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Letter: Asks help to save historic home

Published 11:17 am, Friday, August 29, 2014
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I am sending this heartfelt plea because my mother, Felice Holman Valen, and I have learned that the more-than-200-year-old carriage house/barn at 158 Hillspoint Road -- where my family lived for 33 years -- is being sold to a developer who plans to demolish it.

Built in 1803, this historic house would be razed to make way for something new -- perhaps a mega-mansion -- because the beautiful, two-century-old ceiling beams in the living room are too low, and people want new, new, new!

As a child, I discovered there were hoofprints on the living room floor, remnants from the 19th century when neighbors stabled their horses there.

Although I no longer live in Westport, I am broken-hearted, and I appeal to people in town who an help prevent an irrevocable loss to the town's history and soul.

Although I would love to live in the house, my husband's and my job preclude our moving. I do not need to own it -- I am happy to see others living happily in it as my family did. I just want to try to save it from demolition if there is someone else who might come forward to save it and who might cherish it themselves.

An administrator at the Westport Historic District Commission has informed me that although their architectural engineer declared the house still has "character and mass of historical significance," the commission has neglected (possibly through oversight) to place it on its inventory list. Demolition was delayed for 180 days, but can now proceed, although the sale is not yet final.

I was informed that if I lived in the community I might amass some support. However, if any readers are so moved as to write to the commission, I urge them to do so. They should call or email:

Carol Leahy

Historic District Commission

203-341-1184

cleahy@westportct.gov

The house is listed by Sotheby's (203-762-0103), and it still is possible to make a back-up offer to purchase the house.

I understand that this is a lesson in the mutability of life. We all must absorb all kinds of losses in our lives. And attachments often carry losses in their wake. But why should such a beautiful house that has survived for over 200 years be pulled down on a greedy whim?

I wish we could do something to stop it.

It is a community issue that beautiful, 200-year-old houses in Westport are being torn down with no consideration for our precious history embodied in the town's old houses.

Houses -- like children, like animals or trees, like the innocent -- cannot speak up for themselves.

Nanine Valen

Swarthmore, Pa.