1 Wilton Road: Demolition Is Halted

For several days, Westporters watched with mounting concern as 1 Wilton Road — the little building at the always-clogged intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue — was slowly reduced to its skeleton.

This morning, “06880” posted reader Wendy Crowther’s concerns.

Earlier this evening, I heard from Wendy again. She writes:

Following a site visit today that included a Westport building official, the Westport Historic District Commission, the owner of 1 Wilton Road, a representative from the Westport Preservation Alliance and other interested parties, it was agreed that the scope of work done represents a demolition.

Consequently, the work will be temporarily halted on the original structure (although construction of an addition will continue) while the owner obtains a retroactive demolition permit.

1 Wilton Road, front view. The Wright Street office building looms behind it. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

The demolition permit will be subject to an automatic 180-day delay period because the building is over 50 years old.  A waiver of the balance of the 180-day delay period will be reviewed at the Historic District Commission’s regularly scheduled public hearing on November 14.

At that hearing, the public will have an opportunity to directly comment on the matter. It is hoped that the owner of 1 Wilton Road will now consider reconstructing more of the structure’s original appearance so as to preserve some historic continuity and to permit the building to read as the beloved house that has witnessed so much change itself.

Wendy concludes:

If you love this quaint and undeniably historic house, we encourage you to continue to weigh in, both here on “06880” and at November’s HDC public hearing.

1 Wilton Road, before the demolition.

37 responses to “1 Wilton Road: Demolition Is Halted

  1. Dallas Kersey

    This property/home should be preserved.

  2. Sharon Paulsen

    This was always a welcomed little house/structure to see, while sitting at that intersection (because, we all inevitably had to sit there at some point in our past or present Westport lives … Ugh).

    I remember hating (no, like, REALLY hating) that Wright St. building being constructed there.

    It completely ruined that whole area, and it was visible from … well, everywhere … near downtown.

    Just as bad (IMO) as that Gorham Island “glass mistake”, as I’d like to refer to it. I’d always thought that oasis of a spot downtown should have encouraged a more thoughtful (less ostentatious) design for a structure … something more aligned (or in tune with) with the marsh and the river landscape around it.

    But ah, so it goes, the arguments of “how it should have been done in Westport”, lol.

  3. Remember those scenic Sunday drives?

  4. Sylvia Robinson Corrigan

    I remember those scenic Sunday drives, which no one seems to tolerate around here any more. And does anyone remember the charming story, “The Little House,” written by Virginia Lee Burton? How is it possible to preserve some of the smaller things that were charming about Westport? Thank you for encouraging our thoughts about 1 Wilton Road…

  5. Kathleen M. Stuart

    Amazing it never fails when someone tries to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes with their pretend fake preservation plans that are just a lie and oops went too far but got caught! Now they should be forced to restore the home to its best beauty!!

  6. What the hell good will the “180 day waiting period” do now that horse is out….this owner/ architect, who knows well the regulations in town, lied to us that he would “preserve” and went ahead and knowingly demolished should be held to task and made immediately to restore the look of the little house….also, potential clients might wish to be wary of his wiley ways.

  7. Michael Calise

    Interesting – in recent posts many made much of the “failure” if the P & Z to approve the relocation of this building so that we could have a wider intersection and now a new crowd is lamenting the apparent loss of this iconic presence. No irons in the fire here. Just observing circus..

  8. Anyone out there remember the children’s book titled The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton? This story reminds me of that book in which a charming little house is surrounded by rapid development and modern buildings. Check it out at the public library!

  9. Like by a thief in the night the character of this historic property has been robbed nearly of all of its identity. We must reconcile, restore and relocate it to a place of honor and prominence for the benefit of our town, the children of our town and for those yet to come.

    Heretofore, we’ve all been lied to regarding this situation. It’s shameful and cannot be allowed…or what might be next?

