January 23rd, 2015
WHS Invites Members on a Historic House Tour
The ad got it right: “Membership has its privileges.” So, as a friend of the Westport Historical Society, you’re cordially invited to join us for a private tour of four historic Westport homes, followed by lunch at the Society’s Bradley Wheeler House and a lecture about our current “Saugatuck @ Work” exhibit by Kathleen Motes Bennewitz, Town Curator and WHS Exhibits Consultant. But you need to jump on this one right away: the tour is for members only and limited to 30 people.
Edward F. Gerber, President of the Westport Historical Society, encourages members who appreciate landmark homes “to join the tour to see what other historic house aficionados have done with their homes.” As he noted, “although these are historic houses, most have been updated to suit the lifestyles of today’s families with children. And unlike our Holiday House Tour, on this tour the homeowners will present the houses themselves.
The first site is a home on Sylvan Road North once owned by sculptor H. Daniel Webster, creator of Westport’s famous Minute Man statue. You’ll be greeted at the door by the owners of the circa 1790 home, who will explain the history and the architectural evolution of the house. They won a Westport Historic District Commission 2014 Preservation Award in recognition of their “meticulous care of this property.”
Next stop is a vintage 1764 home on Cross Highway, which was for 50 years the residence of “the Dean of Westport artists,” George Hand Wright. The dining room, with its huge, blackened cooking fireplace and antique wainscoting, has an authentic 18th century feel. The living room, bathed in natural light, is distinguished by its display of fine art, including numerous pieces by Wright, and its view of the artist’s Westport studio, which is also on the property.
From there it’s on to Long Lots Road to visit the oldest house in Westport: a 17th century dwelling, known as the Mills-Osborne House. It was once thought to date from 1775, but further research indicated it was built between 1683 and 1687. The structure has been added onto, but most of the original portion is as it was in the late 1600s, with woodwork and several fireplaces from that period.
The final stop is a house on Compo Road South that should pique the interest of lovers of American literature. In the summer of 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his bride, Zelda, rented the circa 1780 Colonial for several months while Scott was writing his second novel, “The Beautiful and Damned,” and the couple hit all the local speakeasies. Story has it that the newlyweds had been booted out of New York’s Plaza Hotel for disruptive behavior and were on their way to northern New England to continue their honeymoon when Zelda wrecked their car, driving it into a fire hydrant on Main Street in Westport. The current owners will be happy to share stories about the Fitzgeralds’ summer in their home, which is also the winner of a Westport Historic District Commission Preservation Award.
Lunch donated by Westport’s own Spotted Horse Tavern. Tickets are $75 and limited to the first 30 members who sign up. The Society’s headquarters are across from Town Hall at 25 Avery Place, for reservations, call 203-222-1424.