Historic Westport Home Hits The Auction Block

Not many people realize the connection between Kodak and George Gershwin.

Fewer still know that both are connected to Westport

Leopold and Frankie Godowsky. (Photo/Zillow)

Leopold and Frankie Godowsky. (Photo/Zillow)

But Leopold Godowsky Jr. — a concert violinist with a passion for photography — moved here in the 1930s.  He set up a lab, and for several decades in town helped develop Kodacolor and Ektachrome.  Today he is considered a major contributor to the field of color photography.  He was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2005, 22 years after his death.

Godowsky’s wife, Frankie Gershwin — George and Ira’s younger sister — was a painter of oils and acrylics, and later a singer.  She too was a prominent Westporter.

In 2009 the Godowskys’ former home — a 7,000-square foot, low-slung compound at the end of Stony Point overlooking the confluence of the Saugatuck River and Long Island Sound, featuring pools, a waterfall, tennis court and dock — became one of the most expensive teardowns in Westport history.

Now the Godowskys’ previous house here — at 157 Easton Road — is on the market.

The 7-bedroom, 10-bath, 6-car garage property sits on 2.75 acres. There’s a boathouse, indoor pool, 2 bars, a wine-tasting room, guest quarters, tennis court, waterfalls, walking paths, and stone bridges. The Saugatuck Aspetuck River flows through the back yard.

157 Easton Road

157 Easton Road

The Godowskys moved to Easton Road from New York in 1938. Four children grew up there, before moving to Stony Point in the early 1950s.

Her parents entertained guests like local residents Richard Rodgers, John Hersey, Maureen O’Sullivan and her daughter Mia Farrow.

The house will be auctioned off on September 30.

It is not the place Nadia Godowsky Natali — Leopold and Frankie’s daughter — remembers.

Back then, she tells Zillow, it was “a country house. Very simple…not pretentious.” That place, she says, is gone.

How does Natali — now a California-based psychotherapist, author of “Cooking Off the Grid” and Zen center founder — know? She’s seen photos of the former “bucolic compound.”

They were digital, Zillow notes.

Not Kodachrome.

(Hat tip: Wendy Crowther)

26 responses to “Historic Westport Home Hits The Auction Block

  1. Wait – isn’t there a crucial bit of history missing from this account? Wasn’t this also the infamous “Arnie Kaye” mansion? Did not Arnie shoot and kill someone there…someone he claimed to be an intruder, and thus the famed arcade and deli owner did not stand trial?

    Also, I believe the Godowskys spent their final years in a smaller contemporary on a pond at the corner of Easton Road and either Greenbrier or Berkeley Rd.

  2. See http://www.thehour.com/news/article/High-end-Westport-estate-up-for-auction-9240520.php.

    The fact that this property has languished on the market for several years — along with the recent teardown/desperation sale of 17 Owenoke Park — indicates there may well be a slump for high-end real estate right now.

  3. I believe this was also the home of Arnie Kaye, one of Westport’s most colorful residents famous for his battles with municipal government when he opened the first video game complex in our area. I was town attorney at the time and had the impossible task of trying to rein him in. There was little I could do but smile at his imaginative escapades when he chained himself to town hall, paid his taxes in pennies, and invited the Hell’s Angels to town, all while he insured that the kids in his complex had permission from their parents to be there, provided employment opportunities for local students, and gave large sums of money to local charities. When he ultimately proved that his facility could be and was a safe and very professional entertainment center, the legal issues receded and his antics became part of local lore. Ken Bernhard, kbernhar@optonline.net

  4. Arnie had a tropical fish pond there with expensive fish until the power failed.

  5. Yes, Arnie owned the house. After his passing, it was sold in 1997 for $3.5 MM. It was put on the market in 2011 for $6.5 MM and did not sell. It has been marketed by various agencies for several years all asking prices in excess of $4.5 MM. In 2015 it was down to $3.7 MM and is currently being marketed at $3.6 MM. I’d be happy to present an offer should anyone want to make a purchase before the auction. 🙂

  6. Nice spade work, Wendy. I think everybody knew that this was Arnie’s old place but I certainly didn’t know about the much more interesting previous owners.

  7. There is also apparently a Beatles connection to this house. According to Thomas DeLong’s terrific book, “Stars in Our Eyes,” the actress Maureen O’Sullivan and her family rented this home in 1964. One of her daughters who lived there was Mia Farrow; another daughter living there was Mia’s sister, Prudence, who was the inspiration for “Dear Prudence.” Mary Gai: does that add some value to the house?