  10. Money Talks Obviously.

  11. Bonnie Bradley

    To me, it’s just a sad story but at the same time creates some questions:
    Now that the sweet little house is stripped to it’s frame wouldn’t it be smart to move it to another safe and more appropriate location? Perhaps even to a piece of town property, where it could be restored and rented out to a single or small-family town employee, like a member of the police, fire department, or teacher, who currently cannot afford to live in Westport? Aren’t the traffic problems there so severe and seemingly unsolvable that opening up the intersection is worth the trouble to get the house out of it’s present location? Doesn’t anyone see the ridiculous, inappropriate reality of even having that little old house there, over-shadowed by the looming, monster heap of concrete robbing it of any historic validity? Wouldn’t it be more authentic and pleasing in a more appropriate location? What is the mission of the people you elect to the P&Z, in their “failure to approve the relocation” – to create a mini-White Plains? And what about the WHS “vision” of Westport in 50 years? Surely it won’t survive that overhaul in it’s present location anyway. Just saying….

    I’m guessing the creative minds in Westport can come to some sane and realistic solution. Example: look to Nantucket, where for years they have been moving old houses like pieces on a chess board to both save them from teardown and maintain the historic atmosphere which is their meal ticket. (You can follow this online via the weekly Nantucket “Inquirer & Mirror” newspaper.) This would probably be beneficial too, if “saving Westport’s past” is truly important to the town.

    Yes, the property owner will have to be compensated, and there’s the question of where will the house go, and who pays for all this, etc. but if you really want to save the house and open the intersection, both goals can surely be achieved, to everyone’s satisfaction.

    • If this were Facebook, I would “like” this comment. I agree; here is a potential second chance to address this grave missed opportunity. Now is the time to review why this was allowed to happen and in what ways can we change course?!

  12. Michelle Benner

    It seems to me that “the work will be temporarily halted on the original structure (although construction of an addition will continue) while the owner obtains a retroactive demolition permit.” may be open to interpretation. While driving by this morning and sitting at the stoplight, I observed much activity and framing going on in the original part of the house. I agree with the writer who suggests moving this sweet, historical house to a more fitting location where it can be more appreciated and not look squeezed in and towered over.

    • William Strittmatter

      Just to confirm Michelle’s observation, At noon, as I was sitting in the queue to go south on Rt 33 for 6 minutes, I observed a lot of construction activity at 1Wilton Rd. Indeed, more of the original structure had been “demolished”, with a lot of new framing on the second floor.

      As a separate matter, why don’t people that want to go east onto the Post Road from Rt 33 southbound just take the Kings Highway Bridge and go through downtown. Would save them and anyone heading south a whole lot of time.

  13. This building has been in Westport for as long as I can remember. Too many historic homes and buildings are being torn down and they are what makes Westport such a unique town. Please stop destroying all these wonderful old buildings!

  14. Don L. Bergmann

    The issue of owners or builders violating our regulations or land use bodies is not new. The matter came up at the LWV P&Z Commission Candidates debate. The most obvious problem is the lack of teeth in CT enforcement powers and the imbalance between the financial benefit to those who benefit from a violation versus the cost and difficulty of pursuing enforcement. I would like to see our elected officials weigh in, with serious substantive solutions.
    Don Bergmann.

    • While I wholly agree this is the time for our representatives to weigh in, I’d be remiss not to wonder where they’ve been up until now. I’m so over the reactive style of governing!

  15. Add me to the list of those who noticed that much of the charging original framing was gone today and replaced by brand new framing. Absolutely disgraceful affront to the historic charm of this town.

    And I’m partially offended because if we were going to rip that beautiful old house to its bare bones, then we should’ve seized the gross opportunity to fix the intersection. We are now in the ultimate lose-lose instead.

  16. “This boat that we just built is just fine–
    And don’t try to tell us it’s not.
    The sides and the backs are divine–
    It’s the bottom I guess we forgot…”

  17. To those who quite rightly wonder why they keep seeing work being done when there is a stop work order in place: this is because the Westport Building Official determined the structure (what’s left of it, anyway) was so weakened by its owner’s cruelty that it risked imminent collapse. Thus he ordered the building to be sheathed immediately so as to mitigate the threat to the public. This required some framing as well. As for the new addition on the side, the owner was told he could continue working on this because he had “already destroyed” the original historic addition and thus the matter was moot. I didn’t agree with the thinking that produced that decision for all the reasons you might imagine. But I’m just the annoying citizen who filed the zoning complaint. What do I know?

