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Owners of historic Easton Road house get OK for renovations

Published 5:40 pm, Monday, October 15, 2012

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  • The house at 151 Easton Road, which won a Certificate of Approval from the Historic District Commission on Tuesday, paving the way for owners to make exterior modifications to the historic structure. Photo: Meg Barone / Westport News freelance

    The house at 151 Easton Road, which won a Certificate of Approval from the Historic District Commission on Tuesday, paving the way for owners to make exterior modifications to the historic structure.

    Photo: Meg Barone

 

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Members of the Westport Historic District Commission voted unanimously last week to grant a certificate of appropriateness to the owners of a property at 151 Easton Road, which paves the way for their proposed exterior modifications to the historic structure.

Michael Brockman and his wife, Jennifer O'Reilly, went before the commission to request approval for work on a portion of their house -- the Easton Road Toll House, also known as the Goodsell-Grumman Toll House and the McCoy House.

Brockman and O'Reilly purchased the house last November and moved into it during April.

Brockman told the HDC members that there is a patch on the floor of the living room where he suspects people stood to pay their toll, because the area looks like it has worn over time.

The main house was built about 1760, and is designated a local historic landmark property. Many additions followed.

The saltbox "survived basically unaltered into the mid-1930s, but since then it has been extensively reworked in the Colonial Revival style," according to the website for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. The website says further, the Toll House "was built by John Goodsell II (1730-79) and Lewis Goodsell, sons of the Rev. John Goodsell, first minister of the Greenfield Hill Church. ... It remained in the Goodsell family for five generations."

Brockman said the modifications they are planning would involve one of the additions, which he said poses "both safety and special concerns." The addition has a steeply sloped shed roof, which tapers from a height of about 32 feet down to 5 feet, 2 inches. The lower end contains the only door from that room to the outside, but the low height makes it usable only by their 12-year-old son and their cat, Brockman said.

"Our goal is to raise the shed roof," he said. That would provide them with even head space in three rooms.

Additionally, they said they plan to add a mudroom, replace the asphalt-shingled roof with cedar shingles and move a skylight into the kitchen.

The couple said they would also like to paint the house, changing the color from its current red to white, but the HDC members told them exterior color of structures does not fall within their purview.

At one point, HDC Chairman Francis Henkels questioned why the roof was so steeply pitched. "It's such a unique form. You wonder what they were thinking," he said of the builder.

Bob Weingarten, an HDC member and the house chairman for the Westport Historical Society, said one of the reasons for the construction of such roofs in the 18th century was to keep the British from taxing more of the structure.

Henkels said from what the commission has seen since the couple purchased the home almost a year ago and from the plans they presented Tuesday, "the house is in good hands." He said he is grateful when the buyer of a historic home loves it and respects it for what it is.

Also during Tuesday's meeting, the HDC considered the application for a certificate of appropriateness for a garage on a property at 113 Cross Highway. But after discussion with restoration architect Michael Glynn, who is working with the owners, members suggested he withdraw the application, and he did.

The William Meeker House, built circa 1825, is also a designated local historic landmark property. It was the site of the town's first gas station, dating back to 1913.

Glynn said the owners have undertaken several projects on the property. The original gas station building has been converted into an office. A building was added adjacent to the old gas station. The red carriage barn was relocated on the property closer to Cross Highway. Eventually, a hip roof building will become guest quarters.

The dilapidated garage -- the item that appeared on the HDC agenda -- was built sometime between 1920 and 1940. The view of that garage is obstructed by other buildings, leading HDC member Grayson Braun to say, "Our purview is only what's visible from the street ... How can we issue a C of A if we can't see it from the road?"

Additionally, Glynn shared with the HDC that Stephen Smith, Westport's building official and fire safety code inspector, has plans to condemn the garage. He is anticipating a condemnation letter for the garage soon. For that reason, HDC members said the owners would not need to seek a demolition permit, nor do they need to seek a certificate of appropriateness from the HDC.