18th century home enters 21st century
Published 5:28 pm, Monday, August 23, 2010
At the intersection of West Parish Road and Hillandale Road sits a 1720 structure once owned by Zachariah Burr, brother of former vice president Aaron Burr. Its current owners, Bill and Elizabeth Rubidge, love the four-sided central chimney and numerous other features you just don't find on modern homes, such as a mounting block for getting on a horse, located near the curb.
However, the couple wouldn't mind if the home was a little more energy efficient, and so they welcomed an offer of a free energy audit subsidized by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and administered by Connecticut Light & Power. The audit, part of the Home Energy Solutions (HES) program, was undertaken by Fairfield-based New England Smart Energy Group, one of a number of vendors authorized to conduct home energy assessments in the State of Connecticut.
The standard $75 fee for the audit was waived, as the audit on the historic home is intended to serve as the foundation for a marketing campaign to spread the word to others -- whether they own historic homes or not -- to get an energy assessment done. It seems the waiving of the fee will more than pay off, as print and broadcast reporters, as well as a television crew, seemed to make up a small army Wednesday at the house. The Rubidges welcomed all with glasses of cold lemonade.
"I think that the fact we can do an audit on an old house like this is just evidence that these houses can continue to be liveable and you don't need to have every old house become a teardown," said Bill Rubidge.
The HES program provides homeowners more than $750 worth of services for $75. Those services include a blower test related to air sealing and weatherstripping; duct sealing; an appliance inspection and an insulation evaluation; as well as 25 free compact fluorescent light bulbs, according to Stephanie Weiner, founder and CEO of New England Smart Energy, LLC.
After conducting an audit, the energy technician will make recommendations for energy efficiency upgrades and counsel homeowners on short- and long-term options, including a cost/benefit analysis that will help reduce the energy bills. The technician will also provide all the available rebates and the best financing options to do further energy upgrades to increase energy efficiency, Weiner said.
The Jennings Trail Nash House -- as it is referred to on a historic plaque at the site -- could definitely be made more energy efficient.
Even so, the home has its advantages. Elizabeth Rubidge said due to the home's early 1700s construction, she really doesn't need to turn on the air conditioning until mid-to-late July, thanks to the plaster walls.
"The old walls retain the coolness of the winter," she said.
Weiner estimates the family will save about $200 a year following the audit, and that's without doing any of the recommended upgrades.
The family doesn't have to crank up the A/C for most of the summer, but winter, however, is another story.
"It's not uncommon for the oil guy to come once every seven to 10 days," Elizabeth said.
Bill said he will likely commit funds to do some of the work the technician recommended, as well as replace the north facing windows.
The Jennings Trail Nash House -- which was an inn during the Revolutionary War -- is one of few Greens Farms area structures that was not burned by the British, according to Boyd.
"It was the only house that was defended by a canon in 1799," he said. "Captain Nash had unique access to heavy artillery. Down the road (at the corner of Greens Farms Road and the Sherwood Island Connector) he had another house, a guard house, where volunteer militia would stay."
Nash dragged the canon to his West Parish Road home ahead of British arrival. Nash, Boyd said, was a target because he was a deacon at his church, an influential member of the community, and belonged to one of the wealthiest families in Connecticut at the time.
"The British burned property to try to undermine the Patriots," he said.
However, when the British burning party came into view at Burr's home, he loaded his canon with grapeshot and "lit them up," Boyd said.
Two years later, the British came back and burned down his guard house. But they never got his home. Nash was also appointed to a building committee that oversaw the building of the Greens Farms Congregational Church, after an earlier incarnation -- located on Greens Farms Road -- had been burned. Nash donated land he owned on Hillandale Road and the church was built where it still stands today.
Elizabeth admitted she learned some new information about Nash and her home as Boyd pulled details from his brain like he was reading from a history book.
"This house is at the crossroads of some of the most significant events associated with the Revolutionary War in Connecticut," Boyd said.
And on Wednesday, with the on-site filming of "Attainable Sustainables," an on-demand Cabelvision show coming soon, this historic house became part of the future.