Robinson Strong: “63 Turkey Hill South Enriched Me”

Last month, “06880” examined the fate of 63 Turkey Hill Road South. The Mediterranean-style home — said to be one of only 4 in town — may soon fall to the wrecking ball.

Alert “06880” reader Robinson Strong feels a special attachment to the house. From 1916 to 1978, it belonged to her family. She writes:

The new owners want a new home, and to redesign the landscaping. Despite the unique and beautiful Italian design, they have applied for a demolition permit.

63 Turkey Hill Road South today...

63 Turkey Hill Road South.

Many neighbors are up in arms. I’m feeling a range of emotions. It was given a 180-day “stay of execution” by the Westport Historic District Commission, hoping that would allow a change of heart by the new owners.

Many who read this will wonder why, with so much going on in the world, I am expending so much energy and emotion on a house.

It is because it is important on many levels. It’s important to the town of Westport, the neighborhood of Greens Farms and to Turkey Hill neighbors.

The original 9 acres was subdivided and sold in 1978, after my grandmother died. The most recent owner lived in the house, on 3 acres, for over 30 years, but found it overwhelming as a senior citizen.

Part of the Turkey Hill garden.

Part of the Turkey Hill garden.

It was recently sold privately to a Westport couple. The house never went on the open market to find a potential buyer who was not intent on knocking it down, bulldozing the property and building a large new home. What a lost opportunity for a family!

My great-grandfather purchased the property in 1916. It had been an onion farm at the turn of the century.

Taking structural elements from the barn and keeping the original farmhouse, he built the elegant Italianate Tuscan-style house with the red clay roof. It’s nestled behind a stone wall and large wrought iron gate (which has been removed and sold).

The front yard is a courtyard with a fountain and landscaped terrace. Originally there were formal Japanese gardens with man-made streams and waterfalls, an English garden set in the barn’s foundation, a formal rose garden with a large arbor, an apple orchard, a grape “vineyard,” horse barn and open fields.

I was so blessed to live on this property, at 61 Clapboard Hill — the sister house — with my mother and brother. Our family treasured the Turkey Hill house. Everything surrounding it enriched my education.

My grandmother regaled me with stories about how the gardens were created by a master Japanese gardener, and why the Japanese so revere their serene space. My mother told me how during the Depression, she would have to kill a chicken on Sunday for dinner. One of the rooms in the basement held canned vegetables from the garden. My grandfather insisted on feeding any needy person who came to the door.

I learned how the property’s original status as an onion farm played a significant role in the Greens Farms and Southport economies.

My grandmother entertained often. I was expected to help. I learned manners, how to set a table and how to interact with adults. I also learned about flowers and landscaping.

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photo/Robinson Strong)

Steps leading to the front courtyard at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. (Photos/Robinson Strong)

I was proud of the uniqueness of my family’s home and property. Despite the grandeur of the exterior, the interior was painted as infrequently as possible. Re-decorating was considered frivolous. But my friends loved it, not because it was large (just under 4800 square feet) with 5 bedrooms and 4 full baths, but because it was different.

There does not seem to be any appreciation for historical architecture or history in general in Westport anymore. More and more houses are being demolished for large-scale popular designs. Such a shame.

It’s too late now for the Japanese gardens. They are “6 feet under.” But the house still has a chance to remain standing, and enrich a family and its children just like it did for me.

Over 100 Greens Farms residents who love the house and its architecture are wrestling with this impending loss, and the irreparable changes that will accompany it.

They do not want Turkey Hill to lose this house. They are avidly watching as its status moves through the various town bodies, hoping for clemency for 63 Turkey Hill South.

81 responses to “Robinson Strong: “63 Turkey Hill South Enriched Me”

  1. Charlie Taylor

    Such a shame

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Charlie Taylor

    What ever happened to Labor Day road races???

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Anthony Palmer

    My father used to maintain the property for many years, his name Peter Palmer Sr,I remember riding on the toolbox of the Locke lawn mower and at the time it was the largest lawn in the area, and then the daughters house was and still is on Clappboard Hill. I remember it well. Are you the daughter?

    • Mr.Palmer –

      She is the great granddaughter of the original owners & the granddaughter of the last owners to whom the house passed (before being sold outside of the family).

      If it was your family who also ran a nursery in town – then I remember your family. I wonder: was it the one w/ the tiny wooden church playhouse on Main Street (before Weston & Easton Rds.)? If so – my sister and I had a blast as children sitting in that tiny church whilst our mother shopped for flowers. That was magical.

