1 Wilton Road: The Sequel

Earlier this month, “06880” reported on 1 Wilton Road. The quaint little building at the traffic-choked intersection with Post Road West and Riverside Avenue was going to be renovated by — and serve as headquarters for — the Vita Design Group.

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

The renovation now looks like a demolition. “0688o” reader — and amateur historian — Wendy Crowther writes:

Morley Boyd and I have been watching the goings-on at 1 Wilton Road. We are disturbed by what has been happening there. Plenty of others have come to us expressing similar concerns. We’ve been looking into it, and thought readers might be interested in knowing a little more.  

The little house was built in 1830 – 5 years before Westport was founded — and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s been a grocery store, a vulcanizing business, a tire and battery emporium, a spirit shop and a knitting supply source.

But now it’s been shorn of its charming 19th century Italianate-style side addition, and just about everything else too — doors, windows, walls, siding, even the chimney – as part of a redevelopment project.

1 Wilton Road, from the rear. (Photo/Wendy Crowther)

Though the owner has characterized this as a renovation, many Westporters have asked if this is actually demolition. The Historic District Commission says yes. The Building Department says no.

Either way, one thing is clear: The intersection that Westporters love to hate was, until recently, pretty well preserved in terms of historic streetscape. With the major changes coming to 1 Wilton Road, the loss of this building’s original features and charming qualities will no doubt be missed by many.

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

17 responses to “1 Wilton Road: The Sequel

  1. Too bad they couldn’t have moved this little building and fixed a major traffic jam in town.

  2. Ellen Wentworth

    Maybe the town should change its name to New Westport; because the “old” charm is quickly leaking away?!!

  3. Dan, My mother worked for Edith Davidson Real Estate many years ago in the upstairs of that building. I don’t recall how many years they were there – but I would guess at least 3-5 years. I drove by the other day and saw the building’s shell. So sad. I’m sure the ghosts of the past have left their home. Thanks for sharing, Amy Berkin


  4. This building was actually featured on the cover of the Westport Historic District Commission’s own handbook for decades. Maybe their new cover should just depict a Dumpster.

  5. Russell Gontar

    Listed in the National Register of Historic Places,”renovation” now includes completely gutted down to a shell. But that’s alright, because money doesn’t talk, it swears.

  6. This is great news for developers. Here’s how you totally short sheet Westport’s Demolition Delay ordinance for structures over the age of 50:

    1. Just randomly tear off the first 500 square feet of your historic structure. That’s now OK owing to a misreading of the term “demolition” as it appears on our regs.
    2. Remove the building’s entire weather envelope, including its walls, sashes, doors – everything of possible historic significance.
    3. Cut the building’s power, remove its heat, remove it’s chimney and 100% gut its interior. Just leave enough structural stuff to keep it from collapsing.
    4. Go back to the Building Dept. and ask for a Demolition Permit.
    5. Appear, as required, before the Historic District Commission, with your empty husk of a formerly historic building that now has exactly zero historic value. Be sure to tell them in a quiet voice that everything that mattered to them about your building is in a landfill in New York – but that you’re “very sensitive” to the building’s history.

  7. Peter Jennings Talbot

    Building by building, house by house, piece by piece, the historic character of Westport continues to be dismantled. What good is the National Register of Historic Places when the registered buildings continue to disappear. Also, what a difference in the streetscape from 1975 to present. The looming office building behind it is a monstrosity.

  8. touching how the piggies left the old half light window up there…preserves
    that historical quality, you know

  9. Don L. Bergmann

    There are real questions here as to the issue of demolition versus significant renovation, as well as differing standards between Planning & Zoning and the Buildings Dept. Related to this is the language of our ordinances that result in the role of the HDC 180 day demotion waiver concept. I will be looking into this and inquiring of appropriate Town officials. For now, however, a tragedy has occurred. I hope our candidates for First Selectman, for the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals all participate substantively in this dialogue on 06880. I know the Historic District Commission Chair is engaged..
    Don Bergmann

  10. I lived in Westport for 40 years and during that time I kept photos and articles of so many of the historic buildings in the town. All of the buildings in my collection are now gone including the one in this post. How sad that “Westport” has just vanished – money does talk – LOUDLY!

  11. The Vita Design Group should really be ashamed of themselves.

  12. If all the people that are so upset they should purchase the building and do what they think is best.
    This guy has been losing enough money as he waited for the town.

    Please put up your money or stay out of others rights

  13. My plans to return to Westport are eroding as, it seems,
    is the town itself.