This Old House #10

Tom Ryan and Dan Herman were the 1st readers to identify last week’s house as #5 Old Hill Road.

They’re right — sort of. The present structure at that site — opposite the old patriot “training ground” at the intersection of Kings Highway North and Old Hill — was built in 1944. The structure in the photo — part of a 1930s WPA project to document century-old homes — burned almost to the ground in 1943. It was rebuilt looking as much as possible like the original. Click here for the photo, then scroll down for comments.

Here is this week’s house. Like the others, this WPA image will be part of a Westport Historical Society exhibit on the changing face of Westport’s homes. But organizers need to find out where it is.

This Old House - May 6, 2015

The back of the photo gives no location. It says only: “Known as ‘William Lanier Washington House’; Squire  David Coley.”

Coley is a famous name in Westport. Washington is a famous name everywhere.

If you think you know where this house stands (or stood — it may have been torn down), click “Comments.” The more information you can provide, the better.


20 responses to “This Old House #10

  1. I know I’m not helping find the house but Google is such a kick…

    “In the 1900 census, their eldest son William Lanier Washington (Mar 30, 1865-1933), gave his occupation as Steel Manufacturer. William married three times; firstly to May Bruce Brennan, on 6 June 1906 but they were later divorced, secondly to Ida Alice Holland on 7 Jun (Jul?) 1919, they had a son Winston Lanier Washington, who only lived for nine months. The third marriage was to Augusta Adeline Koblank on 3 July 1923. According to his obituary published in the NY Times of Sep 12, 1933 William died at his home, Wakefield, on Boston Road, Westport, Ct. Sep 11, 1933 and “in recent years he had been the head of the Washington family in the United States”.”

  2. I’m going to stop here… but when you google “William Lanier Washington, Westport” — you get a GOLDMINE. The history of this man, his connection to our first president and all of the artwork and important papers he had in the house depicted above were incredible. It seems, this guy was where Westport met the world (c. 1929).,4102142&hl=en

  3. An old Westport directory shows the wife’s business “Wakefield Antiques” and their home address one and the same: “E State GF”. Yes, quite a fascinating guy (tip to Evan).

  4. Steve Doig (Staples '66)

    If someone here has a account, do a search of the 1930 Census records. Those typically show the name and address of each person enumerated.

    • If anyone with a Westport Library card is interested, you can access (Libraries edition) from the Westport Library. (Unlike some of the other data bases that an be accessed remotely, this is one of the ones that you need to be at the library to use.)

      • Pam Mozier

        The 1930 census lists two Washingtons – Samuel, 66 (?) and Augusta K., 35 (presumably Wife #3 cited above?) – living on the Post Road, no street number given. (Census takers did not always use/list street numbers.) Two person household, no sign of a William L.

        William Lanier Washington shows up in the 1910 census in NYC with wife May (#1 above?). WLW was 45 at the time, making him born in 1865, so possibly/probably the correct one. They lived at 1700 Broadway, and WLW’s occupation was listed as stockbroker.

        Googling around, one may also find that Williaim Lanier Washington peddled *a lot* of George Washington’s personal items – to the point that some artifact brokers/auctioneers turned him away, doubting that all items presented had truly belonged to George Washington. William Lanier Washington may have been ethically challenged.

  5. Marcy Fralick Class of 1970

    You can also use I don’t know if you need a membership. I have one, and I’m sure at least some 06880 readers must as well. Go to the 1930 or 1940 Census, look up Westport, and scroll (tedious) all the names until you find the one you need, and it should have their address, spouses, children, occupations, nationalities, parent’s names, parent’s place of birth, etc. If you know the street, but not the number, it’s even easier…

  6. I’ve never done the research, but was told that the house where Lanier Washington lived was on the Post Road where the Pottery Barn shopping center is today (in front of Greens Farms School). Offhand, this photo does not look to me like the house presently on that property, but perhaps there was another house there before the shopping center was built. Washington was an interesting fellow, born in 1865, died in 1933. Found this bit on the web referring to some Washington uniform buttons he sold:

    “A little research into William Lanier Washington turns up some questions about the authenticity of the buttons. The auction at which these buttons were sold was at least the third that offered items from William Lanier’s collection. A catalog from a 1920 auction also includes multiple lots of buttons from George Washington’s clothing. And, there had been an auction in 1917, as well. Some accounts suggest that William Lanier Washington was known as a pariah in his family, although little has been written by scholars about these auctions or William Lanier. One story related to the 1917 auction ends tragically. At the sale, G.D. Smith (1870-1920), who helped Henry Huntington (1850-1927) assemble his famed library, purchased a pair of candlesticks thought to have been used on Washington’s desk at Mount Vernon. Three years later, William Lanier came to see Smith and attempted to sell him a set of candlesticks that Washington used on his desk at Mount Vernon. Smith related that he had already purchased one such set, got into an argument with Washington and dropped dead in the heat of the moment.”

  7. Don Willmott

    Seems like “E State GF” is obviously the Post Road in Greens Farms area.