      Thank you so much for this vivid description you’ve given.

  4. Cornelia Fortier

    It’s probably my favorite Westport house and I am grateful for this piece and the chance to learn more about it. Hoping that, somehow, it can be saved.

  5. Why people feel compelled to tear down such a magnificent structure which added to the fabric of that neighborhood indicates that they have more money than common sense. Stick it in a landfill, build a new structure from cheaper material and it will probably look like all those other new McMansions on Turkey Hill Road. They will probably drive a some Tesla’s ….get a Prius for the nanny and claim they are environmentally sensitive also.

    • Will probably also vote for Hillary as well as hire undocumented immigrants to clean their house and do landscaping failing, of course, to pay appropriate employment taxes. Nanny is probably “off the books” as well.

  6. I have often wondered about the “sister house” on Clapboard Hill Road. As it is the same type of architecture, I thought that perhaps it might have originally been servants’ quarters. Maybe Ms. Strong can enlighten me.

  7. Ms Strong struggles with the American concert of home ownership. The residents who bought the house own this property and pay significant property taxes on it every year. If they want to spend hard earned saving and tear it down and remodel it into a new home, they have that right. When the Stong’s sold the property years ago and received the sales proceeds to better their lives, they gave up telling other people how the property should be managed. Ms Strong fails to grasp she is no longer an owner.

    • That’s rather mean spirited. The writer is plainly – painfully, I’m sure – aware that her family no longer owns the house which was built by her great grandfather. Imagine what it must be like for her to witness this. I certainly wouldn’t be as composed.

      • Michelle Benner

        I agree, mean spirited indeed. Also, seemingly oblivious to the perspective of historic preservation as well as insensitive to the importance of community and stewardship of land. I also agree that it would have helped if the previous owners had sought out a buyer who wanted to preserve the house and property rather that clear it. It’s a shame all around.

      • Well said, Mr. Boyd!!

    • Craig. When I read your post I did not take it as mean spirited. It appeared to me you were just telling the truth-when someone sells something they lose control to the buyer. As sad as it might be, it is the straight truth. No emotion, no softening, just the fact a new buyer now owns the property and has all the rights associated that comes with the purchase.

      When the lots were sold someone made money. I guess the money was enough to offset the loss of the home they loved. It is understandable there is sellers remorse.

      But the new owners who will add to the property their design have all the rights. And from what I see, Westport contributes to flourish with new people moving into our town and adding to what we have. And the one thing some will forget, as these property values increase, so do their taxes. Which help
      A lot of people in town who would rather not see their property taxes increased. It seems like some lose this fact quickly.

      • The slow motion vandalism of a notable landmark property will keep a lid on property taxes. I’m sure Ms. Strong, together with a great many of First Selectman Marpe’s neighbors who live near the subject property were cheered to learn this.

        • Morley. You don’t know what you are talking about and your post is clealry over the top. Saying anything of this nature about a political
          Figure is out of line. An apology is needed if not required.

          I don’t know how you line in Westport given you don’t like it here. Must be a difficult life living around people you don’t care for, and a town that has shops and stores you find not to your liking.

          Westport is withstanding the financial crisis in CT, while we watch as our town has lost millions in state committee funds, the growth of the Grand List has subdued any major property tax increase that other towns have experienced.

          But just wait Mr Morley-The CT financial crisis is about to get worse. And then watch what happens to taxes in Westport.


          • Bart, it’s only 4 hours to your dinnertime. Better take a nap.

            • Morley. I will have dinner at one of ‘those’ restaurants you do not like.

              All my best

              • I literally have no idea what you’re talking about but I’m laughing anyway. Here’s hoping that a proper meal clears things up for you. I always enjoy our exchanges.

      • Werner Liepolt

        ” Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!” Hard Times. Charles Dickens

  8. Thank you for giving the history of your family’s creation of this beautiful house– it’s fascinating to learn how it was designed and lived in decades ago. I’m among the people who favor preserving unique structures like this, and who have long admired this house. If it’s not possible to save the house, which at this point seems to be up to the people who bought the property and plan to tear it down, I hope that this debate will reinforce efforts to fight for historic preservation. The vocal arguments of the “progress-oriented” developers don’t recognize objective criteria that make destroying this home different from removing a structure of later vintage and less distinguished and unique design. This will be a huge loss. If there are any filmmakers who can document the house before it goes, or while it is being demolished, it would be instructive to have that in the future.

