For a while, it looked like the South Morningside home owned for decades by noted artists Walter and Naiad Einsel — and before that, Charles B. Sherwood (of Sherwood Island fame) — would be demolished.
A developer bought the property, and — despite its history, and its location on wetlands — tried to take advantage of the state 8-30g statute. It takes precedence over historic districts and flooding issues.
Three years ago, the developer and town reached a settlement. The handsome structures were saved.
The Morningside Drive South home of Walter and Naiad Einsel.
Since the beginning of this year, Lillie Fortino Tsahirides and here husband have been renovating the Victorian home. Their goal is to reuse and rehabilitate as many of the original fixtures and elements possible.
On Thursday they learned that 2 to 3 people entered the property during working hours — while contractors were there — and helped themselves to light fixtures, furniture, and other elements.
“I guess they assumed it was trash,” Lillie writes on the Facebook Front Porch page.
One of the “missing” light fixtures.
She adds: “While it’s upsetting to know that individuals thought it alright to enter our private property, I’m really devastated over the loss of irreplaceable original fixtures. Someone went so far as to help themselves to our dog’s poop scoop.”
She’s taking the high road: “If you were one of those who mistakenly thought these items were up for grabs/intended for trash, please, PLEASE, return them.
“It’s hard to imagine several people would blatantly rob us in broad daylight, so I’m hoping this is all a big misunderstanding.
“If you know of someone who was involved, please ask them to return the poperty, no questions asked.”
Last night, the Planning & Zoning Commission approved new regulations regarding accessory apartments (units in a principal dwelling) and “accessory dwelling units” (those in attached structures).
As “06880” reported earlier this month, the new rules will open up our housing stock. They could add a small number of affordable housing units, and provide added income for residents going through life changes — the loss of a job, say, or divorce, or those whose children have moved away and who want to move into a smaller place on their own property, while renting out their larger home.
Also last night, Neil Cohn moved from alternate to full member of the P&Z, He replaces Greg Rutstein, who resigned Wednesday due to increased business responsibilities in a new job. Both are Democrats.
Rutstein praised chair Danielle Dobin, his fellow commissioners and Planning & Zoning Department head Mary Young. Noting that the board faces many important decisions, he said, “I want to make sure that I allow others who have the time to carefully consider these issues to serve the town that I love so dearly.”
Dobin said, “In 3 short years, Greg has had a meaningful impact on Westport. He worked tirelessly to make the P&Z more efficient — cutting through red tape, and saving residents and businesses time and fees. His insightful questions, positive energy and good humor will be deeply missed by all of us.
“We warmly welcome Neil Cohn, one of our longstanding alternate commissioners in Greg’s place. Through his work chairing the Economic Growth Subcommittee, which he founded, Neil is playing an integral part in ensuring P&Z regulations promote a vibrant Westport.”
Westport men and women can shop for CBD at 2 downtown stores literally around the corner from each other.
But what about man’s best friend?
We got that too.
Local resident Joseph Sequenzia just launched an all-natural hemp-derived CBD dog treat. YUP PUP is part of a growing interest in pet wellness. The CEO says that dogs experience anxiety relief from CBD — a chemical compound in cannabis — along with health benefits like joint pain, digestion and healthy coats.
His mission is to “treat our pets to the same health and happiness they treat us to,” Sequenzia says. YUP PUP comes in Tasty Bacon Treats, Peanut Butter Bites and Savory Salmon Snacks. For more information, click here.
Joseph Sequenzia and his family — including dogs Wally and Otto.
Yesterday was Earth Day. But New England Kelp Harvest Week runs all the way through Sunday.
Local restaurants and shops from Greenwich to Westerly, Rhode Island are participating in the first-ever event celebrating our region’s most sustainable crop: sugar kelp.
Kelp requires no fertilizers or fresh water to grow, and absorbs carbon trapped in the sea. Westporters can support local farms and restaurants, and fight climate change — all in one meal.
Food and beverages featuring kelp are available at The Whelk, Kawa Ni, OKO, Don Memo and The Cottage. To experiment in your own kitchen, buy local dried kelp at Fjord Fish Market.
The festival’s Instagram account offers food and beverage ideas, and information about kelp. Click here for a list of all participating restaurants, breweries, cafes and shops. Click here for links to virtual events. (Hat tip: Craig D.B. Patton)
For decades, Walter and Naiad Einsel painted in their Victorian farmhouse, across from Greens Farms Elementary School. Two of Westport’s most noted artists, they documented their nearly 5-decade romance with clever “Art from the Heart” valentines.
