On the Market: Illustrator Robert Lawson’s former estate
WESTPORT — Opening the pages of a Robert Lawson book — whether one of his children’s publications or one of dozens he illustrated for other authors — is a magical experience.
Opening the wrought iron gate to Lawson’s former Westport estate at 57 Weston Road is equally enchanting.
Traveling up the long driveway lined in Belgium block, visitors encounter a sign asking motorists to “Please drive carefully on account of small animals.”
This is Rabbit Hill, the estate that also shares its name with Lawson’s book “Rabbit Hill,” first published in 1944. The book won the coveted Newbery Medal for excellence in American children’s literature the following year.
Several years earlier, Lawson’s book “They Were Strong and Good” was awarded the Caldecott Medal, which recognizes “the preceding year’s most distinguished American picture book for children,” according to the website for the American Library Association. The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the ALA, distributes the award annually. To date, Lawson is the only person to be honored with both prestigious awards.
On page 12 of “Rabbit Hill” Lawson wrote “Little Georgie came tumbling down the Rabbit burrow, panting out the tidings. ‘New Folks coming,’ he shouted. New Folks coming. Mother — Father, new Folks coming into the Big House!’ ” And on page 16 the character of Porkey says, “Well now, I’ll tell you. I hear say as how that real-estate fellow was up to the house two-three days ago with a couple of people, going all around inside and out.”
Plenty of real estate fellows and gals are coming and going inside and out of this beautiful 5.66-acre level and gently sloping property and inspecting the magnificent 13-room red brick and clapboard Georgian colonial house with black shutters in the Coleytown neighborhood.
New folks are indeed coming. This house is on the market for the first time in almost two decades. Although not related to the author, the current owners, Dan and Maureen Aron, have taken seriously their stewardship of the spectacular house and grounds. They have even made it a point to collect many of Lawson’s books, among them “The Story of Ferdinand,” about the gentle bull, and “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” Lawson illustrated both of those books, which were authored by other writers.
The library in this house is as impressive as Lawson’s talent. The spacious two-story library is adjacent to the media and music rooms and has walls of nearly floor-to-ceiling cherry bookshelves, an interior balcony, and French doors to a patio.
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Several rooms have doors to balconies and patios inviting indoor-outdoor living, which is enhanced greatly by the Gunite in-ground swimming pool and large heated pool house with a fireplace, kitchenette, changing room, and full bath — the walls of which are adorned with a whimsical wallcovering depicting the words and illustrations of Lawson’s books.
The grounds are beautifully designed and professionally landscaped including a parterre garden in front of the 10,560-square-foot house, which was built in 1936 and later expanded to increase the square footage substantially.
The house, as it was original built, is immortalized on the front endpaper of most of Lawson’s books. The thoughtful expansion ensured the house can accommodate 21st-century living and entertaining. The renovation gave it sophisticated formal spaces and comfortably casual spaces, as well as strikingly attractive millwork and moldings, including some entryways from one room to another capped with keystones.
ABOUT THIS HOUSE
STYLE: Georgian Colonial
ADDRESS: 57 Weston Road
FEATURES: former home of an award-winning author/illustrator Robert Lawson, 5.66-acre level and gently sloping property, gated property, convenient to downtown Westport, easy access the Merritt Parkway, Gunite in-ground swimming pool, large heated pool house with fireplace and kitchenette, exterior lighting, patio, stone wall, terrace, underground sprinkler, professionally landscaped, mature gardens, freshly painted interior, double-height cherry library, Sonos sound system, cable - available, 48 KW generator, programmable thermostat, four fireplaces, balconies, skylights, zoned central air conditioning, zone oil and propane heat, wood shingle roof, attic, partially finished basement, circular driveway, attached under house three-car garage, six bedrooms, seven full and two half baths
SCHOOLS: Coleytown Elementary, Coleytown Middle, Staples High School
MILL RATE: 16.86 mills
The interior has been freshly painted and the spacious eat-in chef’s kitchen was recently renovated. It features a large two-tiered center island/breakfast bar, granite counters, a marble-topped pastry counter for baking, white elongated subway tile backsplash, and a coffered ceiling.
Professional appliances include a six-burner range with griddle and a custom hammered stainless hood. The eat-in area has a fireplace with a native stone surround. It is the first of four fireplaces in this house; the others are in the den, formal living room, and family room. The kitchen is augmented by a huge butler’s pantry with a beverage refrigerator, ample granite counters, a sink, and glass-front cabinetry.
There are six bedrooms. The master suite features a sitting room, separate baths and dressing rooms, and a private balcony looking over the pool and gardens.
Whether driving up the long circular driveway as a prospective buyer or as the new owners, visitors should be aware that they are probably being watched “by dozens of pairs of small, bright eyes. In bayberry clumps, in thickets and long grass, all the Little Animals were gathered to inspect the new arrivals,” as Lawson indicates on page 69, and therefore should remember to “Please drive carefully on account of small animals.”
Dan and Maureen Aron were once the New Folks. “We fell in love with the house first and then found out about it being Rabbit Hill. We learned about Robert Lawson and his mark on the world of literature. We felt such a part of the legacy. It was such a privilege and an honor to be in that home on that special piece of property,” Maureen Aron said.
“We look forward to the New Folks coming in and finding their own wonderful future on the property. It’s now time for the new folk to have their experience on the property,” she said.
For more information or to set up an appointment to see the house contact Cathy McGee and Emily Gordon of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage; McGee at 203-434-2251 or Cathy.McGee@coldwellbankermoves.com, and Gordon at 203-451-6432 or Emily.Gordon@coldwellbankermoves.com.