  9. Don L Bergmann

    The economics of this tragedy are a puzzle to me. Apparently, the land is so valuable that this beautiful home becomes irrelevant in the calculation of the amount of money that someone is prepared to pay for the real estate alone. I know this happens with ease with respect to modest houses, including houses on lots that allow for a much larger house. How this occurs with such a unique and substantial home as in this case somewhat baffles me. My guess is that the outcome that appears to be occurring here reflects not normal economic forces but, rather, someone with a lot of money that they choose to spend on a piece of real estate. While I do not expect an answer, it would be of interest to me to learn of the financial analysis of the purchaser of this fine home.
    Don Bergmann

  10. Michelle Benner

    Thank you for sharing your story and your family’s history here. It’s such a beautiful house and property, I always admire it when I drive or walk past. It’s a shame that so much beautiful, historical, quality architecture is being lost to oversized cookie cutter homes built with inferior structural materials on clear cut land. Westport will lose whatever charm it has left if significant buildings are allowed to fall. Just like the old Penn Station. I hope this home and property can be saved, lovingly updated and lived in by people who appreciate it for what it is and not just a lot in a desirable neighborhood.

  11. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I have so much sympathy for Robinson Strong. She is mourning the potential loss of a beautiful, still strong historical structure. She is giving us the historical background and sharing her memories of a time when Westport had a strong sense of purpose and a will to give back, helping others. She is sharing her heart and memories with us. All though it never belonged to my family, I felt a sense of loss when the Owenoke home of one of my grandmother’s best friends was listed as a tear down in December. I’m going to amend that statement. I felt absolute rage that something so beautiful could be torn down. Is there possibility that the new owner of the Turkey Hill property can subdivide this property and build more than one “Mc mansion” and that is what is driving the tear down rather than just wanting something new and more up to date?

  12. I’m actually feeling badly for the new owners who so blatantly are coming in like a bull-dog (no deference to bulldogs; I love bulldogs) or bull-dozer, better put, and destroying an integral part of a neighborhood’s history. How will they ultimately be received? There’s no warm and fuzzy welcoming committee planed for them (as our family received, actually when we arrived; I’m still grateful for that). They will be destained forever. Rightly so…what a Shame.

    • x Susan Feliciano – You’re so right. I was thinking the same these last weeks. I’m afraid honour itself has become an antiquity here… among neighbours or anyone else. So I doubt they would take in any scorn directed their way and be impacted by it. It is saddening all around… the state of interaction between people… or rather the absence of meaningful interaction.

  13. Thank you, Ms. Strong, for this brief but insightful sketch of your family’s time at 63 Turkey Hill Road South. Like many, I hear your words with a shared sense of sadness.

  14. I was just speaking to my friend this morning about the rise of ugly monster houses ( McMansions ) Your home Ms. Strong is magnificent. Who is being PAID OFF in this town to constantly let this continue? It’s positively disgraceful the way our beautiful town is being transformed into a my home is bigger than your home and damn all the neighbors mindset. We see it all the time. I come from Manhasset L.I. where you can’t change one tile on a roof without getting permission from the town. It still retains it’s overall beauty after all these years. In New Canaan, Darien, Greenwich they still retain a certain style….why can’t Westport ? Again, who is being paid off to allow such monsters to be erected and thrive? We came to this town 34 years ago for the beaches, schools, diversity of religions and beauty of this town. I’m sad to say some group has hijacked Westport. Let’s demand a change.

  15. Terry Santella Anzalone

    Very sad.

  16. While I empathize with Ms. Strong and her feelings with respect to the anticipated demolition of her grandmother’s house, in the end Mr. Steinke is correct. Ms. Strong’s grandparents (or heirs), of their own free will chose to sub-divide and sell their property without any deed restrictions on what could be done with it with full knowledge of Westport’s zoning rules and limited building constraints. The subsequent owner has now done the same.

    There do not appear to be any accusations of fraud or guns being held to anyone’s head in any of this. That the new buyer would like to do what Ms Strong’s grandparents did – build a home to their personal peference – is perfectly reasonable.

    For those who feel otherwise, I have a series of questions as well as a humble suggestion.

    The questions:

    1) Why was the historical onion farm plowed under and turned into a house in 1916 rather than preserved?

