Preservation awards honor owners of historic Westport properties
Published 5:45 pm, Wednesday, October 22, 2014
For Grayson Braun, the restoration project at the circa 1930 Colonial Revival house she owns with husband, Jamie Walsh, began nearly 13 years ago. "We always wanted to do it, but it took a while," she said of their home at 3 Gorham Ave. Things took off after they began a major window restoration project. "We reused all the materials we could," she said, adding that other projects quickly followed.
Braun and Walsh received recognition for their efforts -- the Helen Muller Preservation Award for an outstanding property in a local historic district -- from the Westport Historic District Commission. They were among seven property owners to be honored with Historic Preservation Awards by the commission Thursday night in Town Hall.
John Koren, who received a restoration award for work done to his house at 111 Kings Highway North, said restoring historic buildings is his hobby.
The four-square style, circa 1911 house, was bought by Koren for $500,000 in 2013. "It was in a sorry state," he said, adding it had been abandoned for years. "It needed a complete restoration."
This was done without departing from the original design and appearance of the house and involved new exterior work, including a new roof, masonry foundation repairs and shoring up the front porch.
Known as the Daniel O'Brien House, the structure was "sagging and the pillars in the basement were rotted wood," he said. "The house was caving in," he added and it had to be raised and a new concrete basement was installed.
Koren said he's restored several homes in Fairfield and two in Westport. Restoration to the Kings Highway North house, where his son and family are living, cost about $300,000, he said.
Braun and Walsh's home is located in the Gorham Avenue Local Historic District, established in 2008 under their leadership. "We formed it with a group of neighbors," said Braun. "We started to see McMansions coming closer to our section of the street," she said. "We thought it was best to preserve what we have and we decided to seek the designation from the state and town."
She said their historic district is the first 20th century historic district in the state.
Braun added that while the exterior retains the historic aspects of the house, that's not so inside. "It's a fully modern and livable house," she said. "We are not frozen in time."
Other properties chosen for this year's Historic Preservation Awards include the Clark Nash House, at 56 Sylvan Road North, which was built circa 1790.
Jennifer and A. Morris Tooker, the current homeowners, were the award recipients. After a succession of owners, H. Daniel Webster purchased the cape/colonial revival house in 1906, according to information supplied by the historic commission. Webster, remembered in town as the sculptor of the Minute Man Statue on Compo Road South, was the first to renovate the house in 1907.
The current owners, who purchased it in 2008, have built an addition to the rear of the property for use as a mudroom and breakfast room, the commission said, adding, "Every effort was made to mirror the existing property through the use of materials of the period. The meticulous care of this property, coupled with it sympathetic addition warrant the preservation award."
"This award was given in recognition of the preservation and maintenance of a representative example of the popular, gable-ended picturesque vernacular dwelling that dominated in the 1880-90s," according to the commission. The current owners purchased the property in 2009 and have since meticulously restored the interior and exterior of the house, according to the historic district commission. The grounds are enhanced by the installation of a stone wall, stone walkways and the restoration of a smoke house on the property. "Their stewardship of the property protects the important character of the old farming property and its significant role in the historic streetscape," the commission said.
Frank Donaldson received the Barlow Cutler-Wotton Award for Architecture for revitalizing the interior of his home, a Colonial-Tudor, circa 1932, at 6 Blind Brook Road.
The work involved creating additional living space while integrating and maintaining the exterior stone appearance, in keeping with the original facade, according to the commission. "The overriding challenge for both the owner and the architect. Jamieson Architects of Westport, was to transform the original three bedroom house into a six bedroom house while retaining and preserving its integrity and spirit," the commission said.
The respect for the architectural integrity, scale and massing of the core structure is evident in the appropriate rear addition, the commission said, noting the attention to the "architectural details and sensitivity to the general mass and scaling of the main structure."
The commission said Waldman and his architect "took this heavily altered building and performed an extensive reconstruction." They consolidated makeshift changes to the building over the years and have restored it to a refined version of what the structure once was, the commission said.
"It's always nice to be recognized for some project," said Waldman, noting this is his third preservation award. "It's good to work with the town," he said. "It makes for better projects."