Westporters Renovate 2 Historic Structures. Now Neighbors Want Them Torn Down.

Most Westport preservation battles follow the same pattern.

A historic house is sold. The new owner wants to tear it down. Outraged residents object. Others point out that preservationists could have bought the home, but did not — and the people who did, can now do whatever they want.

In rare cases — like 93 Cross Highway108 Cross Highway, or the one across the street at #113 — the home is saved. It’s a handsome stretch on an important main road.

Further down Cross Highway though, something bizarre is happening.

Near the Fairfield border sits 188 Cross Highway. The gorgeous 2.9-acre property includes a saltbox built in 1728,  a barn circa 1790-1810, and 2 legal pre-1959 cottage apartments.

When the British marched past in 1777 en route to Danbury — taking brothers Benjamin and Daniel Meeker prisoner, and sacking the house — it was already half a century old.

The "Meeker house" in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. It -- and the house -- still stand today.

The “Meeker house” in the 1930s, as photographed for a WPA project. After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Meeker built the barn in back. They still stand.

The Schilthuis-Meeker house — Sally Schilthuis was influential in preventing construction of Merritt Parkway Exit 43 in the area, resulting in the current “No Man’s Land” between Exits 42 and 44 — is one of 5 remaining nationwide of original medieval structure Colonial revival construction.

In 2003, Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie purchased the property. It was in foreclosure. The houses were in distress, ready to be plowed under. But the couple saved the historic homes.

For 2 decades, they have poured time and energy into their renovation project. The result is gorgeous.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

The exterior of 188 Cross Highway.

But it’s been costly.

And one couple can’t live in 2 houses. They live in the barn, and rented out the saltbox. The tenants wanted to buy. Mark and  Wendy would love to sell to them — as a practical matter, and to make sure the historic structure is loved, cared for and maintained as it deserves.

They’re even willing to add covenants to keep — in perpetuity — the historic house as a single-family dwelling; forever maintain the facade, and do whatever else is necessary to maintain the house where it is. In other words, no future owner could move — or demolish — the structure.

Right now though, they can’t sell. Planning and Zoning regulations don’t permit 2 homes to exist on 1 piece of property.

Sounds like a win-win: for Mark and Wendy, and the neighborhood.

But a small cadre of Cross Highway neighbors object.

At a Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Thursday, they (and their lawyer) cited traffic, safety, density, the fact that the house is currently unoccupied, and the sight of dandelions on the lawn as reasons to reject the application.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

A recent, sun-dappled fall day.

After 2 hours of heated testimony — during which Wendy and her supporters countered most of the objections, then offered even more covenants and encumbrances to save the historic building and properties — the real issue came through.

Robert Yules and a few other neighbors opposed the subdivision because it would save the historic houses.

He said essentially that the state of the property did not reflect his McMansion, and others nearby. The grounds — period gardens and stone walls, with cobblestone walkways — did not match his extremely well-kept lawn.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

One more view of 188 Cross Highway.

“Trash” and “eyesore” are usually not associated with painstaking historic rehab projects. But they were Thursday night.

It’s astonishing. Yet in this through-the-looking-glass tale, there’s something even more eye-popping.

In 2006, Robert and Susan Yules wrote to the P&Z supporting the efforts of their “friends and neighbors,” Wendy and Mark, on the “renovating and improving of the main house and free standing cottage/barn.”

The Yuleses added, “Their efforts have transformed the buildings significantly. Please permit them to continue to remodel the buildings as they will enhance the beauty of the neighborhood.”

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

An interior view of the bright, high-ceilinged renovated barn.

They were not the only neighbors to appreciate Mark and Wendy’s work.

Others described how Mark and Wendy had “lovingly restore(d) these irreplaceable architectural treasures” to their “deserved place” in Westport and American history.

Now the Yuleses and a few neighbors have changed their tune. They believe a new, large construction better fits the neighborhood than a plan that would save 2 structures — lovingly restored, and paying homage to the days when history quite literally marched past the front door.

“Houses are only kept alive by their owners,” Mark says.

“This is very discouraging. We’re not trying to ‘win.’ We’re trying to give the town something.

This could be one of the most topsy-turvy tales I’ve ever told.

But don’t take my word for it. Drive by 188 Cross Highway. (That’s the official number. The mailboxes have always said 178 and 180). See for yourself. Then — if you want to contact the Planning & Zoning Commission — click here.

96 responses to “Westporters Renovate 2 Historic Structures. Now Neighbors Want Them Torn Down.

  1. Thanks for shedding light on this Dan. The uglier side of neighbor behavior in our town. Shame on the Yules….clearly they have way too much time on their hands.

  2. I lived at 180 Cross Highway for two years and I can say unequivocally that Mark and Wendy were the best landlords I ever had the pleasure of renting from. Their property is a labor of love and every day they can be found tending to the gardens and improving their already stunning property. They treated me and my family with love and respect and even walked our beloved dog Bellie when I was working late. Both Mark and Wendy are exemplary human beings and their work and respect for their property and our town should be honored. I for one am honored to have shared my time and my daughter’s early years on their magical property. Thank you Dan for sharing with our community the importance of the property and the dedication of two amazing humans.

    • Nick Christonikos

      These historic structures must be preserved…. Wendy and Mark’s preservation request is meritorious and they and their efforts are a credit to the community. The objectors in this case are clearly self-serving and the P&Z Cttee should permit the subdivision!!

  3. I know Mark and Wendy too. They are the kindest, most hardworking people I’ve met. Ever. The physical work they’ve done to conserve a precious piece of our nation’s historic heritage is beyond remarkable. Instead of harassing them with lawyers and goofy claims, this quietly heroic couple should be thrown a parade.

  4. Laurie Goldberg

    I am just a little confused by this. Are the property owners asking the P&Z to support them dividing the property into 2 lots? Or is there some other variance being asked for? I started to write a letter to P&Z and realized I was not sure how to frame my message.
    As far as their unsupportive neighbors go, shame on them. This attitude reminds me of when Tina Dragone objected to the new Goodwill building across the street from her store.

    • P&Z regulation 32-18 allows special conditions for historic structures, including special setbacks and other incentives, for saving historic dwellings.

      Subdividing the property will allow 2 separate and distinct properties, each with one of the historic dwellings. This would let the owner sell one, to cover the extensive costs of rehab. In this case the owners would further protect the historic building sold, with covenants put on the deed. This is not often done by a seller, as it can be a burden restricting future use of the property. However, it maintain the building and saves it from demolition.

  5. I became a realtor many years ago because of my love of old houses. I’ve saved historic properties from the wrecking ball (499 Main Street c.1856 was about to be knocked down and I bought, restored and sold it) I desperately wanted to buy Cross Highway for my family to live in, but the project was too big for me, so I showed the property to Mark and Wendy just before they fell into foreclosure. I have watched them pour their hearts and souls into the (fascinating) research and the unbelievable restorations. These were not just tired old homes, these are very special, historically significant homes with their original forms and ALL of their charming details intact. They were, however, desperately distressed with damage from severe neglect and mishandling from the bank and many lien holders. They were brought back from the brink. OUR HISTORY is integrally linked to Cross Highway. It is HALLOWED ground. Homes of this age and purity need to be saved by whatever means possible. The owners of historic homes, and the people who buy them, need to be given the utmost respect and leeway to make it possible to save old structures, even if it means a change in the zoning. We’ve been so dumbed down, that we worship our zoning laws, and have lost countless historic structures, because of them. Shame on us!! What Mark and Wendy have done needs to be recognized as a gift to the town. They’re right, the age of the structures requires one owner for each address because the properties deserve to be properly taken care of. And perhaps what they have done, or are trying to do, will save other historically significant buildings.

