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HOME A Hersam Acorn Special Section

March 2011

Gilded Age Country Estate


Restored To Perfection

A Tale Of A House, A Passion


And Love’s Labor Triumphant

The James Scott Homestead


A Renovation Rare And True

Greenwich Post • The Darien Times • New Canaan Advertiser • The Ridgefield Press • The Wilton Bulletin • The Weston Forum • The Redding Pilot • The Lewisboro Ledger
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Wayne Ratzenberger photos


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�������������������������������������������������������������� What might look like a teardown to others, to the author the house was a chance to revive a vintage beauty.
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A tale of a
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house, a passion
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������������������������������������������������������������������ AND LOVE’S LABOR TRIUMPHANT
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by Tom Berquist
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It all started, I think, with that 1856 dropped vases and children’s toys.
��������������������������������������������������������� Flying Eagle one-cent piece. I used to hold Instead of amusement parks, the family
it in my hand and rub fingers with Abe went to Sturbridge Village and Williamsburg,
Lincoln, imagining he carried this very coin where you could squint your eyes and go
in his own pocket. I guess I had an interest back two centuries. Our daughter Emily
Eastham Cape Cod in old things when I was young. seemed to absorb it all, knowing more
�������������� After college, I left the plain state where about cornhusk broom-making than the
I was born and came out East where our docents did.
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nation was born. I eventually settled in a As I approached middle-age, I got a
������������������ town settled in 1639, called Cupheag by big itch. Up to now I was only scratching
��������������� the Pequonnocks, Stratford by the English. around the edges. I needed more passion in
������������� By day I was a marketing innovator, at night my life. Then I saw her. She was classy for
������������ I eased into the past. I collected Victorian her age. I had spotted her on my walks in
���������������������� trade cards and put them into framed the historic center of town. A tall, gray lady
������������ collages. I loved the touch of refinishing with an elegant and proud profile. One day,
������������� ������������������ antique furniture. Rubbing the wood grain I found a small crowd gathered around her.
up, but leaving in the patina that came from I had to approach and ask. Yes, she would
2 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011
be for sale. It hit me. I could own a three- As we continued the tour upstairs, I handicapped. It took a marriage of realism
story Gambrel Colonial built in 1753. noticed that many walls were bulging and and romanticism, and together we took the
“But we can’t afford to buy that house,” sagging. Not bad for a post-and-beam of leap. We committed to bringing her back to
my wife, Ellen, warned. “Don’t even think her age, I thought. There were lots of life – and deeply into our own lives.
about it.” closets, the bedrooms were big, but the From the day we moved in, every night
“It’s falling apart,” said a neighbor. “You’d bathrooms were scary. Dark and as narrow and every weekend was spent working on
have to be crazy.” as a hallway, they had warped floors and her. We had to make one room at a time
I was crazed, but I wouldn’t just let her stained, lopsided fixtures. Ellen turned habitable. We started with the bathrooms
go like that. “Can we make an appoint- white, as if she’d seen a ghost, and asked if so we could feel clean, moved to the
ment to see it?” I pleaded with Ellen, “get we could leave. kitchen so we could cook and finally the
to know what she’s really like inside?” Ellen The Connecticut National Guard assembled on the “One more bedroom,” I said, as I hurried bedrooms to crash in. From sanding the
green in 1870, with the stately home as a backdrop.
probably felt some jealousy, but she also felt and knelt in front of the seventh fireplace. floors to tarring the roof, we became a “This
and knew my passion, so the next day we It was blackened by soot and grime, but Old House” couple without the crew. Emily,
met the Realtor and stood at the gray lady’s The kitchen depressed us both. I could I noticed dabs of white and blue peaking at five, even pitched in, drawing dog noses
doorstep. The paneled door creaked open see Ellen’s heart, the heart of a fine cook, through. I licked my fingers and rubbed and flowers out of plaster dust.
and all our eyes could see was gray, black shrivel when she saw the old food-encrust- one of the tiles. “My God, these are 200- Along the way we experienced your
and brown. ed appliances, the peeling countertops, the year-old Delft tiles,” I shouted to Ellen. standard “remember when” restoration sto-
Then you smelled the brown. The previ- unhinged cabinets. “We could pull all this I uncovered one beautiful nautical scene ries. You know, the soot-belching furnace,
ous owner had dozens of cats and dogs and out,” I offered, as I looked up and saw dark after another – windmills, seagulls, single- the munching termites, the oozing pipes.
the floorboards were covered and soaked in stains and holes in the ceiling and felt sick. masted schooners. I could write another book, but that’s not
excrement. Ellen wanted to leave. How could anyone be so neglectful, no, so “This house is a treasure!” I declared. what this short story is about.
“I know it’s disgusting, it could be abusive to a once proud house, I seethed Ellen must have read the infatuation in Twenty-nine years later, we finished her.
cleaned up,” I said, in a little voice. “But to myself. my eyes, but she remained steady in her Restored her back to her prime. She’s
would you look at those mirrors,” I said, With my head still down I noticed skepticism. “Don’t get your hopes up,” she now a soft green with porcelain trim, and
much louder. Two of them, 12-feet high, something in the corner. Wiping away crud warned, as she gestured, “we gotta go.” the reigning beauty of the neighborhood.
facing across the front parlors. “They’re with my foot, a star appeared, beautifully You, the reader, probably figured out She’s listed in the Department of Interior’s
gilded!” I squealed, as I ran a finger along inlaid in a parquet of triangles. I smiled and by now how things transpired. For weeks National Historic Places as the Captain
the twisted vine of the frame, the gray dust shook my head, thinking of the craftsmen we argued about the risks, the amount
giving way to gold. of the day. of work, whether or not I was handy or See Tale of a house page 23

