In June 2011, 108 Cross Highway came on the market. From all indications, it would be the next Westport teardown.
An uproar ensued. The 2-story “vernacular” — with a barn — on the well-traveled stretch between Roseville Road and North Avenue was built in 1805. Records indicated it was one of the few Westport dwellings constructed by a “free black man.”
(That assertion was later challenged. The “Henry Munroe House” may, in fact, have been built by an Indian.)
The usual Westport battle raged. On one side were those decrying the destruction of a handsome old home — one with historic significance.
On the other side were those who say that property owners are free to do whatever they want. After all, it’s their money.
The house was taken off the market, rented, then put back on. Jeff Porter and Rachel Ember had been thinking of contemporaries. But when realtor Amy Swanson showed them 108 Cross Highway, they fell in love.
They closed on the property in January 2014.
Nearly 2 years later, the house still stands. The new owners have redone the porch, repaired the chimney, added a paddock fence, restored and refinished the original wood floors, and remodeled the side entry and kitchen in a style appropriate to the home (sourcing reclaimed barn wood).
They also repaired the barn’s rotted siding, and reconfigured the garage doors in a more traditional carriage style.
Today, 108 Cross Highway looks better than ever.
In fact, it’s one of this year’s recipients of a Preservation Award from the Westport Historic District Commission.
Too often in Westport, structures like these fall victim to the wrecking ball. We close our eyes, wring our hands, and move on.
The next time you pass 108 Cross Highway, open your eyes wide. Put your hands together, and linger awhile. It’s a wonderful sight to see.
(The 2015 Historic Preservation Awards will be presented by 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels and commission members on Monday, October 26, 7 p.m. in the Town Hall auditorium.)