60 Roseville Road: Another Historic Arts Home For Sale

Hot on the heels of 157 Easton Road — the former home of concert violinist Leopold Godowsky Jr. and his wife Frankie Gershwin (George and Ira’s younger sister) — another Westport property with a wonderful arts pedigree is on the market.

60 Roseville Road is listed on a state database of homes owned by famed children’s book authors and illustrators. From 1946 until his death 30 years later, Hardie Gramatky lived — and worked — there.

His name still resonates. In 2006, Andrew Wyeth called him one of America’s 20 greatest watercolorists. Decades after he wrote and illustrated Little Tootit remains a beloved classic.

The other day, Linda Gramatky Smith — the artist’s daughter — and her husband Ken sat in the light-filled home. They’ve lived there since 1993. Now they’re moving to New Jersey, to be closer to their daughter. They hope they can sell it to someone who cherishes its creative bones.

60 Roseville Road

60 Roseville Road

The house has had only one other owner. Joe Chapin — a famed New York art director — built it as a weekend place. When he died, his wife Henrietta moved to Imperial Avenue (where she lived with Rose O’Neill, creator of the Kewpies comic characters).

The Roseville Road house was rented out. In the mid-1940s, tenants wanted to buy but could not afford the asking price. So they refused to let potential purchasers inside.

Gramatky peered into the windows. He loved it — and bought it for $22,000.

Hardie Gramatky, Dorothea Cooke and their daughter Linda, during their early days in Westport.

Hardie Gramatky, Dorothea Cooke and their daughter Linda, during their early days in Westport.

Moving day was set for December 26, 1946. A huge snowstorm roared in a few days earlier. The tenants — still enraged at not being able to buy — turned off the heat, and opened the windows.

Realtor Muriel Baldwin drove by, and saw what was happening. “She saved the house,” Linda says gratefully 70 years later.

Gramatky quickly became part of Westport’s lively arts community. With Stevan Dohanos, he started a watercolor group. Howard Munce, Ward Brackett and others met monthly to chat, critique each other’s work, and socialize.

Gramatky created a “Little Toot” poster for the Westport Red Cross. He drew caricatures at the Yankee Doodle Fair, was a frequent elementary school classroom guest, and played in the popular fundraising “artists vs. writers” basketball games.

Gramatky’s wife, Dorothea Cooke, was a noted artist herself. She drew covers for magazines like Jack and Jill, and lived in the home until her death in 2001.

“They adopted the community. And the community adopted them,” Linda says.

Hardie Gramatky: "Compo Beach Figures"

“Compo Beach Figures,” by Hardie Gramatky

His home inspired his work. Gramatky could see Long Island Sound from an upstairs window, and painted that scene. Another work shows a boy and his beagle walking down Roseville Road — then just a country lane.

He painted the 1867 house across the street — owned for years by the Fonetlieu family — from many angles. Linda hung some of those works in her living room, next to windows with a view of that home.

The Gramatky house was a neighborhood gathering place. Kids played in the big yard, and sledded in winter. If they wandered into his studio, the artist let them paint. (Dorothea baked cookies for them.)

When Gramatky was dying of cancer, he spent much of his time in the warm sun porch.

Fellow illustrator Munce said in his eulogy, “Some artists go to France for inspiration. Hardie just looked out his windows, and painted those scenes.”

"Green's Farms Station," by Hardie Gramatky.

“Green’s Farms Station,” by Hardie Gramatky.

Linda looks around the house that she and Ken are selling. It has a long, rich history, and holds memories.

“It’s such a livable home,” she says. “I hope someone buys it who understands what it means, and wants to preserve it.”

Westport artist Hardie Gramatky donated this "Little Toot" book cover to the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

Hardie Gramatky donated this “Little Toot” book cover to the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collection.

24 responses to “60 Roseville Road: Another Historic Arts Home For Sale

  1. How sad that Linda and Ken are leaving Westport !
    They were among the first people I meet when I moved to Westport full time in 2010. Shortly afterward , Linda and I worked together on the CT Trust’s barn survey of our town and Ken and I realized that we shared
    Peddle ! I will always treasure the copy of “Little Toot ” that she autographed for me . The Historical Society will miss Ken’s expertise in its Oral History area and their enthusiastic presence at its exhibit openings ! We share interesting shutter colors theirs a shade of yellow and mine a shade of green created by my historic homes longtime owner artist George Hand Wright . Here’s hoping that the new owners keep the yellow shutters and the wonderful spirit of the Gramatky Smiths !

  2. I’d love to be proven wrong but, since this culturally significant residence is sadly not landmarked, I can sum up its likely fate in one word: landfill.

    • Oh, please, don’t say that!!

      • Susan, I hear precisely what you’re saying. Trust me. But the decision not to landmark says a lot more than I just did. I guess I’ve grown tired of playing let’s pretend.