  6. don l bergmann

    The wonderful work of Wendy and Mark is reinforced by the positive role of our P&Z Commission in supporting certain regulatory changes to accommodate the historic preservation efforts of people such as Wendy and Mark. The P&Z is now hearing the specific application of Wendy and Mark and, I predict, will unanimously support the Special Permit and Subdivision applications that flow from the underlying relevant regulatory changes adopted by the Commission in 2015 to support historic preservation. Nevertheless, e mails to the Commission supportive of this historic preservation effort will evidence to all the desire of Westporters to retain and protect beautifully preserved historic structures. If possible, Dan Woog should forward his column and all comments to the P&Z Commission since only then will they get into the record for the Commission.
    Don Bergmann

  7. I was at the P&Z meeting where Mark and Wendy made a clear, professional presentation with beautiful photos of their houses and properties for all to see. Their lawyer explained how important it was to save these historic and magnificent structures that Mark and Wendy worked to hard to restore by hand. Their hands. Since I am friends with these two hardworking very special people, I have been to their property and houses many times and have seen their love and attention to every detail of restoration and preservation that often went well into the late hours of the night.

    At the meeting Robert Yules got up and attacked them personally and viciously, disparaging Mark and Wendy’s timeless efforts, care, and devotion to their property. He even blamed them for the traffic and accidents occurring around the bend. He tried to make them responsible for his access in and out of his own driveway. He displayed a personal vendetta that was hard to understand because he deviated from the actual issues of historic preservation so often. Of course, he didn’t mention his letter of praise the he had written for the work they were doing to restore the house or how nice they were to him when he asked them to take care of his dog while he was away from home. He went on and on with spurious accusations and little substance.

    Then his lawyer came to the podium and began his specious presentation with an infantile attempt to intimidate the P&Z: what they were doing was illegal and, he implied, there would be consequences. He went further with his couched threats into a diatribe about how the property was dilapidated and destroying the character of the neighborhood because it was not equal to the ostentatious McMansions that developers clone like impotent sheep wherever you look. It was clear according to Yules and his hired gun that was called an attorney: Mark and Wendy’s historic structures should be torn down and replaced by ugly contemporary structures that reflect the vacuum of love and history. Since coming to Westport 50 years ago, I am grateful that Mark and Wendy have continued their efforts on behalf of the history and preservation of their property, the town of Westport, and Fairfield County. I also express my deepest thanks for the endless time and energy that the members of the P&Z spend listening to the concerns of the residents of our small town in spite of how venom-filled and ridiculous some claims are.

  8. My wife and I have had the pleasure of touring through these magnificent structures that Mark and Wendy have so lovingly restored and maintained. We also drive past the homes multiple times each day and are very happy to see some diversity in the neighborhood.
    As to the density issue, it should be noted that even if their lot was subdivided into two equal parcels, each lot would be larger than the non-conforming AAA zoned 1.3 acres that the Yules’ mcmansion resides on.

  9. Sounds like a “slippery slope” situation here. If one property owner is allowed to subdivide contrary to zoning regs, what’s to stop others from demanding the same thing?

    Why is it not sufficient for the existing property owners to find a new tenant for their additional dwelling?

    And what of future owners who buy these non-conforming properties down the road, and will be singled-out for deed restrictions limited their abilitiy to update them?

    I agree that the neighbor(s) desire for a tear-down/McMansion replacement of an historic house is wrong (if that is indeed the motivation), but that does not necessarily make a zoning variance right.

    • This why we have a Planning and Zoning Commission. No cliched “slippery slope.”

      • Sorry don’t understand. If P&Z grants a variance to one homeowner because of a special situation, aren’t they obligated to do the same for other homeowners facing the same set of circumstances in the future?

        • Bobbie Herman

          Each application is decided on its own merits.

        • Jerry MacDaid

          If this meets the criteria of 32-18, I would this this is an easy approval for the P&Z. Hopefully, there will be the appropriate covenants and deed restriction so we don’t find ourselves 5-10 years down the road with the new owners (of both lots) tearing down the historical houses with two McMansions suddenly being built on the subdivided lots that might otherwise not have been approved.

          If it doesn’t meet the 32-18 criteria, Peter might be right about the slippery slope argument. Certainly if the houses weren’t historical, most of the commentary here probably would be negative.

  10. I have been in both the house and cottage and found them to be beautifully and lovingly restored, both inside and out. What has Westport come to when such wonderful historic houses are discarded in favor of monstrous McMansions? What has Westport come to when “property values” take priority over neighborliness? I’m sure that is what is driving the Yuleses. A $3 million McMansion across the street would increase their property value. The property is 2.9 acres in a two-acre zone. A variance could subdivide the property under “grandfathering” and common sense. Just down the street on Cross Highway is an enormous newly-built McMansion crammed into a one-acre lot. Do the Yuleses find this preferable?

  11. Ellen Greenberg

    Allow the subdivision under “grandfathering” or grandfather the rental unit.
    Siting traffic issues is spurious. I would argue that two small homes will create similar traffic to one large home which may have nannies or high schoolers with cars.
    To argue that an historic home on the street harms property values is ridiculous. Last I checked, Westport does not have regulations regarding the style of your garden or mandatory use of herbicides to kill all the dandelions in your lawn.

  12. go Mark and Wendy kick their posteriors do what you have to keep your property the way you want it not the whims of some stuck up snobbish fogeys trying to dictate zeke heil fogeys

  13. Sent to P&Z: Please make every effort to preserve this treasure from the past. We desperately need these historical connections to remind us all from whence we came.

  14. As an architectural photographer who has been fortunate to have photographed special properties throughout the US and Europe, I spoke to the P&Z committee in support of Mark and Wendy’s preservation request. My particular profession gives me a unique perspective as an authority on both aesthetics and period architecture through the ages up to modern times. These important residences must be preserved.
    I met Mark and Wendy because I drove by their properties and was so taken with the beauty of these structures, I knocked on their door and asked them if I could photograph them. I did, both the interiors and the exteriors. They became part of a magazine spread in a Hearst publication.
    Please keep in mind, I never noticed the Yules’ house or any other home in the neighborhood because they are not special or interesting or remarkable from a historical or aesthetic perspective. For neighbors not to recognize and appreciate the value of these historical properties and the need to preserve them for the benefit of our collective culture is shocking and sorely short-sighted.

  15. If we sanforize the charm out of this town, it’s going to look like Anyplace, USA. This situation calls for a judicious use of a variance, better than one for adding a pool or AC unit.

