1 Wilton Road

1 Wilton Road — the little building huddled beneath the massive Wright Street office complex, at the traffic-choked intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue — has a long history.

Built in 1830 — before Westport was even incorporated, when horses watered at a nearby trough — it’s a reminder of days gone by. Originally a home, it’s been in recent years a liquor store and yarn shop.

1 Wilton Road, circa 1975. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Now it’s home to Vita Design Group. The modern design firm’s projects include the Geiger development across from Greens Farms Elementary School, and the new glass house on Compo Beach Road near the Minute Man monument.

Alert Westporters recently noticed scaffolding around the 1 Wilton Road site. Some wonder whether it’s coming down.

Nope.

Lucien Vita said his company spent its first years roaming around Westport. After starting in his home, Vita Design Group moved to several locations, including Main Street.

As a small business, they saw the 1 Wilton Road spot — with plenty of traffic (and everyone stuck at the light) — as a marketing opportunity. They bought the property 4 years ago and planned a renovation, showing off what they do best.

Permits took a while. Just before renovation was to begin, David Waldman and Greenfield Partners approached Vita with a plan.

Together they own the former Save the Children property, across the street down Wilton Road. They planned a retail/residential complex there. To mitigate traffic concerns, they wanted to purchase 1 Wilton Road. They’d reconstruct that building on the Save the Children site; in return, they’d give the 1 Wilton Road land to the town, for a much-needed turning lane onto Post Road West.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed new office building (center) and condos (right) on the former Save the Children property, as seen from Parker Harding Plaza. The Post Road bridge and National Hall are on left.

It took 2 1/2 years, but finally the Planning and Zoning Commission said no.

Though Vita was paying carrying costs each month for the property, they still wanted to help the town. They had a new idea: rebuild the office further back on the land. They’d keep its historical identity, yet still provide room for drivers to turn.

However, it could take 2 years to work out funding. And if that came through, a town or state body could deny permission for the plan.

It’s not feasible for Vita to wait. So — as the scaffolding shows — they’ve begun to renovate 1 Wilton Road for their new home. Plans include rebuilding the 1-story portion with a steeper roof, and putting new siding and details on the 2-story wing, integrating its historical features with a slightly modern touch.

Scaffolding at 1 Wilton Road. The building is dwarfed by the Wright Street office complex. (Photo/Jeff Manchester)

The inside will be gutted. Its original post-and-beam structure has been covered up. That will be exposed again, in a nod to its nearly 200-year-old past.

“We want to make the building solid, and bring it into the 21st century,” Lucien Vita says. “We want to help it live another 100 years.”

That’s still not the end of the story. Vita says that even after renovation, he’s open to moving the building back — so long as that’s a practical, cost-effective solution.

Dream about that the next time you’re stuck at that interminable light.

21 responses to “1 Wilton Road

  1. This is exactly why it’s time for new leadership at P&Z. What a lost opportunity to alleviate some of the worst traffic in town at no cost to the town.

    • Seems a bit uniformed – do you know the details (conditions, actually) of the offer to move this house ? The planning and zoning “cost” of that deal was too high, and akin to the Wright Street Building. Meanwhile, the house is being preserved in a highly visible place, and the possibility of shifting it back is still available. Seems like a win all around.

      Full disclosure – I was on the P&Z when this decision was taken, it was the right call then, and this is a great example of why the current P&Z leadership must remain and be supported.

    • The “opportunity” was much more complex than most envision. The renovated structure will be a very attractive softening touch to the wall of building behind it.

    • Jen, the intersection improvement would have cost the town quite a bit. The developers were only offering to move the historic house – not pay to reconstruct the road.

  2. Kudos to this wonderful man!

  3. Seriously? These people aren’t preserving anything.

  4. The real crime here is the MASSIVE Wright Street Office Complex. I returned to Westport in the 80’s shocked to see this eye sore lurking over the town. Who, representing the town fathers, ever allowed this giant building to scar Westport’s historic district? If it were not there, #1WiltonRd would likely have been moved many years earlier as the intersection has been a problem since the 1950’s when the Post Rd. was a major trucking artery into New England.

  5. Norbie Longman (gmail)

    Oh, gosh—I just realized this is probably where a yarn store used to be—just at the end of the bridge f rom 33 into downtown Wpo?

    x x

  6. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    And who remembers from the mid-1950s that it was a “safe” house where a teenage boy, whilst waiting for the late bus to Weston, could buy a can of Rheingold or Schlitz without having to pretend to be of legal drinking age. The only caveat was that you had to carry your own church key — there was no such thing as a pop-top can. Ah . . .sigh!

  7. The Wright St buildings are there because of a P&Z goof. P&Z announced a moratorium to modify zoning rules, but they did not notice it properly in the Westport News. That left open a window to submit applications for Wright St.

  8. No improvement to Post Rd and Rt 33? Then no vote for anyone currently sitting in government. Complete lack of creativity and determination to get it done.

    • Tom-who do you think is responsible for Rt33? It’s a state road. You could blame Rep Steinberg since he is a state rep and is a member of the transportation committee in Hartford. Does he have any ideas? Has he proposed any ideas in hartford since they need to approve?

      Route 33 is a 14.4 Mike secondary north south state highway in the US state of Connecticut from Westport to Ridgefield. Route 33 was commissioned in 1932 from parts of former 1920’s state highways 404 and 176.

  9. Does this mean now there’s no hppe for improvement to that intersection?

  10. #1 — the intersection is a disaster.

    #2 — seems like people with vision and $$$ were interested in being part of a solution.

    #3 — in any local argument, people like to dredge up old “he said, she voted, they didn’t” to muddy the possibility of current solutions and

    #4 — is it possible for builders, committee members, politicians and anyone with clout to get a consensus and fix some of our town issues?

    • Please see my post above; there was no solution to the intersection being offered before, only an effort to trade moving the house in order to be allowed to build something way outside of appropriate. Of course, you know this isn’t “old he said – she voted, they didn’t”, it was a few short years ago and a matter of public record.

      By the way, are you related to the developer who was involved in that matter?

  11. John F. (J-period) Wandres

    Peter and Buell —
    The late bus to Weston departed around 4PM in the area of what was (until recently) Firehouse Pizza (a former fire house). In Weston it went up Lyons Plains road, then (I think) Steep Hill Road,Goodhill Road to Norfield Corners. If you missed the late bus it was hitch-hike home.

  12. Jack:

    No relation and not enamored by your condescending ca ca.

  13. This is not a “restoration”. This is an in-your-face demolition. And it ranks as one of the most appalling zoning violations I can recall in recent years. As I write this the Building Dept. is tying itself in knots trying to explain that’s all legal. Right.

    BTW, wait until the public sees what the owner of this property has in mind to “preserve” it. Think: a Fillet-o-Fish with reclaimed barn siding designed by some 20 something hipster from Brooklyn. What a complete disgrace.

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