Long ago, in 1947 — 6 years before they married – Walter painted Naiad’s portrait.
Westport resident Anne Boberski recently completed a video project for the Housatonic Museum of Art.
Available online, “See, Think, Wonder: Bridgeport” includes four 25-minute video episodes and a printable Teacher Toolkit. It’s designed to support curriculum in grades 5-8. Students examine maps, seals, artifacts and architecture, meet community leaders, and learn that history is local.
The art museum is on the Housatonic Community College campus. But anyone can click here to see “See, Think, Wonder: Bridgeport.”
Happy 4th of July! Here’s the scene at 18 Bulkley Avenue South. Monica Ryan and her family decorated their front door this way — and added plenty of bunting, pinwheels in the yard, flags in the driveway, and sparkling lights at night.
Last year, historian Bob Weingarten wrote a story for Greens Farms Magazine, about flags in town.
Three caught my eye. May they continue to wave proudly!
Artists Walter and Naiad Einsel designed Uncle Sam and Miss Liberty, flanking the Stars and Stripes.
Little Barn, on the Post Road.
A replica of Betsy Ross’ original flag, flying on Greens Farms Road.
The barn on South Morningside Drive owned by the late Walter and Naiad Einsel — 2 of Westport’s most prominent artists — is being moved. The land across from Greens Farms Elementary School will be the site of 3 new homes. But the historic structures have been saved. (Photo/Tracy Porosoff)
One of Westport’s most controversial housing issues has apparently been settled.
With far less fanfare than it originally generated.
An email from Green’s Farms United says that last month, the developer and town negotiated a settlement about 20-26 Morningside Drive South. The property — directly opposite Greens Farms Elementary School, formerly owned by artists Walter and Naiad Einsel — was the site of a proposed 8-30g (affordable housing regulation) development.
The previously proposed development at 26 South Morningside Drive.
Green’s Farms United representatives — including an attorney, engineer and “GFU intervenors” — were then invited to meet with the town attorney and other officials to review the proposal. The GFU group provided input regarding the engineering and conservation easement landscape elements prior to the final agreement.
On May 23, GFU says, the settlement was approved by a judge. The 8-30g application was withdrawn the same day. (Click here for the full document.)
The Einsels’ house at 26 Morningside Drive South.
Key points from the settlement include:
The studio will be moved from 20 Morningside Drive South to the same lot as the historic home, which will remain where it currently is. Both buildings will be renovated, sold as one lot and considered the “new” historic district. GFU says the newly created historic district has greater legal protections under the settlement stipulation than the previous Einsel Historic District.
26 Morningside Drive South will be subdivided into 3 lots. One is the Historic Home Studio; the 2 additional lots will have new homes.
The 2 center driveways will be next to each other in the location of the current driveway. They will be designed to look like one, giving the appearance of only 3 driveways on the property.
The 20 Morningside Drive South lot will have 1 new home.
The “Doll House” barn/shed located in the wetlands area will be removed.
Extensive planting will be done, with particular focus on the riparian buffer/wetlands areas abutting Muddy Brook
The developer is legally bound to adhere to the terms of the settlement stipulation, which will be enforced by the town and the court should any variance occur.
Green’s Farms United thanked supporters for their help during the long process.
Between the ospreys and education issues, Westporters’ attention has recently been diverted from the long-running saga of Morningside Drive South. But the Historic District Commission meets Tuesday (Town Hall, 7 p.m.) to discuss a planned development there. “06880” reader Aurea de Souza writes:
Before Walter and Naiad Einsel bought their home and studio, 26 Morningside Drive South was the home of Charles B. Sherwood. Yes, that’s the same Sherwood family remembered today through Sherwood Island State Park, the Sherwood Island Connector, even Sherwood Diner!
Charles B. Sherwood was given 7 acres of land by his father Walter in 1853. That same year, he built his house. It was sold in 1864 to John B. Elwood, who owned it until 1920. The Einsels bought it in 1965, after vacationing in Westport for 4 years.
In 2005 the Einsels received a Preservation Award for their home. In 2007 their home and property were designated a Local Historic District.
The Einsels’ house on South Morningside Drive.