  16. I agree with Amy’s statement about all the McMansions – “They are not special or interesting”. They for the most part all look the same, see one see them all.
    I would like to see this special piece of property preserved. We have lost a lot of Westport’s history due to the knock down and build up that has and is taking place.

  17. Imaginary road sign on way into town; “Welcome to the Bizarro World”

  18. I just drove past the house, and I didn’t see any dandelions.

  19. My 87 year old mom hopes to re-visit Westport next summer… I wonder what will be recognizable to her after decades away.
    Happily, the beach can’t change dramatically (and happily, too, she has a pretty good open mind about life, its ups and downs… )

    p.s. Happy Thanksgiving (Canada)

  20. Bill Boyd (Staples '66)

    I moved to westport in 1959… it was a charming town then… today its over-run with urbanites trying to homogenise(?) everything to a level of disgusting sameness

  21. Robert Mitchell

    All those who bemoan the loss of mom-and-pop stores on Main Street should pay heed to this situation as well. Westport has a proud heritage dating back centuries, but we can’t let it devolve into just remembrances because all the actual historic structures are gone. As for the McMansions, there is also a tendency of the new owners to cut down trees, denying the fact that Connecticut is, by and large, a wooded state.. The danger is that the town will begin to look like Levittown or a ritzy suburb of Topeka, Kansas.

  22. I grew up in this area and knew the Schilthuis family. Unfortunately to much has changed in the area. My Dad’s homestead, gone. My Uncles house, gone. The house I was raised in still there, because of wet land. Ugly large homes replace those, I once was so comfortable with. I thank Mark Yurkiu and Wendy Van Wie for their commitment in restoring and maintaining the Schilthuis home and barn.

    • Thanks Ginny for writing as a voice for our family. I graduated from Staples back in the 60s and never came home to Connecticut to live. I took a job in Philadelphia and have restored 5 Victorian homes and 2 historic churches in that city and now preparing to start on my 6th and final home. Even though I have invested my life in Pennsylvania I still consider myself a Connecticut Yankee. Born and bred there it never leaves you. Do you think it’s the McMansions that lingers in my veins; certainly not. It is the history and beauty of the past. Philadelphia had its glorious own history and I’ve served on the historical society to help do what I can to preserve its influence into the future. In two weeks I am retiring and moving from the area to a very beautiful rural part of PA. I have pictures and memories of every area I’ve ever lived throughout my life and local histories collected in books and pamphlets all packed now in boxes ready for the move. None are of the McMansions. All are of historic homes and communities and people that gave character to the area and enriched my life. Ginny and I and many others are descendent of the Jennings family. I’m sure you recognize that name if you have lived in the Fairfield/Westport area for any length of time. Hearing these squabbles over making it difficult financially and emotionally and physically for Wendy and Mark to maintain these historic treasures which once gone you can never get back sickens me. I know the toil of historic preservation and you can’t do it alone. It takes the whole neighborhood to help in every way they can to support your efforts. For what it’s worth I thank you and completely support your efforts. I’m glad my cousin shared this story on Facebook I can’t wait to get back home and drive by to see the old properties once again and just push a little kindness and support your way.

  23. The P&Z Commission is not being asked to grant a variance, that is the role of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The P&Z Commission is acting under a regulation that applies to all who satisfy the language of the regulation.
    Don Bergmann

  24. Having not been an “old house” person before falling in love with “Beechwood” on Weston Rd, I can attest to the unique and powerful beauty of a historic property. In fact, when we first moved in, among the first people to welcome us were Mark and Wendy! Our friendship started right away, when they recognized, as did we, the kinship we felt around our old houses. Our hope was to preserve it, highlight it, share it with others, and Mark and Wendy truly appreciated that.

    When we caught the “old house” bug, we began to feel deeply that sense of being a caretaker vs being an owner. Beechwood was built in 1806 with a major renovation in the 1950’s. Even though only part of the house is original, the renovation was done with love, attention and artistry, using materials from the 1800s. When we saw it, we knew the real estate market pretty well, and we knew there was really nothing like it in Westport.

    Fortunately, there are still a number of houses one can say that about, but that number will only get smaller. How quickly it diminishes depends on the residents and the P&Z valuing that uniqueness, that historical significance, that spirit that can only come from years of caretaking.
    We should all be deeply and personally involved in how Mark and Wendy’s property is treated. It will be a sign of how all of our unique properties are valued by our community. And a sign of whether Westport has the guts and the will to preserve its heritage.

  25. Mr. Yules is an ambulance chaser who went to some tier 3 schools in Ohio. He paid less than $300/ft for his big cheapo house – which would give modern day McMansions a bad name.

    Enough of the bullies in this town, in our politics, and in our lives. To each his own, be fortunate for what you have and what you’ve accomplished and let others do the same.

    • Alexander Kuhner

      Agree with Stephanie – no need to attack the bully, we can all see what he’s doing and his profession and schools are not the issue. And there’s nothing wrong with tier 3 colleges, if he went to tier 1 schools there would be no difference.

      What I would be interested in is some speculation on his motives, and discussion of what we are permitted to do with our own properties. Does he really think that another McMansion will increase his property value? (seems dubious) Do we have the right to expect that property value is the number one priority for everyone? (it’s not) Did he develop a personal issue with the owners? (doesn’t sound like it… until now) What difference does it make if their lawn isn’t perfect? Is there an actual ordnance about how you have to keep your landscaping maintained?

  26. Bobbie Herman

    The Yules’ house, incidentally, is located on 1.3 acres. It is 5223 S.F.

  27. Mr. Logan:

    Bad form. Don’t agree w/ Mr. Yules stance on this, but that kind of character assassination should be left to our tacky politicians. Reminds me of the father I saw in a Greenwich Village park, smacking his kid as he said, “We don’t hit.” And bullying the bullies is not effective.

  28. I lived in Westport for 40 years and as a builder there for 20 years restored a number of historic structures including my family home, The Bennett/Saltus house on South Compo and the Tavern on Main. Neither one of these was monetary success construction wise, but I was always proud that I left these structures to endure for years to come. One of the many reasons I left Westport was the town was no longer the place I grew up in. My friend Dan Woog and I always bemoan the loss of our “town” and the only solution we have come up with to preserve our town is a time machine, for I fear that as long as the town is inundated with “Yules” (and yes I think we can adopt this name as a disparaging adjective) the place we love is lost.

  29. Thanks Dan for keeping us informed on the incidents that go on in town. Most of us would never know about them and are saddened by the changes that have have altered the character of our beautiful town!

  30. Well said.

  31. may we see a pic or two of the Yules’ monstrosity ?
    and could we have a direct link to the P&Z board, please,
    so this 80yr.old (Westporter 1936 – 1955) and others can
    with a few keystrokes express their disbelief and displeasure
    with the stance of the Yules’, which isn’t cool.

  32. Elaine Marino

    You can watch the P & Z meeting in question at the following link:

    http://view.earthchannel.com/PlayerController.aspx?&PGD=westportct&eID=382

    Two neighbors in opposition spoke at the meeting. Brett Parker of 192 Cross Highway began speaking around the 40:00 mark while Robert Yules of 177 Cross Highway began speaking around the 57:00 mark. Mr. Yules identifies the group of neighbors who signed a four-page letter of opposition to the sub-division as: Caputo (184 Cross Highway), Parker (192), Sklar (173), Howe (181) and Yules (177).

