Drive To Save White Barn Property Fails

A 6-year battle to prevent the construction of 15 luxury homes on the White Barn property — once the site of Lucille Lortel’s theater — has ended.

The 15.4 acre site in Norwalk’s Cranbury neighborhood, on Westport’s border, has been sold to Able Construction. Norwalk Land Trust had tried to raise funds to purchase the site, and add it to a 5-acre easement it holds.

Westporters, including the Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund, were part of a long-running drama involving the property — and Lortel’s stage (which, though actually in Norwalk, used a Westport address from 1947 to 2002).

Lucille Lortel, outside her White Barn Theatre.

Some hoped to save a legendary structure. For more than 50 summers, the White Barn Theater produced works by avant-garde playwrights like Sean O’Casey, Eugene Ionesco, Archibald MacLeish and Edard Albee.

The barn and an adjacent house had deteriorated extensively, and were eventually torn down.

Others were concerned about the environmental and aesthetic impacts of a new housing development on the wooded site.

As part of the Saugatuck River Watershed drainage basin, the property impacts the quality and quantity of drinking water for the area.

Norwalk Land Trust said that donors to the campaign will be reimbursed “with profound gratitude for supporting our initiative to protect this acreage with its abundant plant life, as a wildlife refuge and for the sheer scenic beauty.” (Hat tip: Matthew Mandell)

Proposed development on the White Barn property. (Courtesy of “Nancy on Norwalk”)

3 responses to “Drive To Save White Barn Property Fails

  1. While the battle to stop the 15 houses and buy the property is 6 years old, the issue goes back to 2003 when the property was first sold by the board of the theater. 40+ houses was first on the slate.

    The Partrick Wetlands Preservation Fund joined the Save Cranbury Association to save the land. It worked both ways. SCA helped the PWPF save what is now the 22 acre Partrick Wetlands, now in Earthplace’s care. Sprawl and overdevelopment don’t know town borders so citizens join together and work together to do great things.

    5.5 acres of the White Barn were saved including the beautiful pond, now in the care of the Norwalk Land Trust, but sadly the historic theater was not saved and now not the rest of this property.

    Cheers to everyone who did take a moment of their time or a dollar out of their pocket to help.

  2. and cheers to Matt Mandell, among others, for the effort. While I understand capitalism and the benefits that result from efforts to make money by creating something that can be sold, I remain perplexed about why any developer would undertake this project. At some point the motivations should cause developers to conclude, “I just won’t undertake this”.

  3. When I think of all the wildlife on that property that’s going to be displaced and have their homes destroyed, it breaks my heart. Really sad, and so unnecessary.

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