    2) What happened to the original farmhouse? Why was that historical structure not preserved as it was?

    3) Why was the 9 acres subdivided in 1978 rather than retaining the historic grand parcel and grounds?

    4) Who chose to destroy the wonderful Japanese garden and why?

    I suspect we all know the answers to these questions – the then property owner chose to do what they wanted to do with their property, in complete disregard for any preservation considerations, for personal esthetic preference and/or economic reasons. Where is the outrage over that? Why suddenly the outcry now?

    The suggestion:

    Recognizing the limited restrictions Westport has on demolition of old houses and construction of new ones, each and every one of you that are concerned about what someone can do to a property, please immediately put a deed restriction on your property ensuring its preservation for generations to come. Further, start and contribute to a “preservation fund” to buy deed restrictions from those not as preservation minded as yourselves. Seriously, you can do this.

    I’m guessing, however, that few, if any, of the folks complaining about the demolition of this house and/or the various other houses in Westport will choose to do this. I think we all know why. I would submit, however, that if you are unwilling to do this to your own property, or cough up money to compensate folks for diminution of their property rights, you have little standing to suggest interference with someone doing something with the property they own.

    Indeed, it is the height of hypocrisy.

    • Given the largely unchecked wholesale redevelopment of Westport, one would think people such as this gentleman would find it within themselves to at least feign graciousness.

    • ? The author (who is the great granddaughter & granddaughter of the original owners) described in the above article that the original farmhouse was preserved as part of the home.

  17. This is just one more case of destroying an architectural gem just so that we can have another McMansion and so that the owner can proclaim that “mine is bigger than yours”. No house is safe from those who insist on building a monument to support their ego and who are encouraged by the architects and builders who profit from this mania.

  18. Architecture, unlike any other art form, embodies memory. Robinson Strong’s lovely tribute to her family and their home certaily validates this concept.

    The villa has a wonderful spirit of place about it and, in my opinion, is a beautiful piece of residential architecture. It’s a pity that it will not be incorporated into the new owners ‘parti’ for their own home.

    Not all building qualifies as architecture but, all architecture involves building.

  19. Perhaps we should all gather at the Minuteman statue & sort out what the new tyranny is (also involving the coin btw) now that our sweet ‘Red Coats’ are no longer the threat. Freedom should not extend to stomping round in extremely big boots tyranising neighbours into tears – due to crossed ‘i’s & dotted ‘t’s which apparently have outlived their intended purpose. (Let us start anew w/ those). This is precisely where empathy and agape love should step in to right things People: PLEASE – serve another master than money here.

    • Yes people. Turn you back on filthy lucre. Deed restrict your property today so your children and grandchildren will not have to write the letter Ms. Strong did.

      • It is always interesting to read as some want to ‘dump’ on those that can afford to build a bigger home. Instead of embracing those that we need to move into Wetsport to help support our schools and our town budget (pension plan and OPEB, the beach and our golf course and our roads and other items) some find it right to turn against them.

        This is just like Hartford. Drive the wealthy out of the state and watch as social programs get cut, roads deteriorate and taxes still go up.

        I think you have it all wrong but I am sure
        My special friends will tell you I am wrong.

        We will see—-my prediction is much higher taxes coming. And higher taxes in Westport if we keep this nonsense going.

        Does anyone understand the town needs more
        Money every year just to keep things the same? But then again I fear a lot of you will vote for Steinberg b

      • I deed restricted my historic property here a decade and a half ago. So did my all my neighbors. Westport Realtors are real pros and didn’t even bat an eye. In fact, they market the heck out the historic district. While the protection we bought ourselves is priceless, the semi-hilarious thing is that, since then, Vision Appraisal has never tired of trying to boost our property assessments (ours was about 19% this year). And we live in a FEMA rated flash flood zone on top of it all. The good news is that we’re surrounded by super neighbors that were attracted to the history, romance and character of the neighborhood. It’s a common bond that we all share and I think it has helped make our little community an even better place to live.

        • Much respect, Morley. Very refreshing when someone actually walks the talk.

          And you are right, when everyone in a neighborhood is on the same page, it can be very rewarding value-wise. It works better where there is more density which also creates a much better sense of neighborhood. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on ones point of view) much of Westport does not benefit from that.

        • Morley. Congratulations. That is what makes our country the best–it’s called ‘your’ choice.