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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 3


■ HOME I MOANER ■

Adobe acrobat
by Ben Guerrero

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condensation; her story is here because she
once owned the adobe house we bought
last Friday.
������������������ During the winter, my father and his
������������������������ wife, Dixie, bivouac at an ancient, grand
adobe house in the middle of Arizona.
�������������������������������������������������� Last month, I related my visit with them

��������������� in a cleverly written column comparing


the continuing snowdrifts of home to the
cacti-spiked, sun-drunk deserts of the
��������������������������� Southwest.

������� What I may have refrained from men-


tioning, as part of my colorful travelogue,
was a walk we took around the tumble-
���������������������������� down, tumbleweed town, and our seren-
dipitous encounter with an old adobe, a
������������������������������� bee’s nest and a “for sale” sign.
������������������������������������������������ When Melissa and I discuss the next
������������������������������� chapter of our life together, we usually
fantasize about moving up to Vermont and
growing facial hair. But for some reason, the
sleepy, dog-eared streets of this old Arizona
town triggered a long dormant, primordial
enthusiasm that neither of were expecting
on this trip.
I was willing to buy the property imme-
diately based on price alone, but also
because the family has deep roots in the
hard-packed soil. Melissa passed on the
opportunity to talk me out of it. It surprised
me that she didn’t even try.
Pauline Cushman, photo by Matthew Brady c. 1860.
����������������������� Our renovation project on Rusty Hinge
Road is just about finished, as is our toler-
������������������������������ Pauline Cushman was an actress, who, ance of bi-weekly snow dumps and crinkled
while treading the boards through the curbside fenders. Our jobs and history will
������������� secessionist south of the Civil War, became keep us here for a while but, deep down,
a spy for the Union side, got caught by the the lure of the West has taken hold.
���������������� Confederacy and was almost hanged. In The Cushman adobe abode is located
the nick of time, she was rescued and then behind the old boarded-up grocery store
���������������������������������������� decorated for her heroism by President which is next to the old burned-out movie
������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Abraham Lincoln. Her fame got her a stint theater. Besides the adobe itself, there are
������������������������������������������������������ working with P.T. Barnum. three other buildings on the property. The
������������������������������������������������������������������� According to Wikipedia (so it must be asking price was not that much different
true) “Major Cushman,” as she came to be than the sticker price of a fully-loaded
������������������������ known, eventually died in poverty of an
opium overdose at age 60, and was buried
Japanese car. The condition of the build-
ings is disturbing. The report from the
in San Francisco with the honors befitting building inspection looked like the open-
��������������������������������������������
the hero she had once been. ing scenes of “Saving Private Ryan.” And
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Of course, there are many interesting in spite of what we old, staid real estate
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details of her life I have omitted in this moguls babble ad nauseum, this new place
4 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011
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has nothing to do with “location, location, site can’t be assessed with no gas, water or
location.” It is all about “potential, poten- electricity available. �� ���� �� ��� ����������
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tial, potential.” The floors are spongy. The windows
Because “Fishbee Ranch” has been vacant need glazing and most of the wood, which

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for more than six months, we are unable to hasn’t been eaten, has been baked to splin-
turn on the electricity, the water, the gas or ters in the relentless summertime oven that

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– speed bump! – live in the place. Because is characteristic of the locale.
the property had been grandfathered as Even so, there are far too many reasons
residential zoning, it reverted to commer- to say yes than scream no. The price was �
cial after the last owners defaulted on their right, all cash, and if one wanted to start �� ����� ��

