On the Market: Updated antique colonial farmhouse is saving history
WESTPORT — May is National Historic Preservation Month, an effort to spotlight local preservation efforts in America.
This Place Matters, an initiative of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is “a national campaign that encourages people to celebrate the places that are meaningful to them and to their communities,” according to the website SavingPlaces.org”
The current owners of the updated antique colonial farmhouse at 311 Greens Farms Road recognized the historic value of the 18th century structure that they purchased 22 years ago. They respected and preserved the history and architectural integrity of the house when they restored and updated it, adding a great room in 2000 and adding modern comfort while maintaining its authenticity.
One person jokingly said of the kitchen renovation “You’re putting a Jetson’s kitchen into a Flintstone’s house,” referring to the futuristic and primitive cartoons. But the work was overseen by well-known designer-builder Scott Kilcoyne, who specializes in blending old and new.
The 3,214-square-foot house was originally built in 1790. It remained in the same family for four generations until 1948 when great-granddaughters of the original owner, Peter Jennings, sold it, according to a historic document provided by the owners. This 11-page document claims that the dirt cellar floor was lowered two feet to give the ceiling more height and then the floor was cemented about 1950 and that a two-story addition was constructed about 20 years later. According to the same document “a large stone chimney foundation with oak logs helping to support the chimney may date to 1755.”
A tax list of 1802 shows Peter Jennings owned “2 oxen, 3 cows, 2 horses, 23 acres of plowed land, 23 acres of upland meadow or cleared pasture, and 14 sheep.” Property owners were taxed on the number, age or condition of their fireplaces and Jennings had three. Now there are five fireplaces in this house.
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This was a thriving farm where Jennings first grew flaxseed that was exported, and later onions. His grandson, Edwin Jennings, branched into horticulture and built greenhouses on the property. He specialized in pansies and developed new varieties that he shipped across the country. An early news article also suggests he had a circulating library for the neighborhood on this property at one end of a greenhouse.
Today there are still many beautiful flowers, shrubbery and mature trees on this property of one perfect square acre. “When we purchased this Jennings house in 1994 we became the fortunate recipients of a perennial garden that had been carefully maintained by Alan Pifer (a previous owner) for about 40 years,” one owner said. The landscaping includes two rare tree peonies, a wall of lilacs than runs the length of the Gunite heated in-ground swimming pool, forsythia, curly willow tree, apple and pear trees, a river birch, butterfly garden, and a vegetable garden.
Flanking the formal front entrance with the original front door are English boxwoods in keeping with 18th century design, the owners said. At one time the front of the house had a porch with decorative balustrades, which the current owners have used as garden design elements.
ABOUT THIS HOUSE
STYLE: Updated Antique Colonial Farmhouse
ADDRESS: 311 Greens Farms Road
FEATURES: historic home, one-acre level property, corner lot, proximity to Greens Farms train station, minutes to shopping and beaches, Gunite heated in-ground swimming pool, outdoor shower, bluestone patio, Thermopane insulated windows, storm doors, new plumbing, covered porch, five fireplaces, invisible pet fencing, stone walls, sprinkler system, skylights, some window treatments, exterior lighting, walk-up attic, attic fan, shed, stone foundation, detached two-car garage, full unfinished basement, four bedrooms, three full and one half baths
SCHOOLS: Greens Farms Elementary, Bedford Middle, Staples High School
MILL RATE: 16.86 mills
A cherry tree is visible from the kitchen and in spring its pink blossoms fill the whole window. “The magic unfolds,” throughout the year, the owners said. Not surprisingly, this house has been featured on the Westport Historical Society’s annual hidden garden tour.
The taupe-colored house with off-white trim sits on a corner lot with one side along Rustic Lane. The informal side entrance has a long covered porch, which is not historically accurate because people who worked a family farm had little time for leisure or relaxation. The door opens to the mudroom, which has 200-year-old reclaimed wood flooring from the attic. The newer family room, which is meant to resemble a barn, has a stone fireplace, pine wood cathedral ceiling, white oak exposed beams, Brazilian slate radiant heated floor, and two sets of French doors topped with transoms to the backyard.
The original kitchen is now a library and has a large fireplace with a baking oven. A pass-through area into the formal living room serves as a charging station for modern technological devices and a home command center. The formal dining room has exposed beams, wide-planked wood floor, and a floor-to-ceiling fireplace of stone and hand-hewn wood beams. The kitchen features stainless counters in one area and soapstone counters in another, white subway tile backsplash, an eat-in area, and high-end appliances including a Dacor five-burner range and Sub-Zero refrigerator.
Off the kitchen is a large butler’s pantry and laundry room with a utility sink. This room was dubbed the “waiting for the school bus room,” especially on cold or rainy mornings. It has a second door to a slate patio and grilling area.
On the second floor there are four bedrooms that have original windows with wavy glass. Two have wide-planked oak floors with old-fashioned nail heads. The master suite has a fireplace, red pine flooring, two closets, a built-in desk area, and a bath with a slate radiant heated floor and exposed beams. A loft area used as an office has a window from the old Stetson hat factory in Danbury.
Unlike some older homes this house has high ceilings, new plumbing, and great water pressure.