Frazier Forman Peters: A Legacy In Stone

Take even a brief drive around Westport, and you’ll see the signs: Able Construction. Milton. SIR.

They and other builders are redefining our town, with new construction that — in its use of stone — often tries to imitate old.

But they need to go a long way to reach the standards of Frazier Forman Peter.

Frazier Forman Peters

Frazier Forman Peters

Best known as an architect — but also a builder, teacher and writer — Peters was born in 1895 to a New York Episcopalian clergy family. He graduated from Columbia University as a chemical engineer, yet quickly grew disgruntled with the industry,

He came to Westport in 1919, hoping to work the land as a farmer. The rocky soil intrigued him, and he soon found his calling as a designer and builder of stone houses.

Peters’ homes can be found from Virginia to Maine — but most are in Connecticut. Between 1924 and 1936 he designed and built at least 41 stone houses in Westport. His designs are revered for their unique fieldstone wall construction method, as well as their spatial organization and sensitive placement in relation to the natural environment.

Susan Farewell wrote:

Were Frazier Peters to build houses today, he’d be receiving all sorts of accolades for being an architect on the leading edge of environmentally-conscious, energy-efficient, sustainable design and construction.

The thick fieldstone walls (as much as 16 inches) typical of a Peters stone house make them energy-efficient; the stones effectively hold the heat in winter and keep the interiors cools in summer….

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

Frazier Forman Peters designed and built this house for himself, and his 7 children.

He segregated rooms by giving each one a separate identity, and through the use of step-downs, varied building materials, and interesting transitions. He was also taken by how beautifully European stone structures aged and compared them to American-built frame houses that “droop and pout if they are not continually groomed and manicured.”

Another important component of Peters’ designs was the marriage of the house and its surroundings. He wrote a great deal about this and was especially enamored with the brooks, hillsides, and woods of Connecticut.

Adam Stolpen — who lives in a Frazier Peters house — adds: “He was our first ‘green architect.’  And he was completely self-taught.

“These are definitely not cookie-cutter McMansions. They are homes meant to be lived in. And each one has a bit of whimsy.”

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features The exterior to the Tudor cottage at 9 River View Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

This Frazier Forman Peters house on Riverview Road features fieldstone facades, slate roof and copper gutters.

Peters’ work is revered in Westport. (Though not always: a gorgeous one belonging to the late pianist Natalie Maynard on Charcoal Hill, near several of his others, has been torn down.)

Now the architect lives on in more than his buildings. He’s the subject of a book — Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone — by Laura Blau and Robert A. Weingarten.

She’s Peters’ granddaughter, and a noted Philadelphia architect. He’s the Westport Historical Society‘s house historian.

Frazier Forman Peters bookThe handsome, lovingly designed book includes stories of Peters’ life, descriptions of his building techniques and philosophies, and plenty of photos of his Westport houses.

The interior shots are great, showing double-height rooms with central hearths, balconies and built-in casework.

But the exterior photos are even more compelling. Except for one on Greenbrier Road (demolished in 1997), the authors have found shots of every Westport house Peters was known to build.

From the Old Hill section to Coleytown; from Wilton Road to Compo South; from Longshore to Hillspoint, Frazier Forman Peters’ legacy surrounds us.

You just have to know where to look.

(Frazier Forman Peters: Westport’s Legacy in Stone is available at the Westport Historical Society, 25 Myrtle Avenue, Westport, CT 06880, or by mail at that address [$25 plus $5 shipping per copy]. Click on the WHS website for more information.)

 

12 responses to “Frazier Forman Peters: A Legacy In Stone

  1. I lived in one of his house at 21 Broad Street in Weston back in 1967. It was my favorite house. It had all kinds of cool features, like a sunken bath tub, butlers pantry, a unique fireplace in the dining room. I think we paid $500 a month rent and it just sold recently for $1,499,000…It was right up the street from Moon Hill where Johnny Winter lived for awhile…

  2. Mark Demmerle

    I always find the varied orientation of the cleft in the stone wall construction interesting and unusual. Adjacent stones were never placed where the cleft runs in the same direction. I find all the Frazier Peters designed homes are great subjects for watercolor painting because of their organic qualities in the way they are sited and the choice of building materials.There are some beautiful Frazier Peters houses in the Tokeneke section of Darien also.

  3. brad french

    I take care of his Charcoal Hill property. New owners have been giving it the love it deserves.

  4. Sharon Paulsen

    My childhood home was at 8 East Meadow Road (Old Hill area), and I believe that it was a Frasier Peters. There was also one at the corner of East Meadow and Old Hill Road. And perhaps others nearby! It’s been a long time as I was a tot at this house in the 1970’s. My parents sold it and we had moved over to the North Compo area. The subsequent owner did some renovation to it, including removing the gorgeous slate roof and replacing with standard architectural shingles. Too bad. Not sure what it looks like now.

  5. Katie Chase

    Thanks, Dan for that great write up about Peters. The book has complete information about the Westport houses, lovely photos, etc.

  6. Philip Ross

    Houses by Frazier Peters lists the below houses.

    Following is an incomplete list of houses designed by Frazier Peters. He designed many homes in and around Fairfield County CT.

    CONNECTICUT
    Westport
    30 Charcoal Hill Road (Frazier Peters family house)
    1 Spring Hill Road
    3 Spring Hill Road
    9 Possum Run Road
    9 Riverview Road
    1 Greenbrier Road (shingle house)
    9 Greenbrier Road
    Compo Beach Stone Cottage
    40 Valley Road
    12 Iron Gate Hill Road
    33 Ludlow Road
    208 North Avenue (to be confirmed)
    2 Twin Oaks

    Wilton
    139 Grumman Hill Road
    14 Kings Lane
    354 Nod Hill Road (to be confirmed)
    80 Chestnut Hill Road (to be confirmed)
    52 East Meadow Road (to be confirmed)
    111 Chestnut Hill Road (to be confirmed)

    Other
    Wren Hall, Darien (to be confirmed)
    28 West Rocks Road, Norwalk (to be confirmed)
    102 Valley Road, New Canaan (to be confirmed)

    • Thanks, Philip. There is a more complete list (including photos) in the “Frazier Forman Peters” book on sale at the Westport Historical Society.

  7. Sharon Paulsen

    Correction to my earlier comment: I think we were actually at 6 East Meadow (not 8), but I gotta double check with my parents on that! Man, it was another lifetime ago. There’s more to our story, as we ended up moving back to East Meadow years later, but that’s not pertinent to this topic about Frasier homes.
    Great post Dan!

  8. Here is a link to the one we lived in. Unfortunately, they removed all the beautiful images of the inside when it sold…
    http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/21-Broad-St-Weston-CT-06883/57410603_zpid/

  9. JP Vellotti

    There’s a neat house at the end of Compo Rd South near Edgewater with a stone face and curved bow window. I always think this is what a Peters Forman beach house might look like. One of my favorites down there.

  10. Jamie Walsh

    I feel I am lucky everyday I look at my neighbor Ann’s Frasier Peter’s House with the beautiful garden that Ann planted years ago! A floral picture!

  11. Sharon Paulsen

    There is something about a Frazier home that invites a Monet-esque garden and landscape to surround it. Random, but organically (in “art” terms, not neccesarily “green” terms), just right.