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mortgage and moved away. over, wouldn’t it be nice to start over with-
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Small problems all, because we dis- out a mortgage? An adobe house, while ���� �����
covered, luckily, that we share a dream capable of melting in the rain like the ���������
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of fixing up an old adobe in the middle Wicked Witch of the West, is naturally cool � �� ���� ��� ��
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of the Arizona desert and living out our with its thick, clay walls. When it’s 100° in �� ��� ������
lives as artisan, merchant, book-collecting, August, which it invariably is, it can be as ������ ���
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banjo-playing, reclusive, cat-farming, gold much as 20 degrees cooler inside (if you ��� ��������
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prospectors. stand near an open refrigerator, assuming � �������
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As I type this, a fellow named Carl, is you have one). ���
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crawling into the ancient, spider-webbed The ranch-style house, built in the 1940’s ��� �������
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recesses of the buildings, “remediating” the and the newest of the four, has a window ����
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termites that have been freely and glutton- made of colorful agate, a carport and a �� �� �� �� �� ������� ��� ��
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ously devouring much of the wood that potentially charming kitchen. There is even ��� �������
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holds the structures together. I have con- a Virgin of Guadalupe sculpture protected �� �� ����� ���� � ���� �
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tacted a roofer to have a look at the strange by an upended and partially submerged �� ���

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foam roofing that adorns each structure. bathtub out by the gate. �������

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Of the six bath rooms on the property, The smallest of the four buildings is ��� ������
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functioning unit from the available parts. ������� ����
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Greenwich Post, The Darien Times, New Canaan Advertiser, Copyright 2011, Hersam Acorn Newspapers, LLC
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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 5


Gilded Age country estate
restored to perfection
by Jane K. Dove

Shall we dance? to the full glory of its past, after years of


That question has probably echoed neglect.
countless times from the walls of the ball-
room of “Homewood,” the grand country Love At First Sight
manor built c. 1865 at the beginning of “We have lived here for 13 years,” says
Ridgefield’s own “Gilded Age.” Melissa. “When we walked in for the first
The 30-by-50-foot ballroom is only one time and saw the magnificent mahogany
of many features that make Homewood, on staircase, we knew it was for us.”
Country Club Road, a classic example of Melissa says the 18-room, eight-bed-
the magnificent estates of that era, which room home, originally built as a country
spanned the final decades of the 19th retreat for George G. Haven, president of
Century up to the Great Depression. the Corn Exchange National Bank, had
Thanks to the efforts of Melissa and been sitting empty and sadly neglected for
Rodney Buckwalter, today’s Homewood has years.
been lovingly and painstakingly restored “We knew it would be a massive reno-
After years of neglect, Homewood has been restored to its original splendor.

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6 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011


vation, and it was,” Melissa says. “It took including old photos of the interior and The magnificent mahogany spindle stair-
about three years of constant work. During exterior. “We wanted to stay true to original case dominates the entry hall and sweeps up
that time we lived with our three daughters floor plan, moving only a few walls when it to a broad second-floor landing. The first
in a small portion of the house, fitted out was absolutely needed,” Melissa says. “We floor, suitable for either casual or formal
with the basic necessities.” didn’t want to live in a museum so we had gatherings, has a large dining room, fam-
Melissa says they were fortunate because, to make some accommodations to ‘modern ily room, state-of-the-art kitchen, butler’s
although neglected, the home was structur- life,’ but we believe we have stayed true to pantry, parlor, den and the Elsie de Wolfe-
ally sound and built to a high standard of the original spirit of the home while chang- designed ballroom, which does double
quality. ing the use of some of the rooms.” duty as the living room.
“Many details, such as moldings and Today’s Homewood is filled with beauti- The second floor has a master bedroom
flooring, were still intact, but others were fully restored Old World details, including suite with marble dual baths and dressing
not,” she says. “The house originally had 14 carved fireplaces now integrated with
10 bathrooms, and when we moved in all of the amenities needed for today’s life-
See Gilded Age page 14

only one worked. The kitchen was just a style.
shell and the original porches had either �

been removed or glassed-in. Once we took
everything in, we decided our approach was
restoration first and renovation second.” ����������
To that end, the couple worked with
some of the area’s foremost experts in vin-
tage home restoration, and the result is a ��������������
warm and welcoming family home that,
despite its 13,000 square feet of living
space, is on a very human scale.

