Westport family wins preservation award for 1830s home
WESTPORT— When someone asks Addison Armstrong what his hobby is, he says, “A 200-year-old house.”
He and his wife, Jocelyn Braxton Armstrong bought their 1830s Federal-style home on Aug. 23, 2002.
Aside from a few early 20th century additions and alterations, the historic home remains well preserved, with its original clapboard, staircase, windows, doors, granite foundation and stone cellar.
Because of its age, in 2013, the Armstrong’s hired an architect to renovate the kitchen, mudroom and caretaker’s cottage. While removing one of the walls, the architect encountered hemlock sheathing, which was carefully removed, recut and used in the interior of the house to mimic the original exposed beams in the living room.
In 2015, the Armstrong’s “painstakingly” repaired any cracks to the outside of the home by using wood epoxy. While repairing the exterior of the house, they found that the clapboarding was made from different kinds of wood, likely from the trees surrounding the property. Some of the trim around the original front door had rotted and was replaced with trim the family had cut themselves, by using antique knives that were from the time period, Braxton Armstrong said.
Old doors in the cellar were soda blasted and reinstalled in the interior of the house to retain the compound’s antique flare. Soda blasting is a method that uses baking soda to clean, remove or degrease surfaces that have paint, steel, lead, aluminum and other substrates coating them, according to Restoration & Remediation, a home repairing company. According to the organization, The Statue of Liberty was soda blasted for its 100th anniversary in 1986.
“It was important for us to restore the exterior of the house to retain all of the design and rehabilitate the exterior of the house accurately, to the way it hopefully looked,” Braxton Armstrong said. “I really tried to maintain and recycle.”
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She and a real estate agent had been searching for a year and a half before she found her Westport home in 2002. Her views lined up with each of the home’s 15 previous owners, who wouldn’t consider selling the property to individuals who had no intention of preserving it. In 1879, the house was a mattress factory.
The Italianate home was built by Street Keeler and his brother Burr, between 1830 and 1835. According to the Westport Historic Resources Inventory, Burr Keeler built a similar house that’s still standing at 4 Woods Grove Road, one street away from 17 Canal St.
Burr served as one of the town’s three selectmen from 1842 to 1843. Street Keeler was listed as a cloth dresser at the family’s mill, which operated on the now defunct canal, just behind the home, hence the street name.
Each time a family moves into the home, it inherits maps, paperwork and other historical documents listing names of previous owners.
On Monday, the Armstrongs will receive a Westport Historic District Commission Preservation Award. Each year the commission gives six to 10 awards to individuals who possess notable examples of historic preservation, said Randy Henkels, chairman of the commission.
“This house is not a designated landmark. It’s not a landmark of the town and yet, the owners of this house treat it as if it was,” said Ed Gerber, vice chairman of the commission. “There aren’t many historic houses left and this is a very prominent street.”
The awards will be distributed in the auditorium of Westport Town Hall at 7 p.m. Monday.