Preserving — And Honoring — Westport’s Past

Homeowners who put time, money, energy and love into preserving old homes don’t do it for a prize, or even praise.

They do it because they love Westport’s past. They want to honor and keep it.

But it doesn’t hurt to say “thanks.”

Next Monday (October 15, 7 p.m., town Hall auditorium), 1st Selectman Jim Marpe, Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels and members of his committee will present the 2018 Historic Preservation Awards.

The properties can be found all over town. They represent a variety of architectural styles. We should all be grateful, for all of them.

17 Canal Street

Street Keeler House, c. 1830
Federal Style
Rehabilitation
Jocelyn and Addison Armstrong

When the Braxton Armstrongs purchased 17 Canal Street in 2002, they wanted to “honor the past while making the home comfortable for the future.” They kept all original windows, including the elaborate lunette windows on the gable ends, doors and clapboard visible from the street.

They replaced all aluminum gutters with copper, and reinstalled a wooden shingle roof. They used antique knives to cut trim to match existing and lost trim on the façade, reused doors restored by soda blasting them, and reused hardware miraculously found in the basement.

Throughout the project, they remained committed to the original architectural elements.  While the property is not a locally designated landmark, the owners consistently demonstrated their sensitivity to historic preservation and maintaining the integrity of this significant structure.

27 Long Lots Road

Site Rehabilitation
William Nash House, c.1812
Federal
Susan and Stuart Adam

This house was built in 1812, after William Nash bought the property from Daniel C. Banks. It remained in the Nash family until the death of Polly Nash, when the property was sold to Samuel Elwood. James Godfrey and Albert Fresenius owned the house in the 1920s. 

It has retained many of its original historic features, and evolved with sympathetic and modest side additions. The current owners, who have lived in the house for just over a year, restored portions and carefully rehabilitated the front area of the house by removing obstructing vegetation and trees, and building a stone wall. Now the beauty of the original Federal style house can once again be admired.

75 Kings Highway North

Helen Muller Preservation Award
Francis Converse House, c. 1922
Colonial Revival
Kathryn and Brian McGarvey

This award is given in recognition of a significant contribution to the maintenance, preservation and conservation of the Kings Highway North Local Historic District in honor of one of Westport’s most prominent preservation advocates, Helen Muller.

When the McGarveys purchased this prominent house in 2015, it came with an impressive history.  It is thought to have been designed by one of Westport’s most important local architects, Charles Cutler. Barbara and Allan Raymond whose tireless devotion to the history of Westport is well known, lived in the house for 50 years.

The McGarveys wanted to reconfigure the front yard and driveway to make it safer for their young family. They installed a white wooden picket fence and circular drive with gates on either side. A 2-story addition complemented the original structure, with original materials, a matching cedar shingle roof and 6- over-6 wooden windows. The Raymonds would be pleased to know the McGarveys are now stewards of this treasured homestead.

6 Great Marsh Road

Adaptive Re-use
Queen Anne Style, c. 1887
Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club

In 1690 William and Mary, reigning monarchs of England, bestowed a royal grant for a tidal basin known as Great Marsh. The decree allowed for private ownership of the land under the water located at the mouth of the Saugatuck River.

To whom this grant was bestowed, remains a mystery. Not until 1893 did state records recognize a land transfer of the Great Marsh to Henry C. Eno, owner of a grand Queen Anne manor house on the abutting property. In 1887 he added a richly detailed stable situated alongside the tidal basin land grant.

The picturesque board-and-batten sided stable is massed with a projecting gable pavilion, and double-leaf paneled loft doors on the 2nd level. A copper-roofed cupola accents the ridge of the gable roof. The original horse stalls and their accouterments remain, as does the distinctive herringbone patterned brick flooring where guests of J. Anthony and Frances Probst, third owners of “Great Marsh,” danced summer nights away.

A reversal of fortune caused the family to sell the 100-acre estate. A marina was included in subdivision plans. Landscape architect Evan Harding designed what became Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club. In keeping with the original aesthetics, the stable was converted to a clubhouse, with an addition and balcony added to the south end. The underwater marsh land was dredged to create a harbor, the first of its kind on the Eastern Seaboard to feature an underwater bubble system allowing boats to remain moored year-round.

79 Newtown Turnpike

Rehabilitation
Lewis Burr Fillow House, c. 1800/1925
Chabad Lubavitch of Westport

This spring, Chabad Lubavitch of Westport celebrated the grand opening of its space in the old Three Bears restaurant. The rehabilitation of this historic building was sensitive and creative.

