UPDATE — Center Street’s “Retirement Homes”

After posting the story below, Rob Haroun — president of SIR Development — posted the following comment:

The houses are not slated for demolition within the next few days. SIR Development is presently working on a Text Amendment, #711, to save historic houses throughout the town including this house at SIR’s sole expense. It is unfortunate that the author of the article did not check in with SIR or the Town before posting.

This past Saturday for health and safety reasons, the 1950’s asbestos siding was removed, with all proper procedures and authorizations so that the existing clapboard siding, shown in the picture, can be showcased to the public as to what the building actually looked like. SIR took the same action when it renovated 15 Powers Court to showcase the authentic clapboard siding which was noted when SIR received the HDC preservation award a few years back.

SIR Development is proud to continue working on preserving historic structures throughout the town including 90 Post Road East, The Old Town Hall.

The story has been amended to reflect the erroneous information provided earlier to me. 

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Late last year, I posted a story about the impending demolition of 3 houses on Center Street.

Two dated from the 1700s, though tax records are sketchy. One is a 1938 vernacular.

Their time has come. Demolition is slated within the next few days.

25 Center Street -- days before the bulldozer.

25 Center Street — days before the bulldozer.

Before they go, alert “06880” reader Nancy Avery Baloglu — whose grandfather, Howard Avery, turned a barn into one of those homes nearly 80 years ago — wants to give them their due.

(She notes, realistically, “it is time for the tired houses to be retired.”)

The homes stand on what was once a 30-acre tract  owned by the Samuel Mills family, circa 1770. The land was sold in 1840 to Walter Sherwood, then came later to the Avery and Mills families.  All are important Westport names.

Some of the folks associated with the property include Mary Boyle, who weeded onion fields in Green’s Farms with F.T. Bedford, before he made his fortune in oil; George and Howard Avery, who worked for the Bedford family as a chauffeur and horseman, respectively, and Joe Avery, longtime huntsman and dressage instructor at Fairfield County Hunt Club.

The Center Street homes will soon be “retired” (to use Nancy’s gentle term). We thank her for this final look back.

Mary Boyle Mills Avery -- shown here near a Center Street porch -- was Nancy Avery Baloglu's great-grandmother.

Mary Boyle Mills Avery — shown here near a Center Street porch — was Nancy Avery Baloglu’s great-grandmother.

 

 

16 responses to “UPDATE — Center Street’s “Retirement Homes”

  1. was there any thought to salvaging some of the materials for re-use? the floors? the beams? the glass? the columns on the front porch? (Wakeman Farm is about to start a construction project and are looking for porch columns- not sure when it is starting but how cool to reuse anything from this building there)

  2. Brace ourselves for more gigantic, cookie/cutter starter mcmansions. Just what Westport needs?

  3. Your information is incorrect.

    The houses are not slated for demolition within the next few days. SIR Development is presently working on a Text Amendment, #711, to save historic houses throughout the town including this house at SIR’s sole expense. It is unfortunate that the author of the article did not check in with SIR or the Town before posting. This past Saturday for health and safety reasons, the 1950’s asbestos siding was removed, with all proper procedures and authorizations so that the existing clapboard siding, shown in the picture, can be showcased to the public as to what the building actually looked like. SIR took the same action when it renovated 15 Powers Court to showcase the authentic clapboard siding which was noted when SIR received the HDC preservation award a few years back.

    SIR Development is proud to continue working on preserving historic structures throughout the town including 90 Post Road East, The Old Town Hall.

    Rob Haroun
    President SIR Development

  4. Jacques Voris

    To quote another, your information is incorrect. Samuel Mills was the owner of the property at one time, and it was sufficiently well known it was used as a landmark in George Penfield Jennings’ book about Greens Farms. His brother David lived done the street at what is know 55 Center Street. Samuel had a son named Arthur, who inherited the property when his father died. He was married to Mary Boyle. Sadly, Arthur died a couple of years later at 40 years old. His widow, Mary, then married an Avery and had an additional child. That is how the property came to the Avery family.

    • Nancy Baloglu

      @ Jacques Voris – In 1874 Samuel Mills sat in pew 48 of the Greens Farms Church, in front of his brother David Mills who sat in pew 49.
      Samuel Mills died 1885 and his son Arthur Mills in 1888.

      Mary BOYLE Mills did not inherit 25 Center Street from her husband Arthur Mills. She was given 1/2 interest in 1886, from her father in-law, Samuel Mills estate. Why Samuel Mills did not give his own son Arthur, 1/2 interest in 25 Center Street is unknown. You can check the probate records.