Homewood Reborn ���������������
Before beginning their meticulous reno-
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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 7


You never forget your first house ...
But maybe you should
by Lois Alcosser

The tree peonies are still there, hidden by The house is in a community called magic element, fresh and sparkling, velvety Stonybrook all year round, and I remember
weeds, and I think I see a glimpse of the bird Stonybrook in Weston, a place with an textured water that didn’t warm up until late I had to stand in the middle of the road the
bath that I bought before I knew anything unusual history. Originally farmland, several August. As a branch of the Aspetuck River first day of school to make sure the school
about birds. But what was once my garden, acres were purchased back in the 1930s by that flowed from the Berkshires. It was, and bus stopped.
tenderly cared for, revised so many times a left-wing, radical feminist, who decided to still is, one of the most refreshing places The day I went to take a look at my house
from flowers to vegetables and back again, turn the property into a summer refuge for to swim in Fairfield County. And children wasn’t sunny or warm, and so it added a
looked abandoned, as if the people who now New York City teachers and their families. loved running in and splashing around. touch of extra wistfulness. There were sev-
live in my house have no interest in gardens At the time, Jewish people were discour- As the cottages filled up with mostly New eral large tree trunks that had fallen in the
at all. They’ve painted the house a different aged from buying or renting in the area, but York City families, a little beach was built foresty areas, and they seemed to be slowly
color. I guess I expected that. Nobody really Weston was so rural and under-populated, and clay tennis courts constructed. A sum- rotting away on a thick carpet of brown,
liked the sandy-sienna color I chose. discrimination wasn’t practical. So the farm- mer camp was organized, with counselors dried leaves. I thought of Stonybrook in
It’s probably not a good idea to decide to land became a summer vacation destination from places like the Little Red Schoolhouse, early spring, when everything was budding
take a look at your first house, the house you with small, simple, white-shingled cottages, a progressive private school in the city. The and fresh green. Well, that would happen
lived in for over 20 years, where so much of like camp bunkhouses. counselors would move around from cottage again, of course.
your life took place. But, sometimes, when There was lots of open space, dirt roads to cottage, spending a week or so living with Riding around, there were memories of
you happen to be driving nearby, to see your – it was really “going to the country.” The each family. square dances in the barn-like group house,
house again pulls you to it like a magnet. brook that runs through the property was the We were one of the first families to live in roads where Stonybrook children learned

Est. 1987 Serving


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8 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011


to graduate from tricycle to two-wheeler, Then there was the tag sale. We bought
where huge drifts of snow discouraged our
snow-plow brigade, and so we just accepted
nature and built snowmen.
the house from a truly artistic family. The
ceiling fixture in the dining area was an
upside down lamppost from a Greenwich
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The lilac bushes that seemed to grow Village hotel, and the wrought-iron spi-
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wild were taller, but scraggly, though they ral staircase was from a shipyard. It was
had always been less than prime specimens. totally open leading to the basement, a
But because they seemed to be migrants great temptation for children to climb on.
from somewhere, we never complained, and I remember I found an ironworker, and he ����������������������
they did have the wonderful scent. built a screen around it, too high to climb
Truth is, the house no longer seemed mine over. ���������������������������
in any way. It was never a very grand place, I wonder if anyone goes back to their first
originally one of those summer cottages that
had been rather haphazardly added onto.
house and finds it much improved, more
beautiful, grown into elegant maturity from
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But when I lived there, I thought it was the gangling adolescent it once was. Would
totally charming, an artist’s sort of residence. that be a happy discovery or would it bring
When I was preparing to sell it, the real regrets and a sense of missed opportunities?
estate agent thought it might be a good idea But nostalgia can be excessive. Once this
to call it a “chalet.” Chalet! house was the source of vibrant life, holiday
I remember she made me paint the door dinners, birthday parties, new achievements
red, remove all my Herman Miller furniture, and new friends. And so it probably is now, ����������������������������������������
and for open house days, she arrived with in a totally different way, perhaps, but just ���������������������
Ralph Lauren pillows and checked to see as significant.
that I’d removed all family photographs. The I got out of my car for a minute, plucked We Sell the Best & Service the Rest
theory was that much less is much more, a few brilliant red euonymus leaves and left,
and furniture made the rooms look too unnoticed, an innocent trespasser, anxious ������������
small. I thought at the time it looked rather to get to my tiny apartment as soon as pos- �������������������
unlived in and unlivable. sible. ■
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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 9


JAMES SCOTT HOMESTEAD IN RIDGEFIELD

A renovation
rare and true
by Lois Alcosser

History has been perfected is one way to describe the James Scott
Homestead at 508 North Salem Road in Ridgefield. Dating to 1756,
it is a cherished part of American history and witness to the moment
in 1777 when British troops, marching back from burning Danbury,
were attacked by General David Wooster who captured 40 British
soldiers. It was the first event of the Battle of Ridgefield during the
Revolutionary War.
Owners for the past 11 years, Tim Van Daff and Tom Angers pur-
chased the historic property, relishing the idea that it was a house they
could repair and restore.
But in this case, “restoration” is an understatement. Both men are
enamored of American history and antique houses. Tom grew up with
antiques; Tim has been in the antiques business. Their plan was to return
the house to 18th Century authenticity, while, at the same time, creating
the most comfortable, tasteful, welcoming residence imaginable.
This 1756 home has witnessed many historic moments, beginning with the Battle of Ridgefield in 1777.