          Nice to see someone back up their talk.

  20. Great move Dan. It never fails.

  21. x Mr.Boyd

    Please don’t trouble yourself responding to these BIZARRE attacks against you. (So funny REALLY!). We respect your TIRELESS efforts at the preservation of what (to those of us born here) was a fairyland of wondrous architecture & field & wood & stream. I – for one – marvel at the tremendous fortitude required (& which you & other preservationists exhibit) to defend even a sliver of CT history against people who apparently are soulless in their absolutely complete lack of empathy for this VERY difficult undertaking.

  22. x Robinson Strong. Your grandparents home/house was also my favourite (along w/ – by degrees – two others I wrote of earlier). I’m terribly sad for you.

    ‘This is the truth the poet sings –
    that a sorrow’s crown of sorrow
    is remembering things’
    – Alfred Lord Tennyson

    And in the spirit of sympathy – one of mine:

    Pillar of Salt:

    I wake up long past childhood
    sad and inconsolable
    Wanting my Spanish doll
    And the picture of the ship
    on the dark blue water
    that hung in the light blue room

    And the little red painted chair
    with the rush seat
    The wooden boats
    And my grandmother’s iron scale
    designed with the workings exposed

    A tiny working piano
    A reed flute
    And all the beautiful carpets
    Are all the beautiful carpets we left
    We could not take whilst running
    And money can’t buy them now…

    – 21 January 2001

  23. I am always amazed at how folks on this blog moan and groan about one issue or another. In this case it is an issue of law not taste. My taste might just be different than yours. Yes it is an unusual house and property but the new owners are not bound to like, appreciate or preserve the property. Mr. McDaid above has suggested actions which might/will preclude teardowns or destroying unique or historically old properties. I don’t see anyone rushing to Town Hall to deed restrict their properties. I also don’t see anyone applauding him for suggesting a real answer to the problem that so many on this blog love to whine about. I have lived in a now ninety year old house for 45 years that is located in a very attractive, desireable and hence valuable area. I have no intention of deed restricting this property and frankly if and when I sell it I will make every attempt to maximize the value for my estate. It’s called capitalism. What the new owner does with it is of no concern to me. I am sure that our 3,100 square foot colonial home will be demolished and a new home of probably 5,000 square feet will be built in its stead. Sad perhaps but true. My mother always said “Tommy, actions speak louder than words.” So let’s see some “McDaid suggested” action.

    • That is because many here have respect for a granddaughter mourning the loss of her grandparents house & remembering – w/ heartfelt & precise articulation – her grandparents.

      There is another time and place – an appropriate forum – to discuss matters of real estate & finance in stark & cold terms. That you appear mystified by this indicates it will presumably continue to float around outside of your field of comprehension.

      • My My….Ms Kassis…do you always personnally attack those who don’t agree with you. Dan Woog puts these things up to attract different points of view. I expressed mine. Didn’t know that would attract a personnally insulting response. Bart…now I know how you feel.

        • Tom-thanks. It comes with the willingness to post. But always glad to see the different opinions and I sort thru the ‘noise’.

          All my best b

      • Zoe – I have complete understanding and respect for Ms Strong’s feelings having had similar emotional attachment to the house I grew up in. I would imagine others do as well, notwithstanding how heartless you think they are.

        If the post/letter had ended with the fourth from last paragraph or with “I will greatly miss this house and, while it might be taken away, I will always cherish the memories, which can never be taken away from me” the discussion of real estate and financial matters probably would not have occurred and might be described as offensive if it had.

        However, it instead ended with, essentially, an appeal to stop the house from being taken down, bringing real estate and property rights into the discussion and, frankly, diminishing the rest as potentially a transparent attempt to sway the results through pure emotion. Sort of like that tear-jerker dog commercial. Doesn’t necessarily diminish the emotions, but does change intent.

        Having said all that, I still feel for her perceived loss.

        • @ Jerry MacDaid.

          “Sort of like that tear-jerker dog commercial”

          Yes it is ALL of IT (including the author’s article here about the loss of her grandparents & great grandparents home) a PLOT to distract you from what is REALLY important ($$$) by manipulating you into losing your thread and feeling empathy.

          Like a Medieval Trial – during the Inquisition: any sympathy felt by the torturer was believed to be the tortured (accused witch – heretic – Jewish person – Muslim person – elderly herbalist – midwife – etc.) casting a spell on the torturer.

