtown an adventure were gone. I understand that places change and grow. I spent the 40 years since graduation from Staples in Colorado where sleepy little mountain towns became “Glamour Gulches” for the Hollywood Elite, but even in Aspen, Telluride and Breckenridge to name a few, there has been a concerted effort to maintain the integrity and historical feel to the former mining towns. They may have celebrity enclaves, but the essence of the towns has been retained through its architecture, renovated historic buildings and homes. New construction must meet strict architectural standards so that houses and businesses blend in with the existing structures and reflect the essence of the town’s history. Colorado’s mining towns aren’t that old compared with Westport, yet they place more emphasis on history and maintaining historical authenticity than a pre-Revolutionary war town with over 200 years of rich history does. It seems to me Westport sold out to the nouveau riche who want to flaunt their wealth. That’s pretty tacky, and shows no class. There is integrity in restraint.

      Anonymous and Westport Convert’s attitudes do not bode well for the future of Westport. Their “so what” indifference is a sad commentary on the prevailing thought that “bigger is better” or “if you’ve got it, flaunt it”. The only ones who win with that attitude are the developers. The people lose. “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone….” Joni Mitchell

    • Well said Mike!

      Anonymous and Westport Convert are the nouveau riche and have no clue.

  30. W1: Why is it that the 1%-ers are always to blame when a situation like this happens? I happen to agree with Jessica, there is no place for blame here, but if there is, why doesn’t some of it rest with the good Bacharach family?

    W2: Didn’t you read: “She and her children tried everything they knew” to prevent this from being torn down.

    W1: Did they try to give the property away to someone who would register it as a Local Historic Property and take care of it? I’m sure they wouldn’t actually have to give it away, but they might have to sell it for less than the tear-down value.

    W2: That’s not an alternative.

    W1: Why not. Isn’t putting a price on saving a home like this just being greedy?

    W2: Not when it involves a respected local family. It’s just a lot easier to blame the rich.

    W1: I’m sure it is. I also agree that it’s unfair to expect the Bacharach’s to sell this property for less than the tear down value. I’m sure that DoDo would agree that the extra money would go to the best use possible for her family and that family is more important than any home.

  31. W1: I happen to agree with Jessica, there is no place for blame here, but if there is, why doesn’t some of it rest with the good Bacharach family?

    W2: Didn’t you read: “She and her children tried everything they knew” to prevent this from being torn down.

    W1: Did they try to give the property away to someone who would register it as a Local Historic Property and take care of it? I’m sure they wouldn’t actually have to give it away, but they might have to sell it for less than the tear-down value.

    W2: That’s not fair.

    W1: Why not. Isn’t putting a price on saving a home like this just being greedy?

    W2: Not when it involves a respected local family. It’s just a lot easier to blame the rich.

  32. What does it mean to "care"

    In my book, when a person truly cares about something, they do something about it. They really do something about it: not just complain on a blog. Blaming others just creates negative feelings all around and accomplishes very little.

    Say what you will about the 1 percent, but when they truly care about something, they get things done: they work to understand the problem, they come up with plans, they organize, and they implement.

    So stop just saying that you care and actually do something about it.

  33. Jessica, I appreciated your thoughtful attention to the beauty of the words capturing the charm of the house forever – I would add that the photos also preserve the moments and memories beautifully.

  34. long gone but still care

    Amen to Mike, Eric and Marcy — couldn’t agree more. That being said, no one is saying the new owners shouldn’t feel free to do whatever they want. It’s a free country. My one big question is — ever drive around parts of Europe or parts of Pennsylvania? Yes there will always be new construction everywhere as well but there’s more effort to preserve the history for centuries in other areas of the country and world. We left Westport back in the day for Philadelphia Main Line — lots of money there too but drive those streets and there are multitudinous old homes dating back to the 1600’s and 1700’s. My family bought a gorgeous renovated farmhouse out in Lancaster County a few years ago dating back to the 1600’s and you couldn’t walk into a more beautiful home with a more gorgeous setting — postcard perfect. While the kids of Westport were partying in beachside mansions, we partied in centuries old barns on million dollar+ properties as well so if people choose to, preservation is possible and I wouldn’t trade partying in those historic buildings for anything. If Westport chooses to go Hollywood, can’t stop em but as Mike and Marcy said, for those of us who remember when the town had a soul, not so much nouveau riche indifference, the change is horrifically jaw dropping and no we’re not “whining” as the folks on this blog love to say — we’re simply stating fact and with some class, I might add. So thanks to Eric, Marcy and Mike and others for the eloquence vs. the other on this blog . People do care and CAN do something if they really choose to.