        • I get it. I wonder if the age of the home or if its history as an artist’s former residence can qualify it as a building (home) of significance? I’m delighted and reassured to read that Linda and Ken hope to pass it on to someone who will appreciate it’s special charm. This story just may have a happy ending; I hope so. Like stray dogs, I wish we could scoop them all up and keep them safe. 😉

          • Morley, I hear your anger that Ken and I didn’t apply for Historic District Commission designation. The HDC wanted us to, and the only difference in selling the house is that a buyer has to preserve the “streetscape” — how it looks from the street but can be changed significantly inside and expanded out the back — BUT we found out last month that the HDC would say yes immediately but it would take 6-12 months to go through the process for the state, RTM, P&Z, etc. to decide! We ran out of time. I do believe that someone who wants a great livable and spacious house … and their children will have a Westport education included — is going to adore our home. If someone desires a historic house designation, they can always apply in the future because of its provenance.

            • Linda, I’m very, very fond of you and Ken, so it’s not anger that I feel.

              Please know that.

              I just feel disappointment.

              After all, the three of us have been discussing the landmarking of 60 Roseville on and off since about 2005 by my recollection. I could be off by a year, but you take my point.

              In the end, it’s your property and your father’s legacy – and I totally respect the idea that you should be the one to determine how to best preserve those two very worthy things. I also know that you have been scrupulous about preserving your dad’s papers.

              For my part, I’ll certainly tell everyone I know about the amazing privilege living in your house would be. And then I’ll hold my breath.

  3. Sue Sweetnam Asetta

    What wonderful people! Mr and Mrs Gramatky were neighbors who would let us sled down “the hill” in their yard when we were young! Good luck Linda and family on the move.

  4. What a treat to open your blog and see those vibrant Gramatky watercolors. They bring back memories of happy moments with Doppie and Hardie in their warm and comfortable home. How sad that Linda and Ken are leaving us and taking with them to New Jersey their knowledge of Westport’s early artist community though I know they will still be reachable by phone and email. My hope is that a special family will appreciate the historic significance of that wonderful house and treat it will loving care. Morley is right. Without proper landmarking we risk losing our heritage. Historic preservation is always a touchy subject but we need to work together with local, state and national resources to make it feasible for such properties to be given special consideration. Anyway, bon voyage and happy landings, Linda and Ken. You will be missed.

  5. More fond memories: For the Fall Semester in 1957, Greens Farms School went on double-session to accommodate the students assigned to the new Burr Farms School, which was not completed in time. I was just starting Kindergarten, and got picked up by a school bus on Long Lots, which took a circuitous route up North Avenue, across Cross Highway, and down Roseville before driving East on the Post Road to compete the trip. Gramatky’s house on Roseville was a welcome sight – we all loved “Little Toot” and took pride in driving by the home of it’s creator!

  6. What a wonderful experience it was to grow up in such a creative town. I remember the little toot book and I think I do remember Mr.Gramatky at the Yankee Doodle Fair. Hopefully some f as milt will appreciate living in such an historic home.

  7. Bob Weingarten

    I researched this house in 2012 and found the following – for those that are interested in history. The house was built by Henrietta and Joseph Chapin in 1923. Ed Gerber mentioned that shutter colors on his house are similar to those on 60 Roseville. Why? Well on July 9, 1923 the Chapins received a mortgage of $4000, to build their house, from George Hand Wright!

    Dorothea Gramatky purchased the property from Henrietta Chapin Estate on 7/22/1946 and sold the property to the Smiths on 10/18/1982. The Smiths have owned the house since then. Hopefully the next owners will continue to honor the heritage of this house.

  8. Whatever Westport’s doing to save these gorgeous old homes has not been working very well. I would suggest trying a strong property tax incentive for new buyers who keep an old house (50 years+) with its original exterior appearance and footprint, while tacking on extra permit costs for tearing down such a house. Not sure this would work, but tax & fee incentives are far less confiscatory than interfering with a property owner’s rights.

  9. The other thing to consider is that not everyone needs or can afford a big home. By providing a financial incentivize to preserve smaller homes in their original footprint, the town could maintain a little more of its diversity, in addition to its beauty.

  10. This is such a significant property: perhaps the town should consider buying it and turn most of the structure into a museum focused on the history of artists in Westport with a rotating display of art; and perhaps part of it can be made into a small affordable apartment for a town employee.

  11. Linda:
    So sorry to hear you are leaving your family’s abode of 70 years. Your neighbors Charlaine and Ted Fontelieu were best friends of ours for almost 45 of those years. Your dad’s painting “Our Neighbor’s House” hung proudly in their abode at 59 Roseville before they moved to live with one of their kids in California. Over the years as I passed your home I would think of the poor battered stone wall that stood as a sentinel/protector of the property. Best of luck in Jersey…where I grew up.
    Tom

  12. Nancy Powers Conklin

    Linda, I am sad to hear that you are leaving Westport but, what better reason than to be closer to family and more importantly, grandchildren! I will be back there in December. I would like to stop by to say hello and a fond goodbye and wish you all the best as you head to NJ and begin to make more memories closer to family.

  13. My God don’t leave you guys are treasures!!
    One can visit Hardies grave at the cemetery (Greens Farms Church?) of the Connector…his grave marker has Little Toot on it. It’s a treasure to spend a few moments there.

  14. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I am sorry to hear that you are leaving Westport. I understand well moving closer to children but still am sorry to hear that you have to move. When I was in Westport in September with our youngest grandson we fulfilled one of our family traditions, buying a copy of Little Toot for the third generation to love and read Little Toot’s adventures. We wish you great adventures in your new home and know that you will enrich the lives of those near you. We’ll pray that someone comes forward to save your home for future generations.