          Thanks for your clarification.

    • I believe I took the kind of action that had been suggested, Tom. See my separate post above for the particulars.

      • Mr. Boyd….I congratulate you for taking an affirmative step on this much discussed issue. Too bad others don’t follow you lead instead of just talking about it. Your move took courage.

        • Thanks Tom. Looking back, I think maybe it took more passion than courage. You’ll be pleased to know that I helped a fair number of Westporters to do the same thing: three additional historic districts and I’m not sure anymore how many local historic properties. It’s not the right choice for everyone, of course, but it seemed to help in these particular cases.

          • My neighborhood is one of the newest historic districts in Westport and Morley and his wife Pamela were instrumental in guiding us through the process! Without their dedication, expertise and commitment it likely would have taken much longer and many more missteps along the way!

    • @ Tom Leyden. Your post about people who “moan and groan” implied that the author – who is mourning the impending loss of her great grandparents & grandparents house – was herself “moaning & groaning” about that. It also implied that everyone here professing heartfelt sympathy with & for her was also “moan(ing) and groan(ing)”. Which you expressed derisively. (People w/ love & empathy for others do not view their pain as “moaning and groaning”).

      I simply pointed out to you after you expressed ‘amazement’ at people’s responses – that they are in mourning. And then I surmised correctly – given what you wrote – that you would still not have a clue what I was referring to.

      • Ms. Kassis…read Mr McDaid’s last post. My comments did not relate to Ms Strong’s expressed feelings about her house but to those who want owners of real property to do what they, the complainers, want to do. In other words minding other peoples business. Don’t you dare impune how I personally feel about Ms Strong and her cherished memories and feelings. You don’t know me from Adam as I don’t know you.

        • The ‘new’ Nancy Wilson.

        • @ Tom Leyden. The words “moan(ing) and groan(ing)” & “complaining” carelessly tossed at people who have GENUINE feelings about matters dear to their heart – regardless of WHO they are in the World or WHO you are referring to – are “impun(ing)” enough. I really didn’t crack open a thesaurus there: I simply read what you wrote & quoted you.

          Preservationists such as Mr.Boyd & those who support them in CT are doing a noble & tough & I imagine exhausting job. Please sift through the thread & read the truly insulting (& frankly WEIRD) comments directed at preservationists & their supporters.

          Sorry but I have fearlessly broken up attacks on NYC subways (& more): hence I am not going to look the other way & say nothing when people are bullied for their heartfelt feelings at making some MUCH needed changes toward preservation.

          • Please, please excuse me….the subject matter and my comments I originally posted on was not on the subject of Preservation but rather others telling owners of their property what to do with THEIR property. I’m certainly interested in preservation….if the person preserving can afford it and that being preserved is theirs to preserve. I certainly can appreciate the feelings of the woman who originally wrote to Dan…she has her reasons to feel sorry about the situation and I empathize with them. Do you get that neither you nor anyone else has or should have the right to dictate how an owner LEGALLY uses their property. If you don’t like it and have the numbers to create new laws then so do. Preservation is noble….no doubt about it….but not preserving is not ignoble….it’s another point of view. Yapping about it does nothing. But have at it you seem to enjoy it.

            • @ Tom Leyden – “yapping”… yet another abusive derisive term. Perhaps make a glossary… Put all your demeaning terms in one place for brevity – to enable people to realise at one glance what you are about.

          • Zoe – Please re-read everything in these comments. Slowly. I don’t think people wrote what you apparently think they did.

            • @ Jerry MacDaid – I don’t need to read “slowly”. Perhaps reread your OWN comments Mr. MacDaid: such as for calling for “outrage” at the author’s family who owned the house &c.

              • Seriously? You might re-read that question, and my entire comment, and try to figure out what it all means and whether I was calling for outrage from anyone. Hint: Google “rhetorical question”.

  24. & another from me for Robinson:

    Turn around and see
    My tears have nowhere to fall

    -14 July 2009

  25. I don’t think it’s so much an affirmation of Ms. Strong’s love of her grandparents’ house as the feeling that so many of us have of losing the Westport that we love so much. Yes, I live in Fairfield, (about 1/2 mile from the border), but I lived in Westport for many years and only moved because the house my husband and I were living in was too big and we wanted to downsize. There was nothing we could downsize to in Westport — smaller houses were being torn down before we could even look at them. The Westport we lived in had a diversity of people and houses. It’s gradually been changed to McMansionville.

