Downton Abbey has its Highclere Castle and, among its distinctive homes, Westport has an antique Italianate mansion at 77 Morningside Drive South in the Greens Farms area.
The reinvented and expanded house bridges the town's past and present. It was originally a working farm when it was built in the mid-1800s, while in the 20th century it became a gathering site for several prominent artists.
Historic documents list several dates for its construction -- 1855 and 1859. Not in doubt is the original owner, onion farmer Walter Sherwood. The estate remained in the Sherwood family until 1907, and then in 1937 it was purchased by Hilla Von Rebay, a German baroness and artist from the Bauhaus period and a co-founder of the Museum of Non-Objective Art, the precursor to the Guggenheim Museum in New York City.
In more recent history, "Franton Court," as it is called, produced works of art rather than vegetable crops. Von Rebay converted a large barn into an art studio for several of her friends. Among those who created art there were some of the most familiar names in modern art history: Kandinsky and Leger. Marc Chagall stayed there while producing art for eight months, and famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright was a regular visitor, particularly as he drew up design plans for the Guggenheim Museum.
The 7,135-square-foot house is a work of art itself, and the three-acre grounds would be an attractive addition to any home and garden book or magazine. The estate has a recently resurfaced tennis court, in-ground swimming pool, pool house with full bath and laundry, and two-bedroom refurbished guest cottage with attached carriage barn that has four bays.
The property enjoys a great amount of privacy, which is augmented by the adjoining protected eight-acre parcel, a nature preserve that now belongs to the Aspectuck Land Trust. It is the remnants of the Von Rebay arboretum and bird sanctuary.
Although this is an antique Italianate house, the current owners created a dramatic Bauhaus wing in the living room during renovations to pay homage to Von Rebay. The house features big rooms, high ceilings and lots of natural light. It has full-length, double leaf casement windows; ten fireplaces, marble floors, a large terrace off the living room, and a wine cellar. There is an in-law or au pair suite with a fireplace and private entrance in the walkout lower level.
The kitchen features a black and white tile marble floor, which is also seen in the entrance foyer and the sitting room. Other features include an eat-in section, center island, walk-in pantry and six-burner Dacor range.
The second floor has five bedrooms, including the master, which features a marble fireplace and two doors to a large balcony. Of the other bedrooms on this level only one still contains an ornate fireplace mantle. Von Rebay only preserved the one. The other rooms were cleared of their more opulent decoration in favor of a more stream-lined design.
The third floor has three bedrooms.
In the restored party barn, there is a full kitchen as well as a sleeping loft, bedroom, two baths and cabana. Five doors in various rooms lead to a wrap-around deck. Its living room wood floor has a painted pattern of many colors.
For more information or to set up an appointment to see the house, contact Joni Usdan of Coldwell Banker at 203-216-7654 or email her at email@example.com.
ABOUT THIS HOUSE
TYPE: Antique Italianate mansion
ADDRESS: 77 Morningside Drive South
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 19
AMENITIES: beach rights, tennis court, in-ground swimming pool, party barn/art studio with 18-foot wet bar, carriage house-turned-guest cottage, three-acre property, adjoining eight acres of Aspetuck Land Trust property, proximity to Greens Farms train station, wine cellar, bluestone patios, terrace, three covered porches, 10 fireplaces, circular driveway, stone walls, balcony, security system, some window treatments, gourmet kitchen, convenient to beach and other town amenities, cabana, covered porch, French doors, zoned central air conditioning, pantry, skylights, built-in bookshelves
OTHER INFORMATION: eight bedrooms, eight full and two half baths, five-bay detached garage, full basement, zoned oil heat, attic, shed, workshop, laundry/utility room, stone foundation, old ice house, septic system, public water
SCHOOLS: Greens Farms Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High
ASSESSMENT: $ 2,101,100
TAX RATE: 18.07 mills