On the Market: From onion barn to Broadway star's home

WESTPORT -- Eyes often tear up as someone peels and slices an onion, although cutting the odiferous vegetable in the chef’s kitchen of the house at 28 Valley Road may bring joy and a sense of historic pride along with the watery eyes.

This updated antique structure was originally an onion barn converted into a sophisticated residence with up-to-date amenities. It was built circa 1879, according to the Westport Historical Resources Inventory list, and a sign attached to the front façade identifies it as “The Onion Barn.” Westport once had a “thriving onion farming industry … around the time of the Civil War … Boats and railroad cars full of onions from Westport and the surrounding area once flooded the markets of New York,” according to ConnecticutHistory.org.

The website continues, “Local farmers … stored harvested onions in barns where they covered them in hay and cornstalks until eventually adopting the use of heated onion houses.”

From agriculture to acting. The listing agent said the previous owner of this 1,200-square-foot house in the Compo Beach neighborhood was a well-known actress, Carole Shelley.

Musical theater buffs will definitely be familiar with Shelley. Playbill.com highlights her luminous Broadway career mentioning her performances in 24 plays and musicals including "Billy Elliott: The Musical," revivals of "Cabaret" and "Showboat," "Noises Off," and as a member of the original cast of "Wicked." She won the 1979 Best Actress Tony Award for her role in "The Elephant Man." IMDB.com enumerates her lengthy television and movie credits, among them is Shelley’s portrayal of Aunt Clara in the 2005 film "Bewitched" starring Nicole Kidman.

Period details -- including well-maintained, wide-planked pine wood floors and exposed beams -- blend well with modern features, such as the new windows and all new baths with heated floors. The interior was freshly painted.

“An open floor plan invites easy entertaining in any season,” the agent said.

ABOUT THIS HOUSE

TYPE: Converted Barn

ADDRESS: 28 Valley Road

PRICE: $679,000

NUMBER OF ROOMS: 5

FEATURES: 0.5-acre level and sloping property, patio, custom wood-burning Lil Luigi-style pizza oven, professionally landscaped, tiered gardens, perennial plantings and specimen trees, open floor plan, freshly painted interior, new windows, within walking distance to the train, Compo Beach and Longshore Club Park, easy commute to Greens Farms and Saugatuck Metro North train stations and I-95, original wide plank pine flooring, one fireplace, natural gas heat, wood shingle roof, unfinished basement, attic, public water and sewer connections, one-car garage, stone walls, three bedrooms, two full baths

SCHOOLS: Saugatuck Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High

ASSESSMENT: $427,200

TAX RATE: 16.71 mills

TAXES: $7,139

Enjoy cozy winter evenings by the brick fireplace in the living room, which contains original paneling, built-in bookcases, and a bay window with a built-in window seat. Separating the living room from the kitchen is a long, two-tiered counter that doubles as a breakfast bar. The kitchen also features custom cabinetry, granite countertops, a heated tile floor and a five-burner stainless steel commercial gas range.

A Dutch door opens to the natural slate patio and professionally landscaped grounds, which has tiered gardens of perennial plantings and specimen trees, stone walls, and a custom wood-burning Lil Luigi-style pizza oven.

The kitchen is open to a dining area with two bay windows, both with built-in window seats that look over the half-acre property. There is also a wall of built-in storage cabinets for culinary ware.

In the master bedroom, features include original exposed timbers, wood flooring covered in new wall-to-wall carpeting, and a walk-in closet. The second bedroom offers a built-in, floor-to-ceiling display or book shelving and lots of natural light, while the third bedroom has a built-in bed with storage drawers, and authentic wood paneling on the walls, the agent said. This room can also be used as an office.

One other benefit of this house is its location. It is within walking distance of Compo Beach, Longshore Club Park, and the Saugatuck section of Westport with its shops, restaurants and the Saugatuck Metro North Railroad train station. Also easy to get to is Post Road (Route 1), I-95, and Aspetuck Land Trust’s Haskins Preserve.

For more information or to set up an appointment to see the house, contact Emily Gordon of Coldwell Banker Realty at 203-451-6432 or Emily.Gordon@coldwellbankermoves.com.