    It seemed to me that Mr. Parker did not share Mr. Yules’ disdain for the age or condition of the property, as Mr. Parker cited increased density as his only concern. The P & Z were able to assuage Mr. Parker’s worry by stating that deed restrictions will not allow the main property to be used for anything other than a single-family home.

  33. Not even sure of the logic of this opposition given its supposed purpose. Historic houses are the very reason Cross Highway is a desirable location. I should think that that desirability, in turn, is what prompted developers to build the larger, more profitable, but uninteresting houses that now also exist there. If, however, all of the interesting, historic houses that initially made the area desirable are removed for yet more nondescript homes, what then supports the value that the owners of the new houses were looking to preserve or enhance when they admired the location enough to buy-in initially?

    • Jerry MacDaid

      I doubt the historic houses are what made Cross Highway a desirable location except, perhaps, in that they provided affordable teardown locations for developers. Larger, relatively underdeveloped lots that will present few restrictions are the easiest candidates for redevelopment.

  34. Valerie Seiling Jacobs

    Wendy and Mark have worked tirelessly to preserve Westport’s history and their efforts to preserve these two structures should be commended. And by the way, they are not asking for any special favors–Westport already has regulations that permit them to do what they are asking. P&Z should approve this application before we lose any more of our historic homes to a developer’s bulldozer.

  35. I’d like to thank everyone for their heart warming comments, especially Dan for taking the time to explain what’s going on. (it was a nice surprise to us) If you would be so kind as to send your comments to town hall via the link Dan provided at the end of the story, your opinion would count.
    Thanking you, I Am, Very Truly Yours, Mark Yurkiw

  36. Laurie Goldberg

    Sent to the P&Z email address just now:

    188 Cross Highway: Appl. #16-024 by Wendy Van Wie for property owned by Wendy Van Wie for a Special Permit and Site Plan approval pursuant to §32-18, Historic Residential Structures, for lot area and shape and setbacks to create one new lot, for property located in a Residential AAA zone, PID #G14010000.

    I have lived in Westport since 1984. My husband and I live in the Gorham Historic District. We have an UGLY new house right door next to us because that property was not protected (ours is the last district house on our street.) The prior property was adorable but structurally unsound and had been neglected for years by its owner, so we knew there was no hope for it.

    188 Cross Highway is different. Here is a chance to preserve something beautiful and unique by approving the owners request for subdivision.

    I believe the objections of their neighbors are specious and mean-spirited and should not sway the P&Z in terms of a decision.

    thank you for your attention,

    Laurie Goldberg (and Ed Perrault)

  37. Wendy Crowther

    Kudos to Mark and Wendy for all they’ve done, and continue to do, to preserve a piece of Westport’s history. I know first hand about the time, passion, heart and soul that is required to save and/or restore historic properties. It’s not about financial gain, square footage, property values or selfishness. It’s about preventing extinction – extinction of the historical structure itself, the architectural style it represents, and the historical stories it contains.

    The personal toll endured by those who restore and preserve historic properties is often great. Those who are willing to take it on are motivated by pure intentions and good hearts. THESE are the people I want as my neighbors – people who care THAT deeply about saving an endangered species, not only for history’s sake but also for Westport’s sake.

    McMansion owners who worry about the potential for decline in the value of their own homes should focus more on preventing the rest of the neighborhood from becoming clogged with more ho-hum McMansions. A better strategy would be to embrace what is historically rare and increasingly unique in the hood. Folks like Mark and Wendy are doing the neighborhood a great favor.

    Thanks, Mark and Wendy…and good luck. I’ll send a note of support to the P&Z.

  38. Raymond A. Mendez

    To the decision making regulators: Those who have an esthetic that allows them to appreciate, work hard to lovingly preserve and enhance the past and old homes are getting rarer and rarer in our society. Much more common are the “look at me” advocates of new money and power. Often expressed in id like huge, energy wasteful houses that scream me, me and me. The rhetoric employed by the antagonist to the request, as laid out in the document, is very common with some individuals who consider lying to your face a common and not evil way to befuddle reality. I hope the town ignores this language and can come to an accommodation with Mark and Wendy. I have followed, via e-mail, their caring restoration. Also, if you look at how the rest of the nation is moving towards organic, green, pesticide free and critter friendly gardens the idea of a dandelion is more a benefit than something to fear.

  39. Why would a neighbor be concerned about a neighbors property. The two homes are in excellent condition and should be preserved in there historic condition. The British marched through that property on the way to Danbury in 1776. This would be a real loss to the town of Westport if you let someone bulldoze the homes dating back to the 1700’s just for greed. Count the number of McMansions for sale in Westport that are not selling. Thank you.

    • Thank you for mentioning homes that survived “the British” marching through & burning/destroying houses & barns & outbuildings.

      I wrote of this in an earlier post: that now that the Redcoats are no longer a threat we should perhaps focus on what is the new threat — to the very same homes threatened by the British in some instances.

      People still speak w/ disdain & horror about British troops having burned down houses — yet think little or nothing of tearing down the very houses that survived. Hence I (only half jokingly) suggested meetings in front of the Minuteman statue to remind people of this.

      I am no longer in Westport (though still nearby) but it seems like a fitting piece of performance/activism for preservationist minded people to meet there — given the circumstances of homes that survived Redcoat burnings being thoughlessly tossed away like trash now.

  40. Of utmost importance in Fairfield County is the need to continue to preserve our historical buildings, which in recent years has become more and more of the essence—as it is up there with as one of the three top reasons (the other two being our schools and our location) those who are attracted to our area want to live here: charm, provenance, roadside appeal, scenic roads, (even along the undesignated ones). We have an historic property in Wilton and have enjoyed over the decades having our place photographed, used in real estate brochures, written about and talked about. Dotted over all the roads of our towns are houses that have over the years been lovingly restored and those who move next door are proud to be neighbors, ever more increasing the surrounding real estate. More than ever we need to maintain the wonderful balance that Fairfield County has of history, character, sustainability, open space, shared spaces etc. Our 52 acre farm has remained preserved in our hands over these last 50 plus years and it has been heartbreaking to see the consequences of our antique estates and houses torn down all over Wilton, only to be replaced with a charmless same-as-ever houses.

    Please think of our futures!

  41. It is absurd that anyone in Westport would prefer a McMansion development to a neighborhood including historic sites and architectural features.

  42. When vanity Trumps history, our society loses its foundation. There is a very clear path for our Town, as determined by the P&Z board, to maintain the integrity of our community by protecting our very precious and declining natural resources – our antique structures. We should not and cannot bow to the slippery morals of money-centric individuals.