  35. Perhaps Westport convert’s husband or him/herself is a Developer.

  36. And the bleating continues; evil rich people, ugly McMansions, lack of soul (whathever that means), my values are better than yours, Westport was better when I moved here (even if it was last week), I want it my way and I want you to pay for it. How tedious.

    People who build new houses employ other people, and as long as they comply with existing building and zoning codes, it’s a good thing.

  37. long gone but still care

    It’s nice to see that “Anonymous” has now gotten out of the “w’s in his oh so limited vocabulary and is now repeating like a mantra (sorry is that too big of a word for you?) gone to the “b’s” for bleating. You further illustrate our point very loudly, Mr. Anonymous that Westport has been ruined. Continue congratulating yourself on your bank account, it’s so bleatin classy!

    • If you are gone, you made your preferences known.
      I guess Westport’s ruination began with the installation of indoor plumbing and electricity. Once people were given the right to choose to acquire those conveniences the ambiance of the town was destined to be ruined. Freedom is a threat to the sanctimonious.

      The house in this case was built in the 18th century; before electricity, before indoor plumbing, before the polio vaccine, when life expectancy was less than 50 years, and slavery was legal. Since you pine for that era, you can recapture its attributes, move to the Sudan; no McMansions,very little indoor plumbing or electricity, low life expectancy, a society barely touched by modern medicine, slavery, and very little threat the culture you seek will change.

  38. Mike Hermann

    Anonymous, your attitude here only confirms what some of us are saying about Westport, old and new……there clearly is a ‘screw evrything and everyone’ attitude these days, and not only in Westport, but in American society…..there just is no valid reason to tear down this home unless ya just don’t give a damn…..if you want to tear down something to build something else that is bigger or newer, there are so many other choices, but I just don’t understand the mindset that lets someone tear down such a beautiful and historical old structure…..for no other reason than to build a newer bigger one…..I would understand if the existing home was in disrepair or had major problems but this home has been well maintained and taken care of over the – CENTURIES – it should be preserved……PERIOD!

    @Marcy……that’s funny that you moved out [here] to Colorado…..I ran screaming from the east coast 15 years ago and live in a little mountain town outside of Boulder. And we are having growth issues here as we try and decide what our future looks like and how to manage it. We are not neccessarily dealing with people wanting to tear down parts of history, but we have similar issues of how to grow and stay unique without becoming Breckenridge or Estes Park…..or Westport……and it isn’t easy, but at least most of us here care about our little town and its history and want to preserve that while moving forward.
    I especially like your quote, “There is integrity in restraint”……I totally agree. But people have to care first. There are so many reasons why people move to a place like Westport but one of those reasons is also one of its curses and that would be ‘prestige’. Seems ya can’t just LIVE in Westport, ya have to live LARGE. Someone built this huge McMansion on Guyer Rd and it sticks up and out like a sore thumb……to me it just looks ridiculous as it towers over its neighbors…..but that is probably gonna be the trend and that cute little neighborhood will become a neighborhood of one huge house after another right on top of each other.

    Lastly, I wonder how many of the current Westporters know that where McDonalds is used to be one of the greatest burger joints known to modern civilization……Big Top…..to me, that property and the change from Big Top to McDonalds is the perfect example of what Westport has become from what it once was.

    • You are unwilling to acknowledge that others may have different values and different preferences upon which they are free to act. You hate people who have different values, and if that part of Westport’s character has vanished, it is a better place.