    • Wonder how all the farmers and their families felt when the suburbanites came in droves and cut up their farms/tore down their farmhouses for the development of homes that so many now deplore being torn down. Change is inevitable… But it is sad to lose what used to be. Memories are a poor substitute but are better than nothing. There is no “common thinking” anymore….everyone has an opinion and social media amplifies it to “noise” so no consensus can be found. Look at the world, our country. Westport government is actually pretty good in my mind at least in trying to gain consensus on important Town issues. I guess controlling the destruction of “historically significant” properties hasn’t risen to a level yet to effect any change in the situation that many on here at least deplore.

  26. ‘One day a very wicked hobgoblin was in a merry mood. He made a looking-glass which had the power of making everything good or beautiful that was reflected shrink to nothing, while everything that was worthless and bad increased in size. The most lovely landscapes appeared as boiled spinach… All who went to his school declared that people could now, for the first time, see what the world and mankind were really like…’ – Hans Christian Andersen ‘The Snow Queen’

  27. Bonnie Bradley

    Has anyone walked, biked or driven down Owenoke lately?
    Once upon a time it was a simple, quiet, lovely street…..

  28. It is good to read your remarks, Robinson Strong !! I share your views entirely. I was the God Daughter of your grandparents. I remember you well! We lived on Devon Road. I posted before on this blog on my complete exasperation at the mentality of someone who would tear down that unique and lovely house, and the lack of historic preservation in Westport. From the Peter Hunt-decorated beams in the living room ceilings to the polished brick floor in the dining room, to the marvelous Dutch antique marquetry antiques ….and the 16-17th Century Italian chairs and tables in the living room, all of which helped to create a unique and elegant atmosphere. I remember well the lovely Japanese Gardens, I posted before about the culture of Westport being distinctly different from towns like Southport, Darien and New Canaan, among others….and that culture of Westport simply doesn’t support historic preservation, unlike the other towns. Can you imagine one of those charming houses on Pequot Road in Southport being razed and subdivided for McMansions? Not a chance! I remember well in about 1950, 3 extremely pedestrian houses were put up on the NE and SW corners of Turkey Hill Road and Clapboard Hill. My parents were dismayed, as such houses would undermine the ambiance of the neighborhood. I am sure they in turn have been since torn down and replaced (not sorry about that)….The point is, the Westport mentality hasn’t changed much…it has just accelerated. However, Westport has many, many attributes, as we all well know.

    • x Wendy Graham -The houses on Pequot (& other roads) in Southport are in a designated historic district. Like the historic districts in Westport – they cannot be torn down & external etc. renovations must have prior approval.

      There are a lot of other teardowns in Fairfield (though not the torrent that Westport is experiencing) – mostly of smaller post WWII homes. But the home of a famous aviator – believed by many to have flown BEFORE the Wright Bros. was torn down after preservation efforts failed. I wrote about this in the first thread on the Turkey Hill house – when someone referred to Southport.

      Westport has the same type of historic districts. (Mr. Boyd wrote of the little cottage on Main St. being protected there for that reason – last month).

    • x Wendy Graham – The Wikipedia article on folk art decorative painter Peter Hunt is really interesting – inc. the links to a website & a book (from 2003) etc. He also published his own books (instructional). Thanks for that.

      I contacted the author to know if there are photos of the ceiling of the Turkey Hill house… & described what you reported & the probable teardown. (I’m waiting for a return email).

  29. P.S. the 1950 houses were on the NW and SE corners of Clapboard Hill and Turnkey Hill Roads…sorry.

  30. Lively thread here. I have seen several like this on 06880. The thing is, everyone here is absolutely correct in their view. It is certainly a shame that this house is coming down. It is definitely one of Westport’s best properties, and for those connected to the town for years – or generations – there is also something about a personal history going by the way. It’s also the case, however, that a residential property can be an owner’s most significant asset – usually for retirement, and that dictating what an owner must do or even ought to do for the sake of our preference for preservation is not really fair for all the reasons stated in this thread.

    A couple of years ago we learned that a Frazier Peters house was recently taken down. Having grown-up admiring the Steinkraus house, the one on Old Hill and the one on the river off Imperial (whose patio, as kids, we would so rudely cut-through to carry a friend’s row boat to the river) I could not imagine anyone could knock one down. Had we known of the impending demolition at the time we would have tired to save it. We subsequently learned that the owner, who had inherited the house, just could not find a buyer during the demolition period who could pay the price the builder was willing to pay – and then pay to restore a home that would in the end not be what most families looking to buy in Westport would want at the then necessary price.

