Westport is a town filled with — and known for — teardowns. Thankfully, some building owners invest time, energy, care, concern — and money — to preserve our history.
Last night at Town Hall, the Westport Historic District Commission honored the men and women who persevere, to preserve.
WHD Preservation Awards went to the owners of 6 private homes, 2 neighborhood restaurants, an office and a church.
8 Mayflower parkway
Built in 1926, and distinguished by a classically inspired portico, 8 Mayflower Parkway (off Compo Road South) was saved from demolition by David Vynerib, founder and principal of CCO Habitats. His extensive renovation restored the home to its prior glory.
19 SOUNDVIEW DRIVE
The “Stevens Cottage” was built in 1920, and is part of the Compo-Owenoke Historic District. Blanca and Sunil Hirani purchased it in 2020 — just before it was torn down — and then enhanced the entire streetscape of the beach exit road.
21 danbury avenue
Another home in the Compo-Owenoke Historic District, this bungalow was built in 1922 by Gertrude May Allen. It was bought in 2019 by Julie and John Headland, who preserved it in the midst of other teardowns in the area.
35 POST ROAD WEST
Built in 1825, the Davis Taylor House was a single-family residence that evolved into a multi-family dwelling from the 1920s through ’60s. Today the Federal style structure is home to Peter Cadoux Architects, who faithfully restored it as their office.
39 CROSS HIGHWAY
The original house was built in 1772 by Phineas Chapman, a Connecticut Militia lieutenant. It burned in 1877 and was rebuilt by his grandson, Charles Chapman. It remained in the family until 1927, when his last descendant died. It later served as a nursery school. Designated as a local historic property by Deborah Howland and her son Galen Murray in 2018, new owners Amy Gay and Matthew Burrows recently completed an extensive renovation of the property on a very visible road.
71 HILLANDALE ROAD
Green’s Farms Congregational Church was established in 1711, when Westport was part of Fairfield. A meetinghouse was raised near what is now the Sherwood Island Connector commuter parking lot. The church’s 3rd building was constructed in 1853, on Hillandale. It expanded in phases. In 2019 — with the structure needing major renovation — the congregation quickly raised funds to repair the original foundation, restore the steeple and overhaul the organ. Click here for a full story.
161 cross highway
The Masiello family opened Christie’s Country Store in 1926, to sell produce grown on their nearby farm. They gave up farming in the late 1940s, but continued the business and added a gazebo moved from Redding Road. In 1958 the market was enlarged. It has gone through various incarnations — including, briefly, a dry cleaner’s — but longtime owner Tim Purcell renovated it. It now houses the popular Porch @ Christie’s restaurant.
163 CROSS HIGHWAY
This property, built by James Masiello in 1922 for his wife Mary, has been in the family for over 100 years. The Colonia Revival home has been lovingly conserved by Jean Masiello.
222 HILLSPOINT ROAD
Built in 1919, this is the oldest continually operating retail and food store in Westport. Designed as a small market to serve the area around Old Mill Beach, it was known variously as “Old Mill Grocery,” “Kenny’s,” “Elvira’s” and “Joey’s by the Shore.” A year ago, when sale to a residential developer seemed imminent, a group of residents formed the Soundview Empowerment Alliance. They saved it from destruction, renovated it, and turned it once again into a beloved “Old Mill Grocery & Deli.” Click here for a full story.
276 MAIN STREET
The Patrick Rice House (aka the Gray-Coley House and the Lamar Webb House) is one of the finest examples of Italianate style in Westport. Believed to be built in 1869, it is part of the Gorham Avenue Historic District. It has been lovingly maintained by a long history of owners. Current stewards Kristin Schneeman and Ezra Greenberg have meticulously maintained the property since buying it in 2011.
The Historic District Commission is chaired by Grayson Braun. She and Donna Douglass wrote all the narratives for the awards. Bill Harris donated the printing of the programs for the ceremony through his organization, the Army Aviation Associated of America.
The awards were organized by coordinator Donna Douglass; former member and house researcher Bob Weingarten; former chair and current member Bill Harris, who donated the printing of the programs through his Army Aviation Association of America, and HDC members Scott Springer, Wendy Van Wie, Martha Eidman and Elizabeth Bolognino.
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Thank these owners for being good stewards of our town’s history. Everyone should appreciate the effort it takes to preserve these wonderful buildings
Yes, “10 gems”! Great appreciation to those responsible for preserving at least some of Westport’s long history and for giving the town a grace the new, mostly much more massive homes cannot begin to bestow.
The Mayflower Parkway house is being targeted by Renewal by Anderson’s local sales manager. Close that deal and he gets to retire early.
Thank you for writing this piece Dan. It’s good to showcase these houses and hopefully that will influence some who don’t see the value in historic properties. It’s the builders who need to understand the long term value of keeping historic homes.
I am thrilled whenever anyone chooses not to tear down an historic house, so kudos for that. But I think the HDC needs to do a better job explaining and educating the public on what preservation standards are (https://preservationct.org/standards), including when issuing awards.
Keeping the shell of a house and ripping out all of the original doors, windows, trim, and woodwork is not preservation. Nor is it preservation (or a green building practice) to replace building materials that will last hundreds of years when well-maintained and can be retrofitted to be extremely energy-efficient with modern materials that are designed to fail after 15-20 years. I understand the bar in Westport is low given the inability or unwillingness to reign in rapacious spec development, but we can do better.
Your remarks are spot on. There is almost no awareness of the beauty, durability and adaptability of historic building components frequently discarded in favor of newer components which frequently are destined for replacement in only a few years! But this painful realization should not overshadow the great work and inspiration of these annual awards presented by the Westport Historic District Commission. The commission and their work is truly a Westport Treasure
Just wanted to add my congrats to the owners, whether residents, commercial owners and church members for these preservation activities. One additional thanks to the Old Mill Grocery & Deli. Besides being honored by Westport, they also received a Preservation Connecticut state Award of Merit. This preservation award was 1 of 7 state wide awards presented yesterday.
Great coverage of an important value. But I have to disagree, nay protest loudly as to 8 Mayflower. Glad to see it still standing, but it hardly represents anything like former glory.
In the 60s, it was in its original glory, a symphony of 18th century craft and warmth: red brick, rich, patinaed wood beams, paneling and trim, soapstone sinks reflecting the taste and hospitality of the Berniers; musical artist Buddy and real estate broker Jo, and their five brilliant and talented daughters.
It has not been restored to anything like the home it was, but is now a travesty of white paint (oh ok, and pale grey – there’s a bold accent!) inside and out, a toxic, sterile sameness that infects most of the other sample chosen for this piece.
You said what I thought. That house was beautiful in its day with naturally aging cedar shakes. I remember the Berniers, the girls especially. I had long distance crushes on them. Was never favored by their company on a date, my loss for sure.
Thanks to Dan for this excellent compilation of houses saved/restored.
Thanks, Celeste — but the Historic District Commission did all the work!
I’m just chiming in here, but these preservations are a gift to all of us. Thanks to all the people who have done their part to keep our history alive.
And thank you Dan for posting this … at a time when I’ve been grieving the loss of the Westport I’ve loved to both teardowns and rampant development.
This article made me so happy. We have owned and maintained our 1937 cottage for 23 years and love it’s charm and character and are so glad to see this recognition of the wonderful work being done around town. Thank you Historic Commission and Dan for highlighting!