      • Mike Hermann

        I understand that people may have different values, and I ackowledge that they are free to act as they choose….doen’t neccessarily make it right though…..you and they can do what you want to do with what you own, I’m just saying that there are certain things that make up the character of a place, and Westport continues to lose those things……and you clearly don’t care and that’s fine….you live there and you like it…..and I don’t.
        I don’t hate people with different values, you’re putting words in my mouth that I didn’t speak or type…..you couldn’t care less about Westport having character and I do…..and that is one of the main reasons I left and when I come back, that attitude – YOUR attitude – is very apparent…..it’s your town now bro and you can have it!!

        • You do hate people with different values, and that is precisely what has changed in Westport over the decades; a lack of tolerance for the preferences of others. Westport is hometo a group of small minded people who believe only their values are “right”.

          • yeah, I get it…..someone who goes by ‘Anonymous’ and doesn’t even have the balls to post under his own name is gonna tell me what I feel and think?……whatever you say dude…..BTW, what color is the sky in your world?

            • Mike Hermann

              forgot to post this under my name….MIKE HERMANN……that’s who I am and these are my thoughts and opinions!

    • Marcy Anson Fralick

      Colorado has builing codes and residential zoning which Westport doesn’t seem to have. You could not build a McMansion in the middle of a cul-de-sac of split levels in Colorado. I think that’s what bothers me about Westport. Most of the largess is constructed where a home of more modest means existed. It makes the grandiose homes of those with means stand out next to homes for people of lesser means. It is a glaring affirmative to the haves and have nots. You can’t help but know who’s got it, and who doesn’t, as it’s in your face every day if you’re a have not.

      We have golf course communites, or communites specifically designed for homes of a certain size and value, which keeps the neighborhoods more egalitarian. You won’t have a 12,000 sq. ft. home on the same street as a 1500 sq. ft. home. If, for some reason, a home is destroyed by fire, flood, or other means, and declared a total loss, the owners cannot raze the home and build a new one that is out of character with the neighborhood. They would be restrained to build one of similar style and size so as not to upset the visual feel of the neighborhood.

      When limited stakes gambling was approved, casinos came into the towns and came close to destroying the ambience of those old mining towns, but city councils and zoning commissions did a really good job of making sure the new casinos would fit into the communites in an architecturally pleasing way. It can be done, but it has to happen at the level of government responsible for zoning and development in the community. This is where Westport dropped the ball by giving out permits to builders/developers for properties that obviously weren’t zoned for McMansions. That gives Westport a tacky, “have and have not” feel. If people truly wanted excessive grandeur, there should have been a sub-division, or country club area where that type of home was welcome, but not in the middle of Long Lots Road with a Cape Cod on one side and a split level on the other.

      Again, kudos to the Bacharach family for their herculean efforts for trying to keep the integrity of their home, and head slaps to the planning and zoning commission in Westport that condones the destruction of the town’s integrity. I suppose it comes down to money. The larger the home, the higher the taxes, the more money for the town coffers. Sad that money rules to such a pathetic extent.

  39. Dolores Bacharach

    I and the family purchasing this home entered into a contract, in good faith with the purpose of retaining most of the original building. The family is very desirous of living in an old house. They have consulted a goodly number of architects and builders. However, they discovered that to bring the remodeling up to codes set by the various boards and commissions of the town of Westport, the cost is shockingly prohibitive. However, the family continues to consult with professionals,in the hope, the antique part of the home can be saved. I respect and apprreciate their continuing efforts.

    • Mike Hermann

      thanks for clarifying, Dolores…..my posts here are not just about this house, but about all the houses like this that some choose or have chosen to tear down in the name of modernization…..in this cae, I hope it works out that the new owners can preserve the house….and I acknowledge that it is easy for those of us to comment on this without knowing all the details and reasons…..I just feel that a house like this can not and should not be torn down for any reason and I hope it works out that this one doesn’t…..but like I have already stated, this is MY opinion.

    • Marcy Anson Fralick

      Thank you, Delores! Like Mike said, my posts are not about one house in particular, this just happened to be the catalyst to express my dismay over the direction Westport is going with regard to tearing down it’s old and replacing it with big, shiny, new whose style will be passè in a few years. I commend you and your family for the heroic efforts you’ve gone to in order to maintain the integrity of your home. It’s people like you and your family that have made Westport great over the years; people who truly care about the town, and have given to the town, selflessly for many, many years.