  43. As a friend of Mark and Wendy for many years, beginning before their purchase of the historic property on Cross Highway and continuing to today, I am personally knowledgeable about what the property was like when they bought it through a foreclosure sale and what they did to restore, preserve and improve it to the present day with regard to its historical prominence on the street. Youi might say I am prejudiced in their behalf as their friend, but hear me out for I have an uncommon view of their current dilemma and the facts. I had a 40 year career in journalism, including about 37 years as a resporter and copy editor at the Connecticut Post, before I retired to write fiction and be a gentleman farmer in Newtown. I do live in Bethel after about 45 years of living in Newtown, but please understand where I live has no bearing on the matter at hand because I attended and wrote about literally thousands of zoning hearings long and sort during my career as a journalist in Greater Bridgeport. Getting down to basics, what should only be important to Westport land use officials, is whether the 2.9 acres Wendy and Mark own can support two septic systems with reserve areas if the property were to be divided to create separate lots for the cottage and the large house. I know engineering data does support that conclusion, based also on the septic systems in place which are functioning well. As a result, the only matter before the Zoning Commission is the grandfathered use of the propoerty, the concept of preserving its historic nature and where the dividing line should be to separate the two dwellings. So, how is it that a neighbor should interject the idea at the zoning proceeding of stripping the two dwellings from property to allow another huge mansion to be developed in the manner of the one on Cross Highway at Bayberry Lane? If I had been the zoning chairman, I would not have allowed this irrelevant arugment on legal grounds because it did not pertain in any way to the proceeding at hand, which should have been limited to the issues as I have stated them here.;However, some Westport officials, including obviously the members of the Zoning Commission would rather support development to increase the Grand List in terms of a mansion site than to respect the rights of Mark and Wendy who own the property. Underneath it all is a case of economic prejudice involving the idea if one does not have the money, he should not be allowed to live in Westport, let alone on Cross Highway. I find that all thinking offensive and in this zoning context inappropriate entirely. Wendy and Mark are exceptional people in their own right having invested in their lives, not just in their property through effort and money. Wendy, who has a farming past, is also a constitutional lawyer who has taught law on the universtiy level, while Mark is one of the top commercial artists in the world. as demnonstrated by his extensive portfolio that details his life work. Together, usi9ng their talents and skills,they transformed an abandoned, eyestore property into a gorgeouse enclave, inside and outside the dwellings, as anyone would see if they were invited to visit behind the white board fences. Both the cottage and the house have been greatly improved through their work with which I have helped them from time to time, from the very beginning. A blighted and deteriorated neighboprhood property has been transformed into a neighborhood treasure destined to preserve a splendid part of its past. The zoning application, if approved, would allow the property to continue in its historic prominance, beyond the present day and Wendy and Mark’s presence there.. What happened at the recent hearing awakened in me a memory of a Newtown zoning proceeding in which height and design limiations were approved with the intent to maintain the presence of garrison colonials as a standard for future housing in that town to thwart efforts by a devoper to create an enclave of mansions on the Daniel Luf property in Poverty Hollow, an exclusive neighborhood. Now we see in Wesport, the same rediculous thinking in reverse with neighbors saying everyone among them should live in a huge mansion or they do no belong or deserve to stay. Making the world my home and not ever having had the means to own a home of my own or afford a wife and children despite working at two jobs all my adult life, My idea of home is defined by the context of the land beneath my feet wherever I might stand. I am deeply offended by the oppositioin to Mark and Wendy’s plan and the economic prejudice that is the root of it. Therefore, I wholeheartly and without reservation support what they want to do with their property though of course, by not being a tas paying resident of the neighborhood or a Wesport resident. I cannot be a party to the decision by the Zoning Commssion or directly affect it. If I could be a newsman in town, even for a few days, the whole situation would be turned on its head, for the facts of the matter should be heard untainted by prejudice of any kind and the commission should justly approve the application before it, which is actually very simple in its intent,

    • Jerry MacDaid

      I suspect the majority of Westporter’s (who are generally anti-density whether for “economic prejudice” reasons or otherwise) would strongly disagree with your statement that “what should only be important to Westport land use officials, is whether the 2.9 acres Wendy and Mark own can support two septic systems”. If the lot supported three septic systems, should they be allowed to sub-divide into 3 properties (selling the 3rd off for new construction so they have enough money for further rehab/preservation)?

      Technically, a one half acre lot can support a modern septic system. That may vary based on amount of ledge and/or presence of wetlands but subdivision limited only by minimum septic system requirements would massively change the density of Westport. I’m guessing even Wendy and Mark, as well as most of the preservationists, would oppose that.

      Such a decision rule would facilitate affordable housing, but would be the start of the slippery slope Mr. Blau referred to and why the approach here is, appropriately, apparently limited to 32-18.

  44. Bob Fatherley

    The historic buildings at 188 Cross Highway owned by Mark and Wendy
    Yurkiw are an important part of the character of Westport. Many efforts have
    been launched in recent years to create historic districts and stop the
    unwarranted proliferation of enormous and architecturally ugly homes which
    do violence to the character of an established neighborhood. Ownership is
    90% of the law. The Yurkiw’s neighbors are acting as if they own the
    Yurkiw’s property. Pursuant to Act 32-18 for the preservation of historic
    residential structures, I urge that the Yurkiw’s application be approved
    without further delay, particularly in light of their careful and conscientious
    restoration. I have not seen one single reason to justify the demolition of
    these properties and I have seen every reason why they should remain as
    an irreplaceable reminder of the rich heritage of Westport. To do otherwise
    would be unthinking and worse, establish a tragic precedent

  45. I truly hope that between the P&Z and ZBA, a satisfactory way to preserve this and other parts of Westport’s history can be achieved. The hurdles seem manageable and serve as encouragement for others to work to save our historic buildings.

  46. As a licensed representative of the state of Connecticut, I would like to add my thoughts. Mark and Wendy bought the properties on Cross Highway after the previous property owner defaulted on their mortgage; the property went into foreclosure and the three structures were in horrible shape after having been neglected for years. In real estate, we call this “regression” (when a lesser-quality property has a negative impact on property values for the surrounding better-quality properties). Mark and Wendy then painstakingly and lovingly poured their heart and soul into reviving all three structures, keeping in mind the historic significance at all costs, and working diligently to restore all structures to their true historic integrity. In real estate, this is called “progression,” and one would think that neighbors would be giving Mark and Wendy kudos and their utmost gratitude for not only restoring the structures, but for also increasing the property values for the neighboring properties.

    The Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval for subdivision is not only legally and ethically allowable, I believe it should be morally required, given the countless hours of labor and money that Mark and Wendy have poured into the historic renovations of all three properties.

    With regards to the neighbors’ complaint and concern for “traffic, safety and density,” this is a non-issue. There is no concern for traffic and safety, and no increase in density. Mark and Wendy are not looking to subdivide the property so that they can build additional structures. All three structures have been on the property for the last 60 to 300 years (depending on which of the 3 structures we are talking about), and there have been people living in all structures at one point or another since they were first built.

    With regards to the issue of “dandelions,” I was not aware that there was a zoning ordinance that did not allow Westport property owners to have dandelions growing in their yards. If that is the case, then we would all be in violation at one point or another.

    Mark and Wendy should be granted approval for the subdivision. It’s the least the town can do for all the good Mark and Wendy have done in the restoration and preservation of one of Westport’s most historic properties.

    David Kinyon
    CT state Real Estate License #RES.0764029

    • Hahaha… “we would all be in violation” re. “dandelions” …brilliant!