Exterior and interior architectural elements were preserved and restored. The renovation — designed by Robert Storm and carried out by Able Construction — encompassed over 9,000 square feet of the original property, and 10,000 square feet of complementary new construction.

The project blends New England vernacular-fieldstone and shingle features with the historic core structure. The site that has served as a stagecoach stop, inn, restaurant is now a new Jewish center for prayer services, educational programs and meetings.

15 Bridge Street

Bridge Street National Register District
Mary Dolan House, c. 1880 / David Bulkley House, c. 1880
Veronica and Tom Hofstetter

This Italianate-style c. 1880 house was built on land sold in 1879 by Isaac Allen to David Bulkley. The carpenter built a gable-ended, side hall plan, 2-story original home. Current owners Veronica and Tom Hofstetter purchased the house in 2004. They made their first addition the next year, incorporating a new master bedroom, kitchen and enlarged basement.

In 2017, the Hofstetters continued a 137-year-long tradition of stewardship by working with Vita Design Group. Their commitment is a good example of expansion to an existing historic structure in a manner that reflects appropriate design details. The house is a contributing resource in the Bridge Street National Register Historic District, established earlier this year.

36 Evergreen Parkway

Excellence in Care and Maintenance
Cape Cod, c. 1937
Cynthia Wallace

Cynthia Wallace acquired the property in 1960, and has been its faithful steward ever since. This home is a circa 1937 1 1/2-story Cape Cod, a loosely based Colonial Revival style with origins in the simple wooden folk houses of New England.

It is a rectangular plan building with a symmetrical façade and center entrance.  A brick chimney interrupts the asphalt shingle sheathed roof. The exterior is clad in wood shingles. The attached 2-bay garage, presumed to be a later addition, has carriage doors and an entry door. A rear dormer has been added.

The award acknowledges the contribution an architectural archetype of the mid-20th century has made to our present suburban landscape. The HDC cites this as an example of how, with sensitive modifications — including expansion, care and maintenance — a house of a different era, though not that long ago, can represent what a good neighbor can be.

6 responses to “Preserving — And Honoring — Westport’s Past

  1. These are all such beautiful homes! Thank you so much to every one of the owners listed above for preserving a piece of Westport. (My heart sings every time I drive up Wakenor and see 27 Long Lots Rd. in front of me.)

  2. Thank you for this article. So interesting to know the history of the yacht club (and stables) we all admire.

  3. Congratulations, Cynthia, on your award!

  4. Kudos to all of the honorees—and the rest of us unquestionably benefit from their efforts. I have always appreciated the variety of historic homes around town and that appreciation was reinforced earlier today coming from the train station on my first visit downtown in more than nine months after having been in California. California obviously has its own beautiful landscape but the area we were renting in had nothing remotely close to the history represented by some of the homes I drove by today.

  5. I loved the history of all the homes.
    I have admired the Bridge Street home for years as I drive by. I have watched the owners since 2004 do wonderful additions and renovations on this lovely home.
    I actually drove by it today after a visit to Jrs Deli and Grille for a wonderful lunch and then onto Westport Hardware where I found exactly what I needed as always.

  6. How wonderful to see 17 Canal Street among this year’s winners! We lived on Pleasant Valley Lane off North Avenue from 1970 – 1985. Then, while I was a senior in college, my parents bought 17 Canal Street, realizing their dream of buying and restoring an antique house, as my grandparents had done before them. The house had been beautifully “preserved” through many, many years of neglect. And so, while nearly all the original woodwork and hardware remained, everything was in very tough shape. My father had retired by then and the house became their full time jobs. By hand they scraped and sanded paint inside and out, stripped wallpaper, refinished floors, installed a new kitchen and baths, reroofed, replaced utilities, improved the landscape and driveway, and renovated the space above the garage, creating a legal apartment. The project took the better part of 5 years and the end result was lovely. It was our home until my parents sold it the current owners in 2002.

    When we were all in town for Mom’s funeral in May, we walked by the house and were all so pleased to see how great it looked. Please be sure to extend our appreciation and congratulations to the owners, from the kids of the two who poured their blood, sweat, and tears into that beautiful home. And tell them that we are sure that finding that hardware in the basement was no miracle – we’re quite certain that it was intentionally placed there by our very deliberate and organized engineer of a father. 😊

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