Tag Archives: 19 Soundview Drive

Tear Down That House! Inside Westport’s Historic District Commission

The Historic District Commission’s recent 2023 Preservation Awards — honoring owners and architects of 6 homes, 2 restaurants, an office and church, who kept the streetscape bones of their buildings while modernizing the interiors — drew approving comments from hard-to-please “06880” readers.

Many also wondered: Why doesn’t the HDC preserve more buildings?

The answer is: They can’t.

But you and I can.

Today, chair Grayson Braun and vice chair Scott Springer offer a brief “Historic District Commission 101” intro course.

They note that the HDC is a volunteer organization. Members are appointed by the 1st selectperson.

The commission has an office in Town Hall, and is supported by an administrator — currently Donna Douglass — who is a town employee.

The HDC offers support and guidance to help property owners, in the service of historic preservation.

Braun and Springer’s routes to the commission are typical.

Grayson Braun

Braun and her husband moved to Westport in 1997, for “the historic feel and character” of the town. When a developer planned a project for their Gorham Avenue neighborhood, she worked with the HDC to gain “Local Historic District” status for the area, making demolition more difficult. In 2009, she joined the board.

Springer has been a Westporter since 2008. In 2014 he established his own architecture firm here. He was appointed to the board in 2019, to add an architectural perspective to the HDC’s work.

The 2 members stress: Their work is, by town and state ordinance, strictly advisory. They work with other town agencies, like the Architectural Review Board, to establish Local Historic Districts and designate Local Historic Properties.

But they cannot unilaterally stop teardowns.

The only time the HDC can prevent demolition is if a property is designated as a local historic property or a local historic district.

When a homeowner, commercial property owner or developer of any other building 50 years or older (and 500 square feet or larger) requests a demolition permit, there is an automatic 180-day waiting period.

They can apply to the HDC for a waiver. The HDC can uphold or deny that request.

That 6-month period is the maximum allowed by state regulation. Many municipalities adopted a shorter waiting time.

If the HDC denies the request, the goal is for something to happen in those 6 months. A stakeholder can come forward with an alternative to demolition. An architect may come up with a plan for zoning relief, in return for preservation.

Those things happen.

Owners Blanca and Suni Hirani of 19 Soundview Drive, for example, originally applied for a demolition permit. They were approved for a new house, with a completely new design.

But during the 180-day period, they reimagined what they wanted. They updated the structure, while keeping the outside look. The result is impressive. And it earned the owners an HDC Preservation Award.

19 Soundview Drive – before (left) and after preservation.

Another Preservation Award went to 8 Mayflower Parkway. It too was a property whose 180-day waiting period was upheld. During that time, builder David Vynerib decided the structure was worth saving — and came up with a plan.

8 Mayflower Parkway, after renovation.

The Historic District Commission pays particular attention to the street-facing part of a property. When Michael and Kim Ronemus wanted to renovate 113 Cross Highway — once a gas station, house and outbuildings just west of North Avenue — the HDC helped them retain the exterior, while adding a modern extension in back.

Braun and Springer know the public is often confused when they see a “historic plaque” on a house, and assume that’s an official designation.

It’s not. Those markers are provided by the Westport Museum for History & Culture (for a fee). The program is separate from the Historic District Commission.

The HDC’s work extends to commercial properties. One recent example: work being done on the former Remarkable Book Shop/Talbots/Local to Market building, on Main Street at Parker Harding Plaza.

The HDC also oversees Westport’s 7 Local Historic Districts. They range from 4 properties on Morningside Drive South (formerly owned by artists Walter and Naiad Einsel) to about 40 homes on and around Kings Highway North.

The other Local Historic Districts are Evergreen Avenue, Gorham Avenue, Jesup Road, Lincoln Street/Riverside Avenue, and Violet Lane.

(Photo/Morley Boyd)

The HDC website says:

Local historic designation assists in the retention and enhancement of property values by providing a stable market in which to invest. It creates community pride, fosters neighborhood stabilization and enhances the appearance and authentic character of a designated area.

Building materials and natural resources expended in original construction retain their usefulness and rehabilitation itself uses less energy and raw materials than new construction. Restoration conserves energy and materials while reinforcing already environmentally sustainable neighborhoods.

Two-thirds of the owners in an area must approve a vote to become a Local Historic District. That designation offers a degree of protection for exterior (street-facing) alterations.

However, it’s not something all owners want. A recent proposal to add Sniffen Road, off Clinton Avenue, to the list went nowhere. A number of homeowners felt the designation would prohibit them from selling their houses to developers, as teardowns.

Braun notes, “There are rules for everything in town. No matter how old or new your property is, you can’t just start adding on without a permit.

“The HDC has an extensive review process, but we’re no more restrictive than other rules. We realize people want to do work on their property. We are always happy to help. We even schedule pre-application and special meetings, outside of our monthly ones.”

(To learn more about the Historic District Commission, click here.)

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Historic District Honors Non-Teardowns Of The Day

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.

Kudos to:

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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. 