      I can scarcely believe newcomer’s (most likely that is who they are) objections to some wildflowers. I grew up surrounded by a field of brilliant coloured wildflowers on one side of our property & swamps w/ cattails on the other side & a wild wooded hill beyond the back garden.

      The lot of it (that wasn’t already there as part of a Burr family Cross Highway farm) had been landscaped by none other than the garlanded & born in CT Frederick Law Olmsted. (Central Park & Prospect Park etc.). He was trying to MIMIC the raw & sparklingly beautiful CT countryside that he had grown up in & literally walked through hill to shore as a young man. (Please read his fascinating life story which begun in CT).

      I would suggest that newcomers that see hideous malformation in the way we locals have ALWAYS kept the edges of our gardens — brambly & *natural* in the English & German style (mimicking nature vs. formal Italian style or Scottish lawn style) adapt to the beauty of our natural & native wooded surroundings vs. attempting to tame them (& US) into a place resembling a Floridian or Western garden.

      Dandelions! If this is an issue — I would suggest this person would benefit from some serious soul searching! Next to come in Westport is we may lean against an ancient looking tree only to find out it is only a *prop* to match the carefully landscaped property in front of one of the new *film set* looking houses.

      • Well put, Zoe. Your mention of a “prop tree” reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode, written by none other than former Westporter Rod Serling (he lived on High Point Road in the late 1950’s).

        • Thank you Mr.Kinyon.

          Apparently you missed my public meltdown rowing w/ pro teardown warriors on the ‘Save Turkey Hill South’ 06880 article (The first one & the followup). In which I referenced the toy train town village belonging to a giant child in the Twilight Zone episode that Westporters may soon find themselves in. (I think it was in the second followup article/post).

          I didn’t want to endlessly repeat myself here — so I left out the Twilight Zone reference after it floated through my mind again (like a dystopian nightmare becoming more real every day).

          I also said — as an artist (& having studied sculpture) — I’m tempted to make some lifesize figures that look exactly like my elder brother’s tiny little perfectly detailed 1950s/60s German train set people & put them in front of the more plasticky / resiny looking McMansions.

          So perhaps anyone who would also find this amusing should start saving the bail money.

          Mr.Serling was/is a precious attribute to the World. It is probably not a coincidence that he lived in Westport briefly & wrote that *toy train village nightmare* episode. He probably noticed the same thing happening then — albeit w/ houses a tenth of the size & w/ a tenth of the bathrooms. Imagine what we could be reading from him now regarding these instant faux palaces!

  47. The preservation and restoration of historical properties is so important to the prosperity of historic towns. Mark and Wendy have done a great service for Westport and should definitely be given approval for the subdivision so that they can recoup on their investment and maybe restore more historic properties.

  48. This was sent by the historical scholar and respected author; Michael Orest Logusz
    Sir/Ma’am – As the author of a book titled “With Musket & Tomahawk. The West Point-Hudson Valley Campaign in the Wilderness War of 1777,” I mention much about the historic events which occurred in your town and region in 1777. I also know that on the property owned by a couple named Yurkiw/Van Wie that events even took place. (See book for how the Meeker’s, a pro-American family, suffered on that very same ground). Has Mark seen my 3rd book on the Revolutionary War? In this work, I cite the people who lived on the property now owned by Mark and Wendy. I also cite Wendy’s work in my bibliography, and write about the military significance of that area and their town during the famous Danbury raid of 1777. Tell Mark to take excerpts out of my work, and use it in his defense. How the hell can someone build a huge McMansion on the very same grounds where Benjamin Meeker and his brother Daniel were arrested in April, 1777, and were hauled down to New York City because their sister Molly Meeker, joined the Main Continental Army commanded by General George Washington. The British/loyalist raiders also stole the Meekers’ cattle. The Meeker’s owned the ground which now Mark and Wendy own.
    Please assist them in preserving their beloved home and old barn. Most Sincerely, Michael O. Logusz. P.S.

    • The hair on the back of my neck is standing up.

      Can you imagine waking up in the middle of the night to find that a quarter mile long column of heavily armed men from the planet’s most powerful army has come to a stop in front of your house?

      And now there’s someone pounding on the door…

      What do we know about Molly Meeker – the brave patriot who apparently was the source of British pique?

      Maybe we need a Minutewoman statute.

  49. Marta Logusz P.A.

    Greetings, I am writing in regard to the matter pertaining to the restoration and preservation regarding 188 Cross Highway, Wendy and Mark’s home and properties. As a former Historic Preservation Commisioner in Jersey City, I recognize and respect the need to preserve our forefathers homes and buildings. They are a vital part of our history, our commerce and the intense labor that went into engineering and building these homes. Whether a brownstone, row house or the Schiltuhuis-Meeker home, history must continue to be a part of our culture, both past and present along with respect for one another. I cherish my Jersey City Rowhouse, with its pine hardwood floors and the plaster medallion. I cherish my walks in Downtown Jersey City as I stroll from neighborhood to neighborhood and admire the continuity along with cast iron fences, doors, warehouses that are now lofts housing a new age of artists or young professionals who love the charm of the worn cobblestone roads and are inspired by the historic charm. Now as a resident of Southeast Florida, there is no better example of a fight to preserve than South Beach, Miami Beach. With tireless efforts from many preservationists, residents, commissioners a unique, exciting and very profitable area emerged. Visitors are in awe at the Art Deco Architecture, terrazzo floors, facades that are both interesting and sexy from an era that could and would have been lost forever without the likes of Wendy Van and Mark Yurkiw. I know how frustrating McMansions can be as well. After renovationg a 1937 Old Florida Home with a cottage in the back that houses my mother adding family, community along with privacy, a local developer built a “want to be Mediterranean three story townhouse” next door to my home. Often visitors and guests visiting me comment on how they love my
    lush neighborhood with all the many different types of landscaping, palms, yellow crawler, old avocado trees, cactus trees and flowers everywhere,
    canopies covering little streets, unique coral rocks. They often remark how anticeptic and boring the house next to me is.
    I am surprised and frankly shocked that the issue regarding 188 Cross Highway is even that, an issue. Westport is a historic town, with old sites and roots, everything that this home is as well. The barn is beyond cool. A treasure inspired by a well rounded creative couple. Westport, isn’t that what your town is all about, history and a creative well rounded community? Respectfully yours, Marta Logusz

  50. In the end, if a structure is not historically listed the new owner can do whatever he/she pleases. A heavy price.

  51. I’m not sure if this was mentioned in one of the previous 68 comments, but a cool little tidbit about the house: the original front door of the house was shot in 1777 by a British soldier with a musket, leaving a hole in the door. This was when the British landed on Compo Beach and marched up to raid Danbury. The actual front door still exists, although is now located inside the current house due to a later home expansion.

    • Yep. And here’s the “06880” story about it, from April 2015: https://06880danwoog.com/2015/04/27/missing-meeker-musket-ball/

      • Well put, Zoe. Your mention of a “prop tree” reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode, written by none other than former Westporter Rod Serling (he lived on High Point Road in the late 1950’s).