  8. No clue but I’ll bet that tree made Rockefellar Center?!?!

  9. I think it’d off South Compo; Mansfield Place. The facade of the house may have been altered.

  10. Honey Hornsleth Cleary

    Norfield Rd. And Newtown Turnpike

  11. Wendy Crowther

    According to numerous sources, David Coley’s house was located on the south side of the Post Rd. between Turkey Hill Rd. and Morningside Drive where Crate and Barrel stands today. When that shopping complex was built, supposedly the house was moved eastward on the site. It is the site in which Dream Spa is located today (1220 Post Rd. E.).

    However, the house in this picture looks nothing like today’s Dream Spa. Interestingly, when I look at the 1929 aerial photos taken of Westport, there are two structures visible on this property. The main house DOES appear to have the shape of the house visible in the WPA photo. The aerial photo shows another structure located more to the rear on the same property. It is closer in size and shape to the Dream Spa structure.

    In Joanna Foster’s book, she describes the David Coley house as “a straight-gabled, center chimney, traditional style house” modeled after the one he’d grown up in on Hyde Lane. This might be the structure seen in the rear of the 1929 photo although probate documents indicated that there were barns on the property too.

    My guess is that William Lanier Washington either built the above house on the David Coley land or significantly added to the old Coley house. When the shopping complex was built, either this big house was torn down or was significantly reduced in size when it was moved. Or, perhaps today’s Dream Spa was the structure seen in the rear of that 1929 aerial photo.

    The 1929 aerial photo shows quite a large, highly landscaped piece of property. The 1935 Westport Directory shows that W. Lanier Washington died in 1933 at the age of 68. His wife Augusta K. Washington survived him. The Westfield Antique Shop (which they apparently owned) is located in the same place as their house (between Turkey HIll and Morningside).

    I did a lot of research on the David Coley family when determining the history of the Geiger Barn. When David Coley became too old to live and work the Coley farm property (Crate & Barrel area today), he turned the house and farm over to his daughter Abby and her husband Talcott Wakeman who lived in it until 1889. Doing a title search from this point forward might reveal the sale to William Lanier Washington and wife.

    Lastly, David Coley was known as Squire David Coley because he was also a Justice of the Peace. He also did stints as a local and state politician.

  12. So saddening to read that “Crate and Barrel” now stands between the memorable and idyllic street names of Turkey Hill Road and Morningside Drive. And now a “Dream Spa”, too?
    No rhyme or reason.

  13. Nancy Beard

    There was another structure on that property towards the rear. It was known as the Carriage House Comestibles restaurant and operated by actress Haila Stoddard. Probably in the mid-sixties. I don’t know if it was a carriage house or just given that name.

  14. Wendy Crowther

    The Crate & Barrel shopping center was once called Carriage Hill Shopping Center (not sure if it still is). I just Googled Haila Stoddard. Her Carriage House Comestibles gourmet restaurant is mentioned in her Google write-up. She had a productive career as an actress including a long run of over a decade on the famous soap-opera, The Secret Storm. She also teamed up with Lucille Lortel and the White Barn Theater later in life. She died in Feb 2011 in her home in Weston, CT. Here’s a link to her NY Times obituary:

    These connections are always so interesting. Hey Dan, was Haila Stoddard on your “Where Westport Meets the World” list?

  15. Bob Weingarten

    I believe that Wendy Crowther has identified the house correctly and provided me with additional information so that I could confirm the location. Let me explain.

    Originally I thought that the building was at the location of the Dream Spa, 1220 Post Road East, but the front of the current building didn’t look the same as the WPA 1935 photo because of the porches in the first and second level.

    I recalled last night that there was an article and photograph of the building at 1220 Post Road East in the WHS 1977 Historic Dwellings in Westport, Connecticut 1700-1884 booklet. The article was written by Dorothea Malm, a known historian for the WHS. The title of the article was “Squire David Coley Homestead – 1820” and includes information about William Lanier Washington. It also mentions that “in 1977 the house was moved to the eastern edge of the property to become a component of the Carriage Hill shopping center”. It also mentions Charles Huenerberg ownership in 1889 and that he added “a wrap-around veranda and, at the center front, a cross-gable which housed a second-story porch.”

    Furthermore, Malm states that the “façade was restored to its original simplicity, probably by Mr. and Mrs. William Lanier Washington, who bought the house in 1924.” To me this statement says that the additions of Charles Huenerberg to the front of the building were removed. The Washington family owned the house from 1925 to 1951 so when the restoration was done is unknown and may have been done after the WPA 1935 photo was taken.
    A comparison of the WPA 1935 photo and the current 1220 Post Road East appears to have the same basic architectural elements with the major exception of the large ornamental porch under the veranda roof which Dorothea Malm stated was removed by the Washington family. Otherwise the WPA 1935 and current building have 4-by-4 sash windows on the first floor, 6-by-6 sash windows on the second floor, a half-ellipse window in the right side peak. Also looking at the WPA 1935 photo one can see a center door with sidelight windows on the left – cannot see right side. The current 1220 Post Road East building also has sidelight windows at the front door.

    The key factor which confirms to me that these building are the same is the statement from Dorothea Malm about the front façade restoration to restore the building to original simplicity by the Washington family who owned the house from 1925-1951.

  16. Wendy Crowther

    Excellent. Glad I could help. I’ve often thought that the Dream Spa should have a WHS plaque placed on it to pay homage to its David Coley past. The WHS should contact the present owner to determine if there is interest.