Tag Archives: Gunn House

Demolition, Renovation, Relocation Update

Interested in saving a couple of old Westport houses? (Or want them gone?)

Here are your chances.

Tomorrow (Thursday, July 18), the Planning & Zoning Commission will consider a new plan from Terrain. It will save the 1900-era house on the corner of Post Road and Crescent  Road; will increase the store’s parking by 29 spots, and will move off-loading of trucks from Crescent Road to their own property.

Sources say 8:15-ish is the best time to get there for the Terrain application.

If you can’t attend the meeting, contact P&Z director Larry Bradley (lbradley@westportct.gov). He’ll put all emails in a file for P&Z members to read.

The house on Terrain's Post Road property, at the corner of Crescent Road.

The house on Terrain’s Post Road property, at the corner of Crescent Road.

Then, on Thursday (July 25, 7 p.m.) the P&Z will review use of town land, as it relates to the relocation of the Kemper-Gunn House (35 Church Lane).

RTM member Matt Mandell has organized an online petition, in hopes of convincing town bodies to move the building a few yards away, to the Elm Street parking lot (prior to construction of Bedford Square).

Finally, there’s the Saugatuck firehouse. On Wednesday, August 28, the RTM Long Range Planning Committee will hear public input on possible relocation sites.

And you thought you had the summer off!

Moving Stories

The proposal to move the Gunn House — the Queen Anne building facing Church Lane — a few yards across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot, has generated lots of comments on “06880.”

It’s an intriguing idea — but it’s not exactly novel.

Today’s plan pales in comparison with a move more than 60 years ago. In 1950 Saugatuck Congregational Church — yes, the entire church — moved across and down the Post Road.

Saugatuck Congregational Church today.

Saugatuck Congregational Church today.

The handsome building looks like it’s always been there. But from 1832 through the mid-20th century, the church sat 600 feet away — where the gas station and bank are now, behind the Baron’s South property near the corner of South Compo.

The church parsonage was located where it is today, near Myrtle Avenue. That house and 8 acres of land were a gift from Morris K. Jesup, in 1884.

A special meeting of the congregation on September 11, 1947, authorized the relocation of the meetinghouse to the parsonage property.

Three years later — in the early dawn of August 28, 1950 — the Post Road was blocked. 500 men, women and children gathered for a service of prayer and thanksgiving.

Then — at 60 feet per hour — the 200-ton building was moved down a 19-foot incline on 55 logs, which revolved under runners. “This is more fun than a cocktail party!” one “Westport matron” told Life magazine.

By nightfall, the 128-year-old Saugatuck Church had a new home. Six decades later, it looks like it’s been there forever.

Saugatuck Congregational Church move

Life Magazine chronicled the church move in its September 11, 1950 issue.

Life Magazine chronicled the church move in its September 11, 1950 issue.

Other notable moves include the white office building in the back of Colonial Green (it started at the front of the property, now the site of Webster Bank — directly across from Saugatuck Church); a white barn that was once part of Nyala Farm (it was moved across Green’s Farms Road, into a meadow), and the house at 97 Hillspoint Road, relocated in 1960 when Hillspoint School was built.

And, of course, the Sherwood House. A dilapidated structure, it was brought a few yards closer to the street. That helped create a lively scene, with great outdoor dining, for the new tenant: the Spotted Horse restaurant.

Which is, of course, directly opposite the hopefully-soon-t0-be-moved Gunn House.

The Gunn House

Get ready for the next Westport battle: What to do with the Gunn House.

Named after longtime owner Ben Gunn — who for many years housed his law firm there — the Queen Anne building has sat handsomely on the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street for 120 years.

When Bedford Square Associates began planning their new development — replacing the Westport Y and adjacent buildings — many Westporters worried that the Gunn House would be demolished.

BSA offered the structure to anyone, for just $1. There were no takers.

Gunn House -- 35 Church Lane -- was built in 1893.

Gunn House — 35 Church Lane — was built in 1893.

Now the developer has offered to move it across Elm Street, to the Baldwin parking lot. BSA will spend $150,000, in relocation fees and a new foundation. The Historic District Commission has approved the plan.

Beyond that, ideas for the structure — including who would use it, and maintain it — are unclear.

This may be the next downtown “controversy.” It’s sure to generate debate — from preservationists worried about what will become of the building; merchants and shoppers concerned about losing spaces in the parking lot; anti-BSA folks certain there’s an ulterior motive somewhere, and others with points of view we had not yet heard from and/or figured out.

That’s Westport. Arguing about old buildings and new construction is what we do best.

But it’s worth noting that this marks an important milestone: A developer has heard pleas for preservation, and heeded them.

With its own money.

The last time that happened was …

An artist's rendering of proposed new construction on the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street -- the current site of the Gunn House.

An artist’s rendering of proposed new construction on the corner of Church Lane and Elm Street — the current site of the Gunn House.