        • Thanks for the link to the story, Dan. I read it and it’s a great story. I know of another property in Westport that was not burned down by the British in 1777. It’s located on Compo Road South and was built in 1756. The owner told me the British spared the house because the property owner at the time allowed the British to set up an infirmary in the front yard so that they could tend to the wounded British soldiers.

          • x Mr.Kinyon

            Quite a few houses were spared burning: most notably Tory houses.

            When I was little & we were driving in the car down Cross Highway and through the tangles of smaller roads in Greens Farms: I used to play a game of *counting the Tory houses*.

            These were said to be the ones w/ a black ring painted round their white chimneytops vs. a plain white chimney.

            British sympathisers — or rather those who still felt themselves British — protected their homes from burning in this way.

            There were quite a number of these homes with black ringed white chimneys.

            After awhile (1990s) I noticed many of the chimneys had been painted white all over. I think basically the tradition was lost along w/ the history.

            This was the story I was told more than once by locals about why some chimneytops had black stripes circling them. If it was a false local legend a historian would know better than I — but that’s what town elders told us in the 1960s.

            There were & are several other very old saltboxes in town (prior to the fashion of white chimneys & hence white chimneys painted black) such as Westport’s oldest house on Long Lots Road.

            The burnings were fairly random — seemingly. Beachside Avenue in Greens Farms was hit hard. The 1779 house I rented a room in for two years — just up the hill from Burying Hill Beach — was built after the previous house was burned. Also wasn’t the first church there burned?

            • This is great information, Zoe. I have not heard the theory about the black ring around white chimneys. As someone who minored in American History, I find this quite fascinating. And you’re right: the first Greens Farms Church, originally located opposite the cemetery on the corner of Greens Farms Road and what is now the Sherwood Island Connector, was burned down. It was said that the church congregants hid the church’s silver in a well and then covered it up, so that it would not be stolen. For those of you who are history buffs, if you have not already done so, check out the Putnam Memorial State Park in Redding. It shows the remnants of the American soldiers’ quarters as they protected the Connecticut coastline during the American Revolution and is known as “Connecticut’s Valley Forge.” A great afternoon trip and a nice stop for anyone going on a fall foliage drive.

              • The first meeting house in West Parish was simply outgrown. It was the second meeting house in West Parish which was burned at the direction of Major General Tryon as part of his controversial experiment in the targeting of non-military assets. He pitched it to his superiors as “desolation warfare”. We now call it terrorism. In his later years he stated that he regretted his actions that day.

                • Re. “terrorism”

                  Or ‘state terrorism’ such as destruction of Palestinian homes as collective punishment & the bombing of Lebanese civilian homes (hospitals / UN compound / Red Cross ambulances). Why use fire when there is more effective modern means (only resulting in fire).

                • This was also the goal & action taken against Germans civilians firebombed in Dresden & other cities (inc. my mother & grandparents in Berlin). The excuse at the time was that they were near military targets: but in a more recent documentary US&British military interviewed admitted that their intent & goal was to demoralise & exhaust German civilians.

  52. If the Town of Westport is counting heads here I would like to put my two cents in — or violet coloured Machamux Wampum as it were. (The violet colour having had more value… so fingers crossed…)…

    As a born&bred Westporter (1960 > Staples class of 78) — who grew up on the old Hockanum estate property on Cross Highway — there was no sweeter experience than driving down Cross Highway to Sturges Highway. First w/ my mother as she asked us to imitate the sound the cows made & later on our own as we drove by w/ our cassettes strewn in the back seats wearing our haircolour of the week.

    From the German style pine forest w/ the trees sown all in rows & nothing but soft fragrant needles underneath at North Compo (since entirely destroyed & w/ a house afterward built on it)… past the grand columned Hockanum House owned by Morris Ketchum Jesup where Lincoln was a houseguest & from which enslaved Black southerners were assisted in making their journey North to freedom… past Isaac Wakeman’s still operating & much larger then farm… past Christie & her sister & their store w/ the tiny playhouse her father built for her out in front & from which she still sold farm animal feed & knew everyone’s name… past all the beautiful 18th & 19th century handbuilt homes & barns w/ their fields of horses & sheep & in a more distant memory cows — we felt that no matter where we went there was still this bit of historic country. I don’t believe ONE of us EVER imagined it could ALL disappear into the mists of our memories — despite our speaking out for trying to retain a sliver of history whilst simultaneously attempting to preserve some tiny measure of dignity for ourselves (meaning not have a public meltdown… something that I for one failed at months ago).

    Economics & modern lives have taken away the dairy & horse farms where my sister boarded her Arabian & my mother got raw milk from the owners’ one remaining cow — to take home in a large pickling jar supplied by them. From the same white shingled wooden farmhouse where I once was required to bang on the door at two in the morning because in the heavy Shirley Jackson novel type mist their snow white horse had got loose and reared up in front of my tiny car only moments & centimeters before I saw it — like the white whale in the Melville story.

    PLEASE take EVERY legal measure to save these — as described here — very historic buildings. PLEASE leave us a SLIVER of the hard won historic structures in our town to be loved anew w/ as much heartfelt & strong sentiment — by future generations. We have lost so VERY much already. Some of our hearts are being broken here.

    As others here have stated so eloquently: the couple so admired here by their friends & townspeople deserve a reward vs. the trouble & difficulty they are being forced to endure for their noble efforts. PLEASE reward them then.

    I hope & pray that God willing their efforts & labour will be preserved for ourselves & for future generations to come…

  53. Sherry Takahashi

    I had heard about the property on 180 Cross Highway from a friend. I work in a middle school in Bridgeport and the 7th graders were studying “The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” of 1638 and the article by Wendy Van Wies, was a natural sequel into relating the idea of buying property for “fee simple” and how this right we take for granted today was radical and revolutionary during the 1600’s. What was also of interest to the class was Wendy’s narrative of the two young men who were taken by the British from 180 Cross Highway and marched to Danbury and back where they were imprisoned for 18 months for their revolutionary sympathies. A thriller of a tale for any 7th grader but to know the property was still intact and located in Westport piqued the classroom interest and engendered renewed interest and pride in their studies. We are after all nicknamed, “The Constitution State.” What better way to promote their interest and inquiry into a topic than to promote a field trip to the site, unless of course, oh no, another McMansion has taken its place. Now what value does that provide to them or anyone to the community? I think we need to think a little harder of what we consider important to the next generation.

    • Thank You Ms.Takahashi: This is so important. It is a bit tragic now — that this history is more interesting to your Bridgeport students than to the very neighbours who live near this historic Westport property (neighbours apparently PULVERISED by some dandelions they saw on it).

      I now live in Fairfield very near Bridgeport. I adore Bridgeport. The Bridgeport Public Library’s History Center & The Barnum Museum are historical treasure troves. Throw in the art galleries & the people & it in many ways outshines it’s neighbours.

  54. All of this history and house talk is thrilling to me. My two favorite subjects! Seeing this response, I think there is now new hope for our older homes thanks to Mark and Wendy. Antique homes are the closest thing we have to living history. The United States of America wasn’t a twinkle in anyone’s eye in the 1720s when the Schilthuis-Meeker house was built. To think that the occupants of this house were witnesses to the making of America is an amazing thing. People who don’t care about Antique houses haven’t learned to love and respect their history yet, but when they do, they’ll be happy that we had enough self respect to have saved these treasures for them.

