93 Cross Highway

Westport is filled with stories of charming old houses that turn into teardowns.  “06880” reported one of them just yesterday.

This is not one of them.

Two years ago Ed Gerber heard that the home at 93 Cross Highway was for sale. He knew it well.

Built in 1764 by the spectacularly named Eliphalet Sturges, it was owned for the next 144 years by the Sturges family.

George Hand Wright

In 1908 George Hand Wright — an illustrator, watercolorist and pastel artist who was a founder of Westport’s artists’ colony — bought the house and 30 acres of land, for a mere $300. He turned a small outbuilding into his studio. He and his wife Anne lived at 93 Cross Highway for nearly 50 years.

In 1947 Wright helped establish the Westport Artists Club, and later served as president. He died in 1951; Anne followed 3 years later. Wright’s nephew Frank Boylan inherited the property, and lived there another 50 years.

Boylan was Gerber’s godfather, and his father’s best friend. Growing up in New Haven and Fairfield (in his teens and 20s, he ushered at the Westport Country Playhouse), Gerber spent many happy days at #93. Two years ago, when the Boylan estate prepared to sell the house, representatives asked if Gerber was interested.

For 40 years, Gerber had lived in Washington, DC. But he was ready to retire from the FDIC. He knew if he did not act, 93 Cross Highway could be Westport’s next teardown.

He bought it.

Then he went to work.

Ed Gerber stands proudly in his refurbished living room.

Walls and ceilings needed painting and plastering. The maple floors needed refinishing. Gerber remodeled 2 baths, and the kitchen.

But the house had great bones. With massive stone fabrication, a handsome hearth and wonderful Wright-era furniture, it’s been lovingly restored to its past glory.

And it’s earned historic landmark status.

That’s a no-brainer. Gerber is a member of Westport’s Historic District Commission, and a vice president of the Westport Historical Society.

Ed Gerber and 93 Cross Highway.

The Historic District Commission has little authority to deter teardowns outside of the town’s 6 designated districts. “What we have is moral suasion,” he says.

But many people in houses at least 50 years old can hardly wait to knock down anything old and charming, to build something new and big.

“Everyone asks us to waive the 180-day waiting period (for demolition),” Gerber says.

He points to 108 Cross Highway, an 1805 home built by a free black man that was headed for destruction. The HDC has met several times, by phone and in person, with the owner and his agent, to provide options to demolition.

Ed Gerber turns back to #93. Thanks to his hard work, reverence for the past and passion for the present, it’s assured of remaining a lovely landmark on a well-traveled road for many years to come.

14 responses to “93 Cross Highway

  1. Jamie Walsh

    Thanks Ed for your stewardship and dedication towards ensuring a continuance of your history as well as the Sturges, Wrights, and Boylans for all who pass by and appreciate the charm and beauty of your home. Thanks also for your commitment to preserving architectural and historically significant homes and helping to educate by example that with a little TLC one can accomodate modern needs in a not so modern structure.

  2. Lisa Shufro

    Aaaaahhhhh. A wonderful antidote to the preceding article. Thank you Ed Gerber. I wish there were more like you in Westport.

  3. Susan Walton Wynkoop

    Ed Gerber’s antique home is stunning. This is an example of making the most of history as history truely matters. I have been in many homes in Fairfield County and this is one of my top five favorites. You cannot build a house like this anymore and that is why I think it is important to try and preserve the ones that remain.

  4. 108 now has a “for sale” sign in the front yard, by the way. So, I’m not sure that the owners have been “helped to preserve it an an economically feasible way” if they are selling it. I think, instead, it may be that the owners were dissuaded from tearing down and rebuilding. These owners, by the way, lived in that house for some years — they did not thus acquire 108 with the intention of knocking it down. I think it just may have been too expensive for them to re-do in the existing framework.

  5. 108 Cross Highway is very much for sale – the owners would LOVE for someone to buy it and preserve it – for all of those who are critical of tear-downs – try and find a buyer, it should not be the burden of their family to preserve this home, they need to purchase a home elsewhere — email me if you know someone! drogers@higginsgroup.com

  6. I’m confused. Why is that one is reminded regularly of how wealthy the residents of Westport are — one must be monied to afford a home in Westport if I’ve been reading the real estate market and the comments here correctly. Yet, many don’t seem to have the money to preserve the homes they buy but they do have the money to say how much money they have. It’s a mystery to some of us reading. It truly is.

  7. Part of the problem is that majority of real estate brokers in Westport do not know how to market these homes sucessfully and do not hit the right target market… There are few brokers who specialize in selling these homes quite sucessfully. The Connecticut Trust is a great place to start and has been an extremely sucessful tool in connecting buyer with sellers.

    • Jamie Walsh

      The aforementioned post is mine …sent it from work and automatically come up anonymous…apologies to all those anonymous and named posters….

    • The Connecticut Trust has been helpful – but have a small circulation for it’s pamphlet and is only published quarterly – and their online postings, which also have a small readership, offer less opportunity to reach buyers for a much higher price than even The New York Times online or Listingbook.com which reach 1000’s more potential home buyers – antique lovers included. Additionally, the average selling price for homes in their circulated brochure is lower than most Westport homes. I think every likes to blame the evil Realtors – when in fact the reality is that our goal is to help out clients, but we are also active and thoughtful members of our commmunity. … your post is a easy excuse – We have been very proactive in seeking help from the Westport Historic Commission… and any further advice is appreciated and welcome….We are really very interested in finding someone to purchase the home and love it for it’s historic relevance – so all of you that post about how horrible it is not to preserve it – buy it…

  8. Weege Harlow

    Ed, I was an Apprentice at the Playhouse in 1951. Were you there?? Weege

  9. Jamie Walsh

    Thank Danna for your insight….I certainly did not mean to offend so just to clarify my statement…in no way do I think realtors are evil and contribute any less to the community, but I do realize from several open houses I have attended in older homes and discussions over the years with many brokers, the majority have little interest in advocating for saving a structure…afterall, I understand your business is commission driven and time is money for all involved. My issue is when people constantly use inaccurate information and are not knowledgable about various resources available which you apparently are and I applaud that. Anyway….this blog was about Ed Herbert and an example of his history and commitment to a historic home before it was hijacked by myself and others regarding 108 Cross Highway.

  10. Bravo, Ed. May you and loved ones spend 50 years owning and enjoying this beautiful home you have restored – just as all the prior owners lived long happy lives there.

  11. Martha Krafton

    Eddie, are you in Connecticut permanently? I’ve tried to find you with no success. Will you call me? I’m still at same number.