    When an opportunity arose again in the same neighborhood, we found an heir that was at least as concerned about preservation as she was about the sales price, and so together, we found a way to ensure that at least one other Peters house would not come down. That said, given the difficulty and fairly high expense of a restoration process, it is not difficult to see why owners and heirs sell to builders who merely provide what the market prefers at the price buyers will pay. The population of people (never-mind people not connected to Westport’s history) for whom this house will be their dream, is most likely fairly small, We are grateful to have the opportunity to save this one house, but we are also aware that not very many would want to or would have the help of the prior owner to do so.

    So some houses will be lost. That is probably inevitable, but if you have been around Westport for some decades at least, it is amazing (despite the loss of Compo House) how many of Westport’s historic homes have been restored. The Italianates along Long Lots were falling down in the 70’s, as were those on Greens Farms into Southport, several in Saugatuck and upper Main Street and Evergreen Av. I remember when we all thought these would be demolished given the state of their disrepair. Look what Dave Waldman has gone through to save the Y and the houses on Church Street. So on the whole, I think Westport has done an absolutely great job of saving its old houses. Perhaps, it is true that many of those restorations were done much earlier, and at a time when residential economics and preferences were different, but they were (and are) done – many, many more than not.

    So, while I still thinks the loss of the Remarkable was almost a crime and that the loss of this house is so very hard to accept, in the end I think the town has done as good a job as any in both respecting the reality of individual property rights and saving most of its old housing stock. Good on it!

    • x Sam Febbraio.

      I lived in one of the Italianates along Beachside – when I rented a room there for several years. (After having grown up on the old Hockanum property – north of Cross Highway). The Beachside house I lived in was built in 1779 after the orig. colonial was burned by the British & in the late 19th c. renovated & enlarged into high Victorian. It was since renovated about 15 yrs. ago & is now on the WHS list under the name of the orig. owner or several owners.

      However I think – as you’ve written – most renovations were done earlier. (Prior to the 90s). As far as I know Westport is the only town w/ a Teardown of the Day page on a news site (unusual enough to have been covered by The New York Times).

      I forgot which house you were referring to as Compo House (despite having read about it’s history very in depth recently) because we always referred to it as “the Asylum”. (When it was still operational w/ nurses taking elderly people for walks round the winding paved paths surrounding the building). Some other people called it the Baron’s property – but I only knew the heavily wooded property across the road as belonging to the baron. (Or referred to as such).

      The remedy that some have proposed throughout time for the conundrum of wealth resulting in destruction vs. maintaining free will – is VOLUNTARY humility & living smaller. (Or in more archaic terms: w/ less ‘greed’. As proposed throughout history – by Jesus – Buddha – Mohammed & hence Gandhi etc). Since the subject is architecture a contemporary example is the small house movement: such as the amazing houses now made of shipping crates. For people who like contemporary architecture. Some of the designs are really stellar.

      Of course that is not happening in Westport. It will be someday though as global warming & a smaller footprint are becoming tragically important and Westport was listed as one of 1000 towns that will be the first to find itself under water.

      There are voluntary alternatives. People can VOLUNTARILY decide on requiring less (as little as possible ideally) to survive. Versus someone posting here who has six bedrooms w/ ten baths. It does not have to mean being robbed of their democratic rights if they choose a more modest life.

      The reality is that outside of Fairfield County people (comedians – writers etc.) now make fun of the unbridled wealth that has consumed the area. I no longer live in Westport but I don’t think anyone wants to see the town where they were born & raised turned into a running joke for comedians etc.

      • Glad I live in the US where freedom of choice exists. I am also glad to live in the US as you have every opportunity to either suceed or do anything else (within the law) that you want.

        At the start there was land and some homes built by those that came to Westport. Throughout the centuries some decided to buy the open land and farm and then some decided to sell the land and let others build. All within the freedoms we have all been granted. No land barons. No government leader controlling everything.

        Our town continues to look beautiful. Change is hard to accept sometimes, but the beauty of Westport continues.

        And those that build a bit bigger–thank you!! We need you.

  31. 77 posts before someone mentioned the Remarkablle, the old “How could they?” standby.