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This Old House: Westport Historic Commission Honoring Preservation Work

The Kemper-Gunn House was lifted from its foundation and moved across the street to town-owned property in 2014. The preservation of the home is one of nine projects being honored in Westport.
The Kemper-Gunn House was lifted from its foundation and moved across the street to town-owned property in 2014. The preservation of the home is one of nine projects being honored in Westport. Photo Credit: Salvatore Trifilio, file

WESTPORT, Conn. — In a continuing tradition of honoring work to showcase work in town to save historic homes, the Westport Historic District Commission will presents its 2016 Historic Preservation Awards on Monday.

The awards will be presented by First Selectman James S. Marpe, Historic District Commission Chair Francis Henkels, and members of the Historic District Commission.

The ceremony will be Monday, Oct. 17, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall Auditorium.

The following is a list of the nine recipients and a brief explanation of why these properties were selected.

  • 25 Cavalry Road (Preservation) Alva Finch House, c. 1837 Greek Revival, Deborah and Kevin Dorsey: This handsome, well-proportioned house of the Federal period is an example of one of the better local expressions of the Greek Revival style. The current owners meticulously restored the house to its former splendor and are currently undertaking the renovation of the barn. They have set a high standard for restoration. The improvements update the residence with 21st-century conveniences, but retain the character of the original structure.
  • One Red Coat Road (Preservation) Stone Ice House, c. 1858-1867, Sandra and Albert Cordts: A local developer came before the HDC seeking a demolition delay waiver for the existing, non-historic main house, carport, and older ice house. Although the members did not object to the demolition of the house and carport, they appealed to the developer to preserve and restore the stone ice house and incorporate it into his development plans. He agreed that it could be an interesting feature for the property. Through research it was found that the “Ice House” was probably built by Frederick H. Nash, c. 1858-1867, and was used for ice storage from ice harvested at Nash’s Pond. It is one of only three known ice houses to have survived in Westport.
  • 79 Kings Highway N. (Reconstruction) Charles Cutler House, c. 1920 Colonial Revival, Laura Martindale and Cormac Treanor: The 1920s two-story Colonial Revival, built by famed local architect Charles Cutler as his private residence, receives this preservation award for an outstanding reconstruction. The new owners were confronted by uncovered structural damage and deterioration, which required extensive dismantling of the house and subsequent reconstruction. They understood the value of preservation, welcomed the challenge of period reconstruction, researching and sourcing the architectural elements essential to restoring the home to its most authentic historical condition possible. The new owners removed windows, their shutters, and a one-story sun porch and replaced siding and moldings, in most cases with the exact match to the original. In the rear of the house, a two-story addition replaces an existing screened porch. A small portico added to the front of the house appropriately reflects the style and character of the time. Here is an example of how the sensitive reconstruction of a deteriorated historic structure can accommodate contemporary needs while continuing to contribute to the character of the historic district.
  • 96 Kings Highway N. (Helen Muller Award for an Outstanding Property in a Local Historic District) David Judah House, c. 1760, The Lotti Family: This interesting home was constructed c. 1760 by David Judah, who was reportedly one of the first merchants and the first Jewish homeowner in Westport. He shared his home with his Christian wife Esther Taylor of Taylor Town’s founding family. Taylor Town is the section now commonly known as Old Hill. After several owners, the property was purchased by Algernon Binyon and his artist wife Caroline Bean, who added an artist’s studio and gallery in 1919. That studio remains, immaculately preserved as it appeared in 1919. A second addition was added in the 1930s behind the art studio. The Lotti family purchased the house in 2014, and it has since gone through a meticulous restoration. All original windows underwent a full glass-out restoration and every window in the house remains single-paned. The only material changes made to the house were in the 1939 kitchen and garage extension which have been updated to reflect the needs of a modern family. All stonewalls have been restored using the appropriate dry stack method.