      Westport Probate Records:
      Vol 17 Page 229 ~ Probate Certificate of Distribution May 26, 1886
      Half interest to Mary Mills, wife of Arthur Mills & Charles G. Guyer his grandson.

      Volume 16 Page 687 Quit Claim May 27, 1886 $1.00
      Charles G. Guyer to Mary Mills, the wife of Arthur Mills
      Property is the same as above.

      Volume 47 Page 331 Quit Claim April 26, 1928 $1.00
      Mary Mills to Frederick L. Mills (Mary BOYLE & Arthur Mills son)
      Property is the same as above.

      Volume 56 Page 352 Quit Claim March 14, 1931 $1.00
      Frederick L. Mills to Howard R Avery (Half brothers)
      Property is the same as above.

      • Jacques Voris

        Nancy,
        Perhaps my phrasing was incorrect. What I was attempting to convey was that the land went from Mills to Avery families via Mary Boyle, the widow of Arthur. I felt the initial post was inaccurately portraying the chain of ownership.

  5. Well this is one of the few times it is nice to be wrong. I am hoping that they will save these houses if at all possible. I would hate to see all that history go away. Even up here in NH we have seen farms disappear and the land be taken over by condos. I know some of this is bound to happen but once historical buildings are gone that’s it. Thanks Dan for letting everyone see the old photos!

  6. I apologize. I relied on information from Nancy Avery Baloglu. Apparently she was misinformed.

  7. Sharon Horowitz

    Agreed. Kudos and a big thank you to to SIR development.

  8. don l bergmann

    Rob Haroun and his company and architect, Bill Achilles, are working as Rob describes, though legitimate issues exist with the zoning regulation change being sought. Hence, the final outcome, I believe, remains uncertain. I came to respect Rob Haroun in my interactions with him on Senior Housing at Baron’s South and Bill Achilles has always been a sensitive architect. Bill was recently hired by Westport to investigate possible uses for Golden Shadows, the lovely home on Baron’s South, with a view to preserving its beauty. I have suggested that the home become an art gallery or museum to showcase Wesport’s artistic community.
    Don Bergmann

  9. As President of the Greens Farms Association I have spoken to Rob Haroun at SIR Development about their plans and the need for text amendment #711. Our board discussed this issue and sent a letter to the P&Z in support of passing it. SIR Development is making the effort at their own cost to preserve what is reasonable on this property. They are taking great care of the building pictured above (25 Center Street). The prior owners had literally abandoned one of the other buildings, to the point where it was brought up before the Blight Ordinance committee for long overdue and needed repairs to shore it up to prevent wildlife from inhabiting it along with a badly leaking and sagging roof. That building also sprung a leak in the water main under Center Street that I had to report and have repaired. Neighbors continually raised issues around maintenance of this building and it was only when enough pressure was brought to bear via the Blight Ordinance that anything was done. The prior owners also illegally operated a lawn maintenance business out of one of the garages on the property, and at times were dumping into Muddy Brook. Repeated efforts to remedy this had limited results. Bottom line from a GFA perspective is we are in favor of preservation and win-win deals where it can be done in partnership with developers. We missed out on preserving the barn on the Geiger property. This time let’s see if amendment #711 can go through so SIR Development can achieve their goal of preserving this structure.

    Art Schoeller
    President
    Greens Farms Association

  10. Hanne Jeppesen

    I lived in Westport for a few years back in the late sixties, I was an au pair from Denmark, I loved Westport and made life long friends there. After I moved away I went back to visit many times. I remember many buildings and sights from Westport (The Minute Man, YMCA others). I don’t remember this one, but it saddens me when I see Americans willing to erase their history, and to be buildings from the past is history. I grew up 30 miles south of Copenhagen, close to small town (20,000 or so back then) I spend my teen age years in that town, and much like Westport it was close to the beach, easy to make friends. Whenever I think of my youth I think with equal fondness of Westport and Koege. Whenever I go back to Denmark I visit Koege, and though many things have changed, most of the buildings have not, many are 200 to 300 hundred years old. The inside of these buildings have been renovated, but the outside remains the same. I use to pass by one house every day to work, it was painted yellow and rust colored, and it still has the same colors today, I like the continuity it provides. Although the US history is not as old as Europe’s I still think it is important and I wish American’s would do more to preserve it.

  11. Nancy Hunter Wilson

    Hanne’s point is true and telling. There is a balancing act between continuity and comfort, both rely on each other. North America does risk losing its young architectural/social history. The problem is how to progress but preserve, and not make a place feel artificial. I hate artificial.