    • Fred…you and I have discussed. .Westport needs a.monument and or plaque talking about Westport’s musical history. I have been to the home several times, went back recently to see an incredible place with one of the most special settings anywhere. The river is wide and pretty tame there ..flowing over flat terrain. I was a little disappointed in the fact that they took out Arnies custom built brick Parrott cages that flanked the window in the kitchen that looked out at the water. To answer your question…I think any house with history like that… Ira and George visited there…Frankie’s opera..and now dear Prudence? It’s all too much! It’s a great place!! Good luck to the buyer and the agent who represents them.

  8. Ellen Greenberg

    re:Real Estate Market. I have visited both of these houses. Both have stunning property. Neither have a contemporary family layout. Both properties are “projects”. 17 Owenoke is overpriced, has an unfinished pool and unfinished exterior wall construction, and it likely needs to be raised ) since the basement flooded during Superstorm Sandy (tear-down in process . 157 Easton Road is a slice of Westport history but it is a project. On the surface you can see repairs/updates are needed on the tennis court, greenhouse, koi ponds and retaining wall on the river. Both houses are “projects” in a market with lots of move in ready properties. I hope someone buys 157 Easton Road and has a vision to renovate and maintain the property

    • Although I don’t support the manner in which it was done, I’m pretty sure most of the deficiencies you observed at 17 Owenoke were addressed earlier this week.

      • Elizabeth Thibault

        The delivery of your comment was so perfect. I agree with you, but man, this made me laugh. 🙂

    • Happy to hear your stories and ideas on what should happen to 157 Easton Road. I am closing on it next week. Cheers Suni Munshani (sunimunshani@gmail.com)

  9. A.David Wunsch

    In my Staples days (1953-6) I knew Lee Godowsky, the son of Frannie and Leopold. He didn’t go to Staples. He attended Choate. I met him at a Jewish youth group that was run by a synagogue in Norwalk. He was a quiet and assuming fellow,and seemed quite likable. He didn’t trade on his family’s wealth or fame. I was saddened to learn of his death.
    ADW (Staples 1956)

  10. Sally Campbell Palmer

    Lee actually attended Bedford Jr. High in our class David, before you moved here. We all spent a lot of time at the Easton Rd house, a very nice place. Of course, we got there on our bikes.

  11. Mr Godowsky also had a lot to do with inventing the Long Playing Record.
    his co-inventor, William Bachman, of Southport.

    • Are you sure you don’t mean Peter Goldmark and not Godowsky?

      • Mr. Goldmark and Mr. Bachman share the patent through their Columbia
        affiliation; my information through my first cello teacher, Mrs. Bachman, is that Mr. Godowsky had mentioned the idea of making a transcription-
        like product to her husband at a musical evening in their lovely Southport living room (transcriptions were huge recordings that would play at a slow speed a half-hour radio program like “The Shadow”) … a product for mass consumption which would become the LP.

  12. The Godowskys were living at 21 Berkeley Road when we moved there in 1980. After his death, Frankie continued to live there until her move to Manhatten many years later.

  13. I wonder if the house was a Frasier Peters – it sort of looks it in the photo and is the right era. Or maybe “in the style of”…

    • If it was originally, based on what Godowsky’s daughter says, it isn’t much of one now. Sounds like it is more of an Arnie Kaye (or perhaps subsequent owners) more than whoever designed the original house.

  14. Linda (Pomerantz) Novis

    A nice Westport memory..Years ago,I was in Sally’s Place,and noticed a tiny elderly woman walking out Sally’s door.Sally smiled ‘Do you know who that lady was,just now?’ I said ‘No-‘ Sally (still smiling) ‘Lin,that was Frankie Godowsky!-‘ I added ‘-as in George Gershwin’s sister,Frankie Godowsky,right?’ we both laughed..

  15. Pamela Docters

    Growing up next door to the Godowsky house on Stony Point (1968-78), it seemed like a European castle! I dared to sneak onto their property 1-2 times, just to take a look. I remember when they expanded their property considerably by filling into the cove – you could still do that back then.

  16. Looks like it went for $2million. Frederic and I went to see it a couple of weeks ago and briefly thought about having a spontaneous Beechwood Arts concert there with Orin Grossman to honor its history — Orin was in, but we couldn’t get the piano and other things together in time before we left for Paris. Too bad as I have a feeling it may be used for land only (although I have no info either way — just a guess) — it would have been wonderful to honor its history this way.