Anne Hamonet and her husband Alberto bought what used to be the barn of the Sherwood property in 2002. They have since restored it, respecting its historic value. Today their home is a Greens Farms sanctuary, cherished by the neighborhood.
The Hamonets raise chickens that run freely through the property. Anne brings fresh cage-free organic eggs to everyone at our neighborhood meetings. They also keep horses on the property. It’s almost like a movie set.
Because of the Hamonets, we all enjoy rooster and chicken noises, horses that can be seen from the street, and the beautifully restored barn.
This is what their bucolic backyard looks like today, right next to the proposed development.
This is an approximation of what it will be when the southwest block of the 16 3-bedroom, 32.5-foot high condos is built, just 15 feet from their fence.
The historic importance of 20-26 Morningside Drive south is huge for Westport. It is about to be destroyed by a developer who purchased property in a historic district. He was well aware of the limitations, but is taking advantage of the 8-30g “affordable housing” statute which can take precedence over historic districts and flooding issues.
The homes will be built on top of wetland setbacks on already flood-prone Muddy Brook – which this week caused the collapse of Hillandale Road bridge.
There is also a safety issue. Westport requires a 400-foot distance from a school driveway for any driveway cutout. Plans for this development shows their driveway directly across from Greens Farms Elementary School.
The developer has presented drawings of the individual groups of homes, but at the Architecture Review Board hearing on March 26, failed to present any documentation on how it will look as a whole.
A Greens Farms United member who is an architect put all of their documentation together in a rough section of what it will actually look like (These do not account for any land modifications; it is simply an illustration of what has been made public).
The house in yellow is the current home, which the developer plans to transport to a new location much closer to the road.
Westport currently enjoys a 4-year moratorium on 8-30g developments, having met the state requirements. This proposal was submitted before the moratorium took effect.
Hot on the heels of the Planning & Zoning Commission’s denial of an application for construction of a 6-story, 81-unit apartment complex between Lincoln and Cross Streets, off Post Road West, comes news of a new plan, on the other side of town.
This one is smaller: just 19 units. As with other applications — Post Road West, Wilton Road and Hiawatha Lane, for example — this one includes an 8-30(g) element. That’s shorthand for the state statute that encourages “affordable” housing — and makes it harder for town officials to deny the request.
Then again, the site is smaller.
It’s 20 and 26 Morningside Drive South.
If the address sounds familiar, that’s because the property was in the news earlier this year.
Those are the sites of an 1853 house, and nearby studio and shed, formerly owned and used by noted artists Walter and Naiad Einsel.
Walter and Naiad Einsel’s South Morningside Drive house.
The plan — submitted by “Morningside Drive Homes, LLC” — consists of 19 3-bedroom townhouses, in 5 buildings. Six of those 19 units would be “income restricted,” in accordance with 8-30(g).
The studio and shed would remain. The 1853 farmhouse would be demolished.
A horseshoe-shaped private road off Morningside Drive South would serve the units. The exit would be directly across from the entrance to Greens Farms Elementary School. The entrance would be 150 feet south.
20 Morningside Drive South — on Walter and Naiad Einsel’s former property — is a candidate for 8-30(g) development. (Photo/Anna DeVito)
As reported on “06880,” a long battle pitted a developer — who wanted to subdivide the property, while retaining the older structures — against preservationists.
The Historic District Commission — with only advisory powers — voted unanimously against recommending approval of the subdivision application.
They sent their comments to the Planning and Zoning Commission. With only 1 abstention, the P&Z voted down the request to subdivide.
With this new 8-30(g) application, odds are good the P&Z is not finished with South Morningside.
For years, Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty were packed away inside.
Now, the pair of Einsel kinetic sculptures — Walter’s tips his hat, and his eyes light up; his wife Naiad’s torch shines, and her heart pulsates — have been moved from the Westport Historical Society’s cobblestone barn, onto the Avery Place lawn.
The public is invited to take selfies with “Sam” and “Betsy.” (No, I don’t know why the Statue of Liberty bears Betsy Ross’ name — maybe it’s her flag dress?).
Photos can be posted to the statues’ Instagram account: Betsy_and_Sam. Each week, the WHS will give a prize from its gift shop for the funniest, most creative selfie.
Please respect Sam and Betsy. Don’t climb on them. After all, they were born in the 1800s.
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