  • 35 Elm St. (Adaptive Re-use and Restoration) Kemper-Gunn House, c. 1885/Moved from 35 Church St. in 2014, Queen Anne Style, DC Kemper-Gunn LLC: As planning for the new Bedford Square development evolved out of the former YMCA complex, a notable 1889 Queen Anne house on an adjacent property appeared caught in the path of change. David Waldman proposed a creative solution, offering to relocate the structure to a town-owned site across the street on a portion of the Baldwin Parking lot. But it was more than a house that was preserved. A link to the historic center of Westport, was shifted across the street, sensitively renovated and endowed with a new purpose. At the same time, this relocation might be the beginning of the restoration of the residential character of Elm Street, which had been lost for decades to an expanse of surface parking.
  • 151 Easton Road (Preservation) Goodsell-Grumman Toll House, c. 1760 Colonial Style, Jennifer O’Reilly: In 2000, Nancy D. Brown, a previous owner, sought the local historic property designation of this important historic structure, which predates Easton Road. The house was built by John and Lewis Goodsell, sons of the Rev. John Goodsell, first minister of the Greenfield Hill Church, in 1760. Five generations of the Taylor family lived in the house. In 1817 a turnpike, the present Easton Road, was constructed to provide the Aspetuck Valley and Greenfield Hill farmers with a route to the market port of Saugatuck. A tollgate was set up at the house. It is one of the few remaining saltboxes in Westport, although extensively reworked in the Colonial style. The current owner has demonstrated her sensitivity to the historic significance of the house by making improvements and using materials that enhance the character and style of the original house.
  • 18 W. Parish Road (Rehabilitation and Appropriate Addition to an Historic Property) Thomas Nash III House, c.1770, Colonial Style, Elizabeth and William Rubidge: According to historian J. F. Coley, this prominent pre-revolutionary house was built by Thomas Nash III, a direct descendent of Thomas Nash, the first blacksmith in the West Parish. This house has retained much of the original historic features through various owners. The current owners, who have lived in the house for 15 years, have restored portions and carefully maintained the house. They recently undertook a more extensive renovation and addition. They removed a later, incongruous one-story addition and on the same footprint, replaced it with a new addition, much more in keeping with the existing character of the original house.
  • 33 Meeker Road (Rehabilitation/Special Permit for Historic Residential Structures) Meeker House, c. 1800 Georgian Style, Scott Rochlin: The owner of this property, seeking to redevelop the site that included a historic house, sought and received a Special Permit for Historic Residential Structures as an alternative to demolition. This town zoning incentive regulation ensures the preservation of the original historic house through a preservation easement, while relaxing certain zoning constraints on additional development on the site. This regulation allowed the owner to incorporate the restoration of the original house into a complementary new construction.
  • 41 Turkey Hill Road S., (Excellence in Ongoing Care and Maintenance) Rapallo-Sumner House c. 1860, 1920 Colonial Revival, Kim and Stephen Penwell: The Rapallo-Sumner House was built by a member of the prominent Taylor family. It was altered many times. After purchasing the house in 1998, the current owners discovered that the house became unusually hot in the spring. They learned that a major fire in the 1930s destroyed the second floor, which necessitated the construction of a new mansard-style roof and the elimination of the attic. Newer additions were removed in the back and rebuilt in a more appropriate style. Modified in the Colonial Revival style, this house sits prominently on a hill overlooking acres of gardens, a pool and pool house and carefully restored stonewalls.
  • Dave Matlow Special Recognition for Photojournalism: An award of special recognition is presented to Dave Matlow, for more than a decade of photojournalism that documents the trends of Westport’s residential and commercial structures. Matlow, who created the popular WestportNow “Teardown of the Day” series, highlights the properties currently slated for demolition. For many years, Matlow has assisted the Historic District Commission by photographing the collection of Annual Preservation Award houses which are displayed at Town Hall. His photographs enhance awareness of our historically significant built environment and record the unfortunate loss of some of its historic resources.

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