Vote By Westport Selectmen Saves Kemper Gunn House From Wrecking Ball

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Work will begin soon to move the Kemper Gunn house to its new location in Westport.
Work will begin soon to move the Kemper Gunn house to its new location in Westport. Photo Credit: File

WESTPORT, Conn. -- The efforts to save the Kemper Gunn House from the wrecking ball have paid off: The Westport Board of Selectman voted 3-0 on Wednesday to approve the lease for the land where the historic house will be moved. 

"That's it, the house is saved," Matthew Mandell, of the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. He thanked the many people who believed in saving the house, who signed petitions, who sent in emails and who went to speak at all the town hearings.

"Take bow, make a toast, Westport is a better place today," he said in a statement. "One-hundred years from now, when the house is still there, people will say, 'Those folks back then sure did a great thing. Look at this, it's almost 250 years old and it's still here.'"

The meeting was the last of 13 public hearings and over 20 public meetings with six different boards and commissions about the Queen Anne-style home, Mandell said. 

"This was an improbable and incredible trip this house and those of us who advocated for its survival took to get here," he said. He thanked the Board of Selectmen -- Jim Marpe, Avi Kaner and Helen Garten -- for making and saving history.

Mandell, who led much of the effort to save the circa 1855 house, also thanked David Waldman, "who yelled to me out his office window almost two years ago, 'Matt I have the way to save the house.'”

The Board of Selectmen approved the lease for the land where the house will be moved and on the overall guiding principles on what will be done with the house.

With the final approval in place, preparations will immediately be made to begin the process to lift, move, rehabilitate, historically register and rent the house to non-national chain stores with the focus on local business, Mandell said.

Under the plan, the Victorian home will be moved from Church Lane to the Elm Street municipal parking lot, just up the road.

It is one of two buildings at 35 Church Lane, next to the Westport Weston Family Y’s downtown facility, which is slated to be transformed into a mixed-use complex known as Bedford Square.

The Bedford Square project calls for a portion of the Y and both buildings at 35 Church Lane to be removed to make way for four new buildings. 

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