Ed Gerber is one of the preservation good guys.
For more than 10 years he has patiently preserved 93 Cross Highway. The home — visible to all, on a main road — was built in 1764 by the spectacularly named Eliphalet Sturges. From 1908 through the 1950s, it was owned by noted artist George Hand Wright.
Gerber grew up in New Haven and Fairfield, but spent many happy days at #93, after it was inherited by Frank Boylan — Wright’s nephew, and Gerber’s godfather.
For 40 years, Gerber lived in Washington. But as he retired from the FDIC, the Cross Highway property came on the market. He knew if he did not act, it could be Westport’s next teardown.
He bought it. Then he went to work. Walls and ceilings were painted and plastered. Maple floors were refinished. The bathrooms and kitchen were remodeled. The house — with its massive stone fabrication, handsome hearth and wonderful Wright-era furniture — has been lovingly restored.
With its historic landmark status, it’s a permanent part of our heritage — and an important element of our streetscape.
Now Gerber — a former member of Westport’s Historic District Commission and past vice president of the Westport Historical Society — has turned his attention to a different type of preservation: urban homes.
In his other roles, on Preservation Connecticut and a trustee of Historic New England, he’s seen what happens when homeowners get help preserving old structures.
They keep historical connections alive in a handsome way, of course. But they also provide hope and inspiration to entire city neighborhoods.
So, with a very generous $250,000 gift, he established the Edward F. Gerber Urban Preservation Fund. It will be administered by Historic New England.
Homeowners in Connecticut’s 10 most urban locations — Bridgeport, Harford, Manchester, New Britain, New Haven, New London, Norwalk, Stamford, Waterbury and West Haven — are eligible for $10,000 grants. They will pay for preservation-related costs like a new roof or architectural drawings.
Property owners receiving grants will also receive support and guidance from Historic New England experts in architectural history and historic preservation, ensuring that projects enhance the historic significance of a home and will stand the test of time
It’s a win-win-win — for homeowners, their neighborhoods, and tradesmen skilled in preservation work (which Historic New England can link applicants with).
Gerber hopes to see a variety of applicants, living in Georgian, Federal, Greek Revival, Victorian, Colonial Revival, triple-decker, Cape Cod and Mid-Century Modern residences.
His restored Cross Highway saltbox is miles away — geographically — from urban preservation sites. But the idea — preserving streetscapes, anchoring a neighborhood — is the same everywhere.
Thanks to Ed Gerber, urban homeowners now get the chance to preserve history too.
(To learn more about the Edward F. Gerber Urban Preservation Fund — including how to apply for a grant, or donate — click here, or contact Carissa Demore: firstname.lastname@example.org;; 720-244-1422.)
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