(Westport’s history — and real estate — are among the most popular topics on “06880.” Please click here to support the work of your hyper-local blog. Thank you!)

Roundup: Fox News, Teardowns, THC …

Yesterday’s historic $787.5 million settlement by Fox News in its defamation lawsuit was huge news, all over the country. (Except on Fox).

And a big part of that news was due to the work of Dominion Voting Systems’ co-lead attorney, Stephen Shackelford.

The Harvard Law School graduate and former Justice Stephen Breyer’s clerk’s already high reputation in the legal community has skyrocketed.

But in Westport we know him, his wife Stefanie and 4 kids as our neighbors. And in District 8, residents know him as their RTM representative.

On behalf of American democracy: Thank you, Steve!


Yesterday’s “06880” Roundup included 2 homes that fell to the wrecking ball. One was on Roseville Road; the other on South Compo.

Today, Carl Addison Swanson sends a photo of one that has been lovingly restored.

39 Cross Highway — just west of Weston Road — is a house we all pass by often. After years of neglect, it’s gotten a ton of TLC. Today, it looks great.

Known as the Charles Chapman House, this is one of 10 homes that will be honored by 1st Selectwoman Jen Tooker and Westport’s Historic District Commission on May 4 (7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium). It’s one of 4 earning a Preservation Award.

Old Mill Grocery & Deli will receive a Legacy Business Prevention citation. A year ago, a small group of neighbors organized an effort to save the former Elvira’s/Joey’s by the Shore market from probable sale to a develop.

Old Mill Grocery & Deli. (Photo/Matt Murray)

Green’s Farms Church will be cited too, for its extensive renovation.

Green’s Farms Church (Photo/Bob Weingarten)

The other 7 Historic District Commission honorees:

• 35 Post Road West –Davis Taylor House – Preservation
• 276 Main Street – Patrick Rice House – Helen Muller Preservation Award
• 8 Mayflower Parkway – Preservation
• 19 Soundview Drive – Stevens Cottage – Preservation
• 161 Cross Highway – Legacy Business Preservation
• 163 Cross Highway – Excellence in Ongoing Care and Maintenance
• 21 Danbury Avenue – Preservation

19 Soundview Drive – before (left) and after.


Last week, the Westport Police Department conducted unannounced compliance inspections of 12 establishments that sell tobacco products and/or e-cigarettes.

All 12 were found “compliant” with laws regarding sales to anyone under 21.

However, WP Convenience at 1761 Post Road East — in the Westfair Shopping Center, opposite Stop & Shop — was found to have “a large number of illegal vape and THC products for sale,” police say.

“Many of these items did not display the required QR codes and/or were packaged to look like candy. These colorful packages resemble popular candy and snack foods, but their contents often contain high doses of THC, which can cause marijuana toxicity, especially in unsuspecting children.”

Police confiscated the items, along with “a number of canisters of suspected marijuana.” WP Convenience does not have a dispensary license.

Police note: “Westport zoning regulation prohibits all sales of retail (non-medical) cannabis products, including Delta-9 THC and Delta-8.”

Besides WP Convenience, the 12 retailers found compliant with laws about selling tobacco and e-cigarettes to anyone under 21:

  • Merritt Country Store – 337 Main Street
  • Country Deli Store – 332 Wilton Road
  • Sunoco Food Mart – 240 Riverside Avenue
  • Westport Shell – 322 Post Road East
  • Cumberland Farms – 690 Post Road East
  • Wheels – 786 Post Road East
  • Westport Cigar & Vape – 1248 Post Road East
  • Exxon Tiger Mart – 1510 Post Road East
  • Shell Food Mart – 1530 Post Road East
  • Mohegan Smoke Shop – 1803 Post Road East
  • Mercury – 1830 Post Road East

items sold illegally at WP Convenience. (Photo courtesy of Westport Police Department)


Savvy Kings Highway Elementary School parents (and nannies and other caregivers) know that there’s a way to beat the afternoon car pickup line, which can stretch along Post Road West almost to Norwalk:

Just park in Nash’s Plaza, the small shopping center between the school and the animal hospital.

Make your kid a “walker.” He or she walks a few yards to your car, and you’re outta there.

That does not sit well with the merchants there, who see their patrons’ parking spots taken up every afternoon by non-patrons.

Which is why this sign has appeared there:

What’s next? Carvana, across the very dangerous street?

It would be nice if kids could, um, take the bus.

But with the current school day, some of them get home around midnight.


Westport Community Gardens is accepting applications for membership. Limited space is available for new members. It is distributed on a first come, first served basis.

The site, adjacent to Long Lots Elementary School, is a community of people who grow flowers, herbs and vegetables in a sunny, fenced-in (deer-proof) location. Members range age from 5 to 95,

To learn more about the Community Gardens, click here and here. If you’re interested in a plot, click here.

Westport Community Gardens is a true community.


Here’s a sure sign of spring: the 44th annual Minute Man Race is set for Sunday, April 30.

As usual, Compo Beach will hum with family activity for the Westport Young Woman’s League event. 100% of the net profits benefit charities in Westport and Fairfield County.