    • John McCarthy

      One of the benefits you get with certain historic designations is the ability to not have to live up to certain building codes (generally speaking, codes which don’t involve health & safety.) Where there is a will, there is a way. As we have seen before, most town bodies can be accommodating, it sometimes just takes the right kind of push. I hope the new owners are patient and do the right thing.

    • I know a guy who has a very innovative way of putting additions onto old homes. The central fireplace and the structure around it is the original structure and the most important to retain. I have seen the end result of one of his projects and it’s unbelievable. If your buyer is interested, I can put them in touch.

    • Thank you so much for this information. Have you spoken the the National Trust for Historical Preservation? They have grant funding, and assistance for homes placed on the Registry, and the codes and changes are not as restrictive as they used to be. I work with the St. Johns Main Street Program, Which is part of the National Trust. Our goals are simple, revitalizing and preserving old historical business districts. while bringing buildings and hardscapes up to sustainable codes. There has to be a balance. It is always about balance. The National Registry process, for this house would be easy to reconstruct. And, they might give you what you need to do both upgrade and preserve. Good fortune to you on your endeavors moving forward. And know, we all appreciate the Old House on 4 Stony Brook. And the memories of growing up in Westport. I wish you the best no matter what the outcome. And, I hope this process changes some of the costs and expenditures expected by the local township in Westport, to protect these old historical treasures. I love Westport, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

  40. Don Willmott

    Here in NYC there are many bloggers who catalog the loss of an old-school candy store or barber shop with great despair, but they never say what it is they really want to have happen, except to have nothing ever change because everything was so much better here before CVS came to Manhattan. Bottom line: the only tool to use against free market forces is zoning, so anyone and everyone on this thread should be running for the P&Z or at least attending the meetings to hold up signs and yell.

    • Marcy Anson Fralick

      Yes. I said this in a post a few minutes ago before I saw this, but that’s true. Planning and zoning are the difference. As I said in my post, Westport seems to have given out building permits for any type of home, located on any street, for no particular reason. I’m surprised by the lack of zoning. With no oversight, it explains how Mega Mansions can be built next to split levels or ranch style homes. It really makes a street look unbalanced, and I’m sure it makes those whose homes pale in comparison to the Mega Mansions uncomfortable.

      • I would really hate to live in a town where the government decides what style of house I can build on my property. Ever seen a subdivision in New Jersey? There is no diversity in design.

        Unless you know the people who live in the McMansions, it is unfair to guess at their motives or the integrity of their souls.

        • Marcy Anson Fralick

          Then you don’t understand what zoning is. Zoning keeps homes of the same approximate value in the same neighborhoods, and it keeps commercial and residential construction separate. A gas station can’t be built next to a custom home, because a gas station is zoned commercial, and a subdivision is zoned residential. Same with a restaurant next to a home. Zoning also determines where mini-malls, schools, hospitals, and big box stores can be built. There are many different types of zoning in each community. Most planning and zoning commissions hold public meetings when they zone an area or if they change the zoning from multi-use, to planned use, to single use development, for example. This is handled by your local planning commission. You want zoning. It keeps neighborhoods from looking like a mish-mash of housing styles. You can’t have a shiny new, 12,000 sq. ft., two story mansion next to a 1950’s one story, 1200 sq. ft. rancher. Zoning doesn’t create cookie cutter subdivisions, developers do, as they are cheaper to build, and have a greater return on investment than custom homes. They are welcome in many communities as more houses sold = more tax revenue for the city. Most towns DO have zoning which keeps property values and land use consistent.

          • And according to the courts zoning is a method to maintain segregated neighborhoods. I guess you knew that.

            • Marcy Anson Fralick

              Only if you’re talking about exclusionary zoning. Most municipalities promote inclusionary zoning which refers to municipal and county planning ordinances that require a share of new construction consist of affordable housing for people with low to moderate incomes. But, I guess you knew that.