  55. x David Kinyon

    We used to go to Putnam Park all the time w/ our parents for picnics — but I was so young I don’t remember any buildings.

    • You should check it out again. My wife and I visited when we first moved here 23 years ago. Then revisited yesterday with my children. A beautiful place to go for a walk and enjoy the outdoors. All of the soldiers’ quarters are gone, except for a stack of rocks marking where each cabin originally stood (the rocks are from the original chimneys used in each cabin). There is also a rebuilt powderhouse (where gun powder was stored), and two museums with original artifacts. Definitely worth the trip!

      • That explains why I don’t remember the soldiers quarters & apparently the museum was built after the early 60s (time my family went there).

  56. This morning I read this on houzz.com and thought it worth posting;
    The year 2016 is big for the preservation of our country’s cultural resources. It marks the 110th anniversary of the enactment of Teddy Roosevelt’s Antiquities Act, which bars individuals from raiding historic sites for archaeological treasures; the 100th anniversary of the creation of the National Park Service; and the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the National Historic Preservation Act. This act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, was responsible for establishing a system for the inventory, management and stewardship of historic properties.

    More than any one politician, responsibility for historic preservation rests with the private citizens who personally invest in the loving restoration of old homes. These folks recognize the value of relics like coal chutes and dumbwaiters, and go to great lengths to protect them. Here are 11 quirky features of old homes that have a sense of nostalgia and charm. to view;

    • x Mark Yurkiw

      Thanks for this article AND of course your preservation work on your home! (I wasn’t able to read it in full now but I’ve bookmarked it).

      Re. the rootcellars that were once so prevalent: I can describe to you the rootcellar (& more) in the beautiful Arts & Crafts William Morris style house that became a teardown in 1971. It was on Main Street opposite the current town hall (then Bedford Elementary School).

      We children were practically feral then (allowed to walk to town from a mile away by ourselves etc.) — none more so than those of us who went to school IN town. A tiny business card on the door of the house & small demolition sign enticed my girl & I to walk into the unlocked house.

      One of the people who was somehow connected w/ the house was Percival Banks (brilliant name like that of the German knight!). I found an old cornflakes box w/ a schoolpaper belonging to him (describing his walk to “town” — which sadly has been lost) & German dictionary (prior to anti-German language laws in the States) & an old 19th c. copy of BAZAAR w/ an illustrated article on the ‘Indian Wars’ (which I still have & will donate to a Native American museum). Also a few other things of less historic importance. (Unless one is interested in early 20th c. advertising art).

      The whole house was beautiful & amazing (round William Morris style faerytale door made of dark wood planks w/ curly large iron hinges & hardware — stained glass lining the stairway to the upstairs etc.) but I found the root cellar very intriguing. Feel free to email me if you would like to know more. (It was not possible for even a small child to walk in which I found interesting & puzzling).

      zjofn@hotmail.com

      • PS: It was torn down for a car park — after a neighbouring house (houses?) were torn down for a medical office building & adjoining parking spaces. I remember that the spaces were never even full (hence it was completely unnecessary).

        I haven’t been to Westport in ages (even since moving to back to CT & Fairfield after NYC) but I saw via Google Earth that there seems to be a building of recent construction there now (?).

  57. Westport residents should consider themselves lucky to have Mark & Wendy and their loving, classy rehabilitation of one of the town’s historic treasures as well as their genuine interest in preserving that history. Historic structures rarely mesh neatly with present day zoning regulations. A conscientious Zoning board recognizes this and allows variances for situations such as this.

  58. Susan DeIpolyi

    I can’t believe that anyone would want to destroy the few remnants of history that still exist today in Westport. The idea that a newly constructed large home would better fit the neighborhood is absurd. We have plenty of new construction going on.

    When my husband and I first came to Connecticut back in 1973, we had been looking for a home that might have a “walk-in” fireplace. We had been living in a marvelous 1750 Deacon’s house that happened to have a “walk-in” fireplace in the kitchen. It was a marvelous home. It had an 1810 Pennsylvania stone addition. We loved it and were hoping to find something similar in Fairfield County. The best we could find was a home on Cross Highway in Fairfield, very close to the property in question. It had a walk-in fireplace in the living room. We lovingly repaired any areas that needed repair.

    We have been living in Westport for the past 17 years and our current home has all the antiques we have collected over time.

    We fully support Mark and Wendy’s efforts to retain one of those few gems of America’s past. Let’s do our best to support them. Westport deserves to have these gems. Westport should do everything in its power to help people who are attempting to preserve antique properties.

  59. It is sad when money means “privileged”…as in “Yes, I saw your house when we moved into ours but your house now sucks and mine doesn’t, therefore I think yours should be torn down.”

    Even worse is that the complainers….Robert and Susan Yules wrote to the P&Z supporting the efforts of their “friends and neighbors,” Wendy and Mark, on the “renovating and improving of the main house and free standing cottage/barn. Their efforts have transformed the buildings significantly. Please permit them to continue to remodel the buildings as they will enhance the beauty of the neighborhood.”

    That is what is happening to Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie  .

    Having lived in Norwalk in a house built in the 1800’s and then in Westport for almost 30 years in a handmade home with wood, and stone and levels galore, I know what it means to live in a house with character.

    I first met Mark in Westport when he lived behind me in a home architecturally related to ours, and next to us was a converted barn occupied by a New York Art Director. All our homes were unique and in need of care, but that was part of the charm. You could also add to the charm. I know Mark…he can make anything he wants to. I’m sure Wendy is equally talented.

    Mark’s neighbor will never understand what it’s like to be creative and to live in a house that matches and prods one’s creativity. He doesn’t love his house. Mark does. The Yules can’t and he never will but Mark and Wendy have a right to enjoy their home for what they mean to them. The facts appear to be on Marks and Wendy’s side. More than enough room for a two house zoning.

    Listening to contradictory stories from the same people ..should result in a simple decision to support Mark and Wendy.

  60. I would like to thank all the people who took the time to write thoughtful supportive comments. Tomorrow night, Thursday at 7pm at town hall is (hopefully) the last hearing about this with the P&Z. I would be grateful to anyone who could come to support us (You don’t need to speak) just have our backs. Thank you

    • I’m sorry I wasn’t there Mark. I only saw your post announcing the last hearing — asking for supporters to attend — this moment. My sincere & heartfelt hope is that everything works out for Wendy & you.

  61. Mark and Wendy–I hope I am not pre-empting your announcement, and am guessing you are enjoying the fruits of your labor and have not had the chance to respond. So without further ado, I am EXTREMELY excited to announce that I received an email from Mark this morning stating: “We won! Thank you.” SO happy to hear and very excited for the both of you. Congratulations!

  62. Félicitations! Herzliche Glückwünsche! Felicitaciones! Congratulations Wendy & Mark! Viva surviving Cross Highway Colonial houses/homes! We love you — you wooden & creaking elders of CT architecture — warped floors & tiny windows & “dandelion” ornamented gardens & all. ❤