200-year-old house saved from demolition and relocated in Wilton
WILTON — An almost 200-year-old house still stands today because of one man’s dedication to preserving its existence.
The house was originally built in 1820 and formerly sat on the corner of Kent Road and Route 7. It remained in its original state until 1988 when the family that owned it planned to demolish it to build a small commercial building in its place.
Walter R.T. Smith, a building historian and longtime Wilton resident, recognized the home’s historic value and asked the owners if he could take it down and move it to another location.
With the owner’s permission, Smith found himself in a rushed position, with less than a week to get the job done.
“So, he brought his crew in and board by board they carefully deconstructed the home, labeling all the pieces and parts so they would have a plan to restore it in a new location,” Smith’s daughter Kathy Smith Scheller said.
The pieces were then stored for about two years.
“The house was then carefully reconstructed on a new foundation in its existing place at 18 Forest Lane,” Smith Scheller said.
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The interior millwork remains preserved and most of the furnishings are from the early 19th century. Modern conveniences were limited to the middle section of the home, so the integrity of the old house was not violated, Smith Scheller said.
Smith, a building historian active in Wilton’s Historical Society, had a lifelong mission to preserve architecture in town. He moved several other Wilton buildings to the Historical Society’s site.
“Architectural presence was just so central to my father’s sensibilities because he saw — as the town grew and developed — he just saw so much of its history being erased,” Smith Scheller said. “We have a long lineage in Wilton going back six or seven generations, so he just felt that really strong hold.”
The three-bedroom, three-bathroom colonial antique also has an 1830’s hay barn connected to it, which Smith also relocated from its original placement in Bethel.
“It’s a rare find in Wilton and what’s really rare is that it gives any family the beautiful old architecture on a new foundation,” Smith Scheller said. “We had Thanksgivings every year in here of 40 to 50 people. We’ve had weddings in here, we’ve had bridal showers in here. It’s just been a space that’s been filled with so many happy events.”
The barn is heated with a “Station Agent” pot belly stove rescued from a West Springfield, Mass. railroad station.
For many years, it housed Smith’s extensive tool collection of more than 4,000 chisels, axes and saws and even planes from the earliest known American plane builder, Francis Nicholson.
Smith’s tools were removed from the barn in 2015 and many of his prized pieces were donated to the Wilton Historical Society where they remain on permanent display.
“His work fueled him. My dad was a building contractor his entire life and the man never stopped working from the time he was born till the day he died,” Smith Scheller said. “He was 92 when he passed in 2015.”
The 3,432-square-foot home is on the market for $799,000.
Dagny Eason of Dagny’s Real Estate said the house is “the best of all worlds because it’s got all the old atmosphere and feeling and genuine-ness but it has all the benefits of the new.” That includes newer plumbing, a new roof, wiring and windows, the real estate agent said.
Smith lived in the house for 25 years and Smith Scheller imagines the next buyer would be enticed by the preservation. But but most importantly, she hopes the next tenant will “love it as much as we have.”