            • Really, and that is why Westport is such a diverse community. LOL

              The Brookings Institute claims that the dispartity in educational outcomes in public schools is a function of how strict are the zoning requirements, and they deemed the zoning requirements in Fairfield County to be among the most strict in the country and hence the great disparity in educational outcomes. So while there might be some bowing in to inclusions there is not much. The evidence is quite clear.

              Zoning requirements are part of an effort in social engineering as well as a way to reward some while punishing others. Untimately, the cost to society is quite high, but you get to keep your quaint neighborhoods and two acre zoning.

            • John McCarthy

              Nice red herring

          • Trust me, Marcy, I know a lot about zoning. BTW, in Westport and all the other areas towns, there is no planning commission. It’s a planning and zoning commission rolled into one. A 4,000-square-foot house was built next to my 2,000-square-foot house a few years ago. Know what? It has raised my property value and that of my neighbors. If a house was built that was similar to the others on our street, our neighborhood would continue to decline.

  41. Richard Lawrence Stein

    FYI to you all… The review board last night stated there is a 180 waiting period being imposed on this issue as well as the Frazier Peters home Dan wrote about.

    • The HDC seems to be using their power to delay demolitions more now than ever before. I guess that I will have to assume that the 6-month delay will apply to the demolition of my 50+ year old house and plan/schedule accordingly.

  42. 45 miles to Manhattan is a curse and a blessing – especially in the post-meritocracy world we live in now. Money don’t buy happiness, but it can buy a 2 acre lot with an 8000 sf monstrosity on it.

  43. What’s all the worry about whether the house will be a tear-down or not? No one can tear down young Dan’s memories. A new house in place of the old won’t alter the fact that the Bacharach’s are a wonderful family and that some of us are lucky enough to know them and can share some wonderful memories about their lovely Westport home. In a couple of generations I’m sure there will be more stories to tell about life on 4 Stony Brook Road whether it turns into a McMansion or an Igloo. Meanwhile, thanks to both Dan’s for sharing this one!

  44. David Harrison

    While we had many connections to the Bacharach family from our earliest years in Westport, we became part of the 4 Stony Brook family once our first child was born and we were invited to become part of the annual caroling. Our kids never sang–except at the Bacharach caroling! Now, that’s a real tribute to the impact Jim made! Hope DoDo finds as much happiness and builds just as strong memories in the next place she lives.

  45. Jono, and everyone else on this post. The House has a Voice. As does Westport. We are the voices who will retell those stories. This house, the country playhouse, the Canons at Compo Beach. We have a choice, continue to disagree about the current zoning and development issues, or find a way to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the history that is Westport and Fairfield County.
    I will again take this back to local Historical Societies. National Trust, and Daughters of the American Revolution. Do your best to take as many photos and document , have friends and family share their experiences.
    Save architectural elements. Be mindful of what the house is. an Artifact.

    In the celebration you will discover a rekindling of Wesport. And any other architectural structure of the same age within the county. This is a wonderful time to give back to future generations. Places like this. remind us of what America stands for. Let us hope we can give this House Honor during this difficult transition.

    Together everyone can help create a brilliant and heartwarming story of 4 Stoneybrook Lane. One that will help the house retain her value and her place in History, Even if her foundation is replaced by a new home.

  46. michael stephan

    I stopped at the house today after noticing the large “INTENT TO DEMILISH” in the yard. I’m an old house lover. Sure there’s much about this house that needs work. Trimming back the large trees would let more light in and allow the house to get some much needed light to help dry out the moisture doing a number of the siding. Is all of the house important? Well, certainly not – but to tear down the center chimney would be criminal. Could someone build a new home around it and do so with nod than a nod to the history of the place? You bet!

    That said, I can’t help but wonder – as the owner of a Westport 1850 Gothic – if will there be any provision for the sale of fixtures, etc. Please notify, if such may be the case!


  47. Please don’t tear that house down. I can’t let that bother me while I:
    – get over the fact that we’re only staying in Vail for three weeks this year.
    – have to decide which prep schools I can send Muffy and Chip to.
    – tend to my polo pony who twisted his ankle.
    – oversee my assistant’s handling of the benefit at the country club.
    – consult with Bentley about interior features in the new sedan