Historic home that faced demolition now on the market
The historic Henry Munroe house still stands at 108 Cross Highway, much to the relief of neighbors and preservation advocates who feared the 19th-century structure would meet the wrecking ball shortly after a 180-day delay period on a demolition permit expired in mid-May.
Instead of moving excavation equipment onto the 2-acre property, the owner has indicated a different intent -- a "for sale" sign.
In May, owner David Lewis put the house on the market in an effort to find a buyer who will be sensitive to the home's history.
"He would love to find someone to buy the house and preserve it. That's the owner's preference. He has no plans to demolish it," real estate agent Danna Rogers, who represents the house for the Higgins Group, said this week.
The intentions of Lewis, who now lives in California, were not so clear last fall. He had sought a waiver of the delay from Westport's Historic District Commission last year, saying the antique house did not fit the needs of a modern family.
At the time Lewis told commissioners, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
He said and his wife loved the character and layout of the house when they first purchased it eight years ago, but added, "It doesn't suit the needs of a modern, growing family."
Lewis told commissioners he wanted to raze the house and build a new one on the site, and he wanted to start the process as soon as possible so the new house would be ready for the family when and if they moved back to Westport in about a year.
Commissioners denied Lewis's request and tried to convince him to seek less drastic measures. They arranged to have a representative of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation meet with Lewis to discuss alternatives that would modernize the house while keeping its historical integrity intact.
Carol Leahy, the Historic District Commission's staff administrator, said commissioners denied the waiver because the house is more than 50 years old and because the public objected to its possible demolition.
According to an employee in the town's Building Department, Lewis has not withdrawn his permit, but Rogers said that is only because he wants to leave his options open.
"He only did it to figure out what's best for his family," she said.
"He needs to support his family and can't carry two houses," said Rogers, adding that those who are so concerned about preserving the Henry Monroe house should put their own money where their mouth is.
"Anyone who wants to preserve that beautiful house should, and I encourage them to. It's good for the town if someone buys it," said Rogers. "Stop complaining and buy it. It's a very good price. It's way below what he paid for it."
According to Vision Appraisal, an online database of information from assessors' offices, David and Leigh Lewis purchased the house in June 2003 for $1,130,000.
The current asking price is $1,085,000.