Tag Archives: Preservation Connecticut

Ed Gerber Preserves History, One Home At A Time

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.

Ed Gerber’s historic home.

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.

Ed Gerber stands proudly in his refurbished living room.

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.

Ed Gerber

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).

The handsome Bryant House, in Bridgeport.

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: cdemore@historicnewengland.org;; 720-244-1422.)

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Turkey Hill House Earns Historic Preservation Award

It’s easy to see all the teardowns in town.

Sometimes we focus on them so much, we miss the preservation efforts going on nearby.

Preservation Connecticut notices. In fact, they’ve given the owners of 70 Turkey Hill Road South a Connecticut Preservation Award — one of only 10 in the state. The virtual ceremony is May 5.

The 2-story, 1,230-square foot 1892 farmhouse was completely restored last year.

Rahul Ghai and his wife Priyanka Singh bought the property in November 2019. They had several options. They could demolish the 127-year-old house and build a new one; a demolition permit had already been issued to the previous owners.

They could keep the building as it was, and build a new home on the premises.

Or they could restore it — and also build a new house nearby.

70 Turkey Hill Road South in 2019, before restoration …

The couple decided to restore the 1892 structure, and also build a large house, using a Westport 32-18 regulation obtained by the prior owners. Such a plan — which has prevented 22 other historic structures from being demolished — must be approved by a joint Architectural Review and Historic District Commission committee, then by the Planning & Zoning Commission.

Ghai and Singh hired Christopher Pagliaro, the architect for the previous owners. He worked with them to restore both the exterior and interior.

Work was extensive. All vinyl siding was removed, and replaced with wood. The asphalt roof was replaced with cedar shingles. All windows were replaced. The original front and rear porches — which had been enclosed as living space throughout the years — were recreated.

… during the project …

A number of homeowners have demolished homes the size of 70 Turkey Hill South, replacing them with larger, more modern houses. The Preservation Award press release notes that Westport is “sometimes called Connecticut’s teardown capital.”

The 32-18 regulation shows that those older homes can be retained — while simultaneously allowing construction of new ones.

Singh noted, “We are strongly committed to restoration and preservation of historical structures. Our school-age daughter is also passionate about history. But we couldn’t have done it without our architect Chris, and Ryan Fletcher of Fletcher Development.”

… and after.

Certificates will be presented to the owners, architect, contractor, town of Westport and the Westport Museum of History & Culture.

(Hat tip: Bob Weingarten, house historian for the Westport Museum of History & Culture, who nominated 70 Turkey Hill Road South for the 2021 Preservation Award.)