Since 1956 — even before the long-running (ho ho) event began — the WYWL has distributed over $4 million in grants.

The main events are certified USA Track and Field runs of 10K and 5K, and a 5K walk.

A Kids Fun Run includes a 50 yard dash (ages 3-5), 100 yard dash (6-7), 1/2 mile run (8-9) and mile run (10-12).

The event also features a Kids Zone with fun activities — and for the first time, food trucks during and after the race.

Click here to register, and for more information.


The Westport Weston Family YMCA joins in 5 Days of Action (April 24-28), a campaign that equips and empowers organizations to protect children from sexual abuse.

The Y encourages all adults and organizations to help make the community a safer place. For more information and resources, click here.


There were smiles all around yesterday, as the Westport Rotary Club received the Charles Pettengill Award as “The Best Club in Rotary District 7980.” For non-Rotarians, that’s the 4 coastal counties of Connecticut — 57 clubs in all.

The award recognizes excellence in all 5 areas of service: community, international, youth, vocational and club.

The last 3 COVID years were difficult on all community organizations, but Westport Rotary responded creatively. They held LobsterFest virtually in 2020 — and raised a record amount. The 2021 and ’22 LobsterFests built on that.

More than $250,000 will be distributed to local, regional and international projects from LobsterFest 2022.

So make plans for LobsterFest ’23. Save the date: September 23. Tickets go on sale in July.

From left: Selectwomen Jen Tooker and Andrea Moore present the “Best Rotary Club” citation to Westport Rotary Club president Karl Merganthaller and past president Leslie Robert.


Sprite Island — looking west from Canal Road on Saugatuck Shores — is the misty subject of today’s “Westport … Naturally” feature.

(Photo/Nancy Axthelm)


And finally … thanks again, Steve Shackelford:

(Another day with tons of Westport-related news, all covered by “06880.” Please click here to support our work. Thank you!)

Roundup: New Multi-Unit Housing, Daylight Savings, Staples Art …


An application to convert the former Men’s Warehouse store to a 14-unit multi-family building awaits review by Westport’s Planning & Zoning Department staff.

The 950 Post Road East property sits between the (now closed) Bank of America branch, and the (also closed) Subway shop.

It’s a 2-story building. The first floor is below the main one, behind the parking lot.

The former Men’s Wearhouse property.


Wakeman Town Farm is “egg-cited” to announce the return of “Egg-stravaganza.” Their traditional celebration of bunny, family fun is set for Saturday, April 3 (9 to 10:30 a.m.).

The egg hunt begins at 9;15 (bring your own basket!). Eggs can be turned in for a special treat bag from BD Provisions.

There’s also an egg roll and egg toss (with prizes), story time, photos with “Big Bunnies,” and animal visits (including the furry alpaca). Grownups get coffee.

First-come, first-served tickets are $10 per child or adult (free for anyone younger than 1). Click here to register.


Don’t forget: Tonight is the night to set clocks forward for Daylight Savings Time.

Sure, we lose an hour of sleep. But that added hour of sunlight is worth it!


Thursday’s “Roundup” featured a photo of exterior painting at 19 Soundview Drive — right next to a “Demolition” sign.

Today, the house was fully painted. And the sign was gone.

A worker said it will not be knocked down soon. Word on the street drive is that it may be cleaned up for a summer rental. Stay tuned, though: It might be knocked down this fall.


Everyone says it, but last night — right in front of Joe’s Pizza — we had proof:

Westport’s gone nuts.

(Photo/Jeff Gray)

Six Staples High School students have earned Scholastic Connecticut Regional Arts Awards recognitions. The 98-year-old nationwide program includes a juried exhibition.

Congratulations to Silver Key winners Poppy Livingstone (painting) and Akira Maidique (digital art). Honorable Mention recipients include Kate Davitt and Nate Kolek (drawing and illustration), Matthew Genser (photography) and Alexandra Lam (painting).

Click here for the virtual exhibition.

A collage of the Staples artists’ work.


Weston Center has been a bit lonely since Peter’s Market closed in January.

Residents were heartened recently to see these signs.

No word on timing. But it’s a start. (Hat tip: Hanna and Conor O’Byrne)

(Photo courtesy of Libby Cailen, “Parents of Weston, CT” Facebook group)


Is there any holiday that Winslow Park Animal Hospital doesn’t celebrate?

The popular Post Road clinic is sure ready for Wednesday.

(Photo/Molly Alger)


Hot on the “heels” of news about The Joggers Club’s Junior running group, they announce for adults too.

The Joggers Club meets every Saturday at 8 a.m., at Compo Beach. Runs are designed to satisfy everyone.

You don’t even have to know how to run. Just get outside, and put one foot in front of the other.

Every week brings a different course. After each run, there’s coffee and Village Bagels treats, for a nice social hour

Click here, or follow The Joggers Club on Facebook or Strava. A year’s membership is just $50, and includes a cool customized running tank designed by Fleet Feet.


And finally … happy 82nd birthday to former teen idol (and former Westporter) Neil Sedaka!