    • If Westport wants to save these buildings, then Westport has to buy them.
      Taxes. (Should have started decades ago)

      • Find a town in your own country to lecture.

        • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

          Morley, not sure where Nancy lives but have you been to Canada lately? I think the horse left the barn in Toronto well before Nancy’s time. In any case, as a fellow ex-pat but interested 3rd party I may resemble that remark.

  18. I understand, Eric, I should have included a disclaimer for all the OTHER expats. But please take no offense, I love your posts. They’re substantive, insightful and often quite fearless. Mine was addressed to just one person; a person who is habitually certain about things she knows to be true but are usually not – and a person who, in any event, previously pledged to no longer squeegee my posts related to preservation owing to a low information, clown car responses such as the above.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      No offense taken Morley. Since I moved away Nancy has tried, but not entirely succeeded at replacing me as the “village crank.” I admire her persistence but am glad she’s kept her day job.

    • Morley Boyd,
      While you are unhappy about my stupid, “clown car” comment, you should know that my town has, over 25+ years, managed to acquire many historic properties in order to preserve very historic areas. Taxpayers are fine with it, as they view such preservation highly.
      Though my town is younger than Westport, proper attention to “church and village” is paramount to residents here.

      My comment was a reply, a thought based on your problem.

      • I didn’t say “stupid”, you did. I said “low information”. What you evidently don’t know about the culture in Westport as it relates to preservation, the awful history of Westport’s stewardship of historic properties and the particular circumstances of the subject structure, have all conspired to make your original post seem quite foolish. Consider that my reply based on your problem.

        • “Be honest, brutally honest. That is what’s going to maintain relationships.”
          You could have explained your view without the use of words such as “clown car”, “foolish”, or “low information.”
          So be it.

          • Think being characterized as a low information clown car harshes your buzz? You’d turn white if you ever saw what certain Westport officials call me. For example, I just received a slanderous, venom filled email rant from the chair of the Westport Historic District Commission in response to a simple query of mine. I couldn’t care any less if I tried.

  19. Kathryn Coster

    Bonnie Bradley’s post of October 20th is exactly on point and is what should happen now that we are to this point. As a high school student,I spent just about every day from 1971 through 1974 walking or driving past 1 Wilton Road on my way home to Kings Highway North…even in my prime that Wright Street Hill was daunting!! And even as a teenager I cringed with the construction of the Wright St. office building. It is criminal was has been allowed to happen to this sweet piece of history…I would hope that the people who are in office would make sure this is the last time a travesty like this is allowed to play out.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      Developers “flying under the radar screen” is what brought Westport down and what is destroying its character slowly but surely. The answer is not for the town to outbid the developer, the answer is to not give them the economic incentive to do what they do in the 1st place which is basically the impact of what moving from a higher cost location such as NYC to Westport does to their balance sheet. Originally, this type of “sleeper cell” domestic terrorism went unpunished because of chronic hindsight which is always blind in the present and 20/20 in the past. Why is it that Weston, New Canaan and Ridgefield among other New England towns have retained their charm? I clearly remember as a young child asking my mother “what does that mean?” when passing the ubiquitous slogan of the defunct Westport Bank and Trust: “A home bank in a town of homes.” My mother said: “Westport has always been special because it hasn’t allowed commercial development to go haywire.” That was in 1959. When Stauffer Chemical came in 10 years later, everybody was ecstatic at the tax revenue. I was in college by then and remember thinking: “I’m probably not going to be around so I don’t really care.” Again, hindsight is 20/20. Progress is only progress if it takes you to a better place than you were.

  20. It’s apparently being completely demolished now. Wtf Westport