Family home of famed stone architect up for sale
Published 4:46 pm, Thursday, June 23, 2011
Tucked away on Charcoal Hill Road is perhaps the most impressive of the 10 stone residences on the street. Unable to be seen from the road, courtesy of a long driveway, it is the family home Frazier Forman Peters, perhaps Westport's foremost architect, a man who had a preference for building with stone instead of wood.
Born in 1895, Peters built at least 35 homes in Westport and his creations also extend to Wilton, Darien, Norwalk and Alpine, N.J., where he was hired to design and build a colony of stone houses on a millionaire's estate. Kenneth Roberts, the historical novelist, also commissioned Peters to design his estate in Kennebunkport, Maine.
Though Peters' creations abound in Westport, only one was built for a family of seven, and as such, his former residence features 5,000 square feet of living space, 12 rooms, six of which are bedrooms, four-and-a-half baths and five fireplaces. It sits on 2.38 acres with a brook running through the back. The property also has a tennis court and a cabana.
Peters became the head of a clan of seven not long after his second marriage. His wife had three children and the couple had a child together. A short time later, Peters' ex-wife died and Peters received custody of his three children from the first marriage.
In addition to quality construction, Peters, whose homes will be celebrated by the Westport Historical Society with an exhibit in October, was also known for keen placement of a structure on a property.
More InformationABOUT THIS HOUSE TYPE OF HOUSE: Colonial ADDRESS: 30 Charcoal Hill Road PRICE: $2,295,000 NUMBER OF ROOMS: 12, Bedrooms: 6, Baths: 4-1/2 AMENITIES: 2.39 acres of serene property with a brook and waterfall plus in-ground pool, poolhouse and tennis court. Beautifully maintained and renovated with five fireplaces, chef's kitchen and family room open to beautiful stone terraces OTHER INFORMATION: built in 1930 with 5,215 square feet of space and central air. SCHOOLS: Coleytown Elementary, Coleytown Middle, Staples High ASSESSMENT: $1,327,900 TAX RATE: 17.43 mills TAXES: $23,145
While Peters' former home at 30 Charcoal Hill Road was built around the brook, other homes he designed were built "right into a rock outcropping," according to his granddaughter Laura Blau, an architect based in Philadelphia. He designed another home with a deck built around a tree.
"He loved the land and was very discerning about considering what was important to the land, what was beautiful about it," Blau said. "He did not disrupt nature any more than it needed to be."
Peters used unique fieldstone wall construction when wood would have been cheaper, especially during the Great Depression, in his commitment to quality, Blau said.
"His love of stone, likely developed from his early years growing up in his father's beautiful limestone church and rectory in New York and further by his World War I French countryside experience," Blau said. "Stone masonry was expensive and Peters was determined to make a superior and beautiful house that was affordable to the working and middle class family. Spurred by the refusal to sacrifice either the beauty or durability of stone he developed a unique building system."
In addition, stone was "pretty low maintenance" and did not require the upkeep of a wood exterior, Blau said.
Peters also wasn't afraid to share his method of construction, having published "Houses of Stone" in 1936, "Without Benefit of Architect" in 1937, and "Pour Yourself a House" in 1946, which describes his method for the stone-faced poured concrete wall system.
Peters at one time was a chemical engineer but soon realized it was not for him. A business trip brought him to Westport where he saw graciousness in homes and decided to change career paths and become a farmer by purchasing land and an 1810 house on Calvary Road in the early 1920s. As he plowed around his lots he encountered a lot of stone. He would soon investigate methods for utilizing stone as a building material and began a career as a contractor, and subsequently became an architect and builder of stone houses using a modified technique he invented.
Peters also deserves credit for something else, according to Weingarten.
"I think he's the first person who created what we now know as family rooms," he said, "because in his book he said `I'm going to build a children's living room.'"
His former home on Charcoal Hill Road was designed using a diagram to depict the "flow" of family members through the house. He decided to have a "children's living room" now called a family room, as well as a "grown-ups living room." He also included a guest room, a "parents' bedroom," children's bedrooms, maid's bedroom, servant's living room, kitchen, dining room and a "home management office."
Blau, who always knew of her grandfather's works, didn't really take in all that he did until she went on a tour in Westport led by Adam Stolpen, a Westport resident who has lived in two different Peters-designed homes.
Blau said the visit "just reinforced some of the ethics I already had from reading his books and from our family ethics -- do something that contributes in a positive way to society."
The Westport Historical Society's October exhibit on Peters will honor his contribution to the landscape of Westport and will include photographs of his houses, artifacts and a model of stone construction method materials highlighting his construction methodology and stylistic characteristics. Text will illuminate his story and progression from chemist to farmer to builder, writer and architect. In addition, his family home will be the focus of a case study.
For information on the home at 30 Charcoal Hill Road, contact Weingarten, a realtor for William Raveis Real Estate of Westport, at either email@example.com or by calling 203-682-9328 for an appointment.