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10 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011
They achieved this by retaining such elements as the
exposed beams while raising them to a desirable height.
The chestnut flooring, paneling and fireplaces are original,
and where new cabinetry has been added, appropriate
antique lumber was used.
Windows are custom-built, double-hung, as they would
have been, while the finest modern appliances are cleverly
concealed behind paneling that matches the original.
“Since the eight-room, 1756 homestead had only two
bedrooms, we knew we needed to add space,” Tim says.
They added a master bedroom suite with a full, luxurious
bath; cedar walk-in closets; a laundry; lower level family
room and screened porch. But there’s been no compromise
with the ambiance of the addition, no abrupt change in
the feeling and mood. The addition subtly and seamlessly
blends in, while turning the original eight-room saltbox
into a spacious family home.
During their years of ownership, Tim and Tom meticu-
lously researched and sought, throughout New England,
materials as close to the original as possible, affirming
with each detail the home’s authenticity. Where plaster-
ing was done, it was applied with the same technique as
the original. Paint colors were elegantly reproduced. An
entire sitting room wall from the 1750s was brought in
from Monroe. During the gutting and building, an original
Bryan Haeffele photo

1830s wallpapered panel was exposed. In one of the origi-


nal upstairs bedrooms, there’s a faint carving in the wall

See James Scott Homestead page 17


During the renovation, the owners searched for materials as close to the original as possible.

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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 11
LOCATION: A spacious setting complements this home in South
Salem.
PROPERTY: Highlights of the home’s four acres include a custom-
designed, heated pool, mahogany decking and picturesque land-
scaping.
HOUSE: A spacious living area with many custom details enhance
this home. There is a living room with fireplace, dining room, cook’s
kitchen with eating area, a family room and office on the first floor.
Six bedrooms include a master suite and there are four more baths
and one half-bath. A large lower level includes a home gym.
GARAGE: Two-car attached.
PRICE: $1,375,000.
REALTY: Houlihan Lawrence Inc.
Agent: Roselyn Harburger; 914-232-5007 X222.
Photography: Bryan Haeffele.

Private,
elegant retreat
Home of the Month • March 2011
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The handsome custom cabinetry in the kitchen represents the fine craftsmanship throughout the home.

JOSEPH WILLIAMSON Since 1981


Interior-Exterior Painting Gilded Age continued from page 7
Decorative Painting-Faux Finishes
Wallpapering rooms, as well as French doors opening to the architecture of the main house, has an
203.629.7911 a private balcony. The family bedrooms, entertainment area, kitchen and full bath. A
including a full in-law suite, have their three-car garage, cobbled driveways, stone
Graduate of The U.S. School of own private bathrooms and fireplaces. The walkways and flower and vegetable gardens
Buckwalters have converted two of the sec- complete the exterior.
Professional Paperhanging References available ond floor rooms for use as an exercise room The home is within walking distance of
����������������������������� and an office. the 11th hole of the nearby Silver Spring
Throughout the home, the Buckwalters Country Club.
have restored original flooring, moldings
and wainscoting. Light fixtures in the style Moving On
Now that daughters Eve, Emily and
Pam have grown up and moved away, the
Buckwalters have decided the time has
come to downsize.
THE QUICK NO SANDING SOLUTION TO BEAUTIFUL WOOD FLOORS! “We have enjoyed living here for the
Most Jobs Complete in 6-8 Hours past 13 years but it is now simply too
Non-Toxic, Odorless & Certified GREEN much space,” says Melissa. “We have put
the ballroom to good use over the years,
Over 50,000 Happy Residential & Commercial Clients
hosting many private parties and fund-
Call for a free estimate at 203-798-WOOD (9663) • Or visit MrSandless.com raisers for local organizations, including A
Better Chance, Sunrise Cottage, the Keeler
The elegant ballroom, designed by Elsie de Wolfe, Tavern and the Ridgefield library.” They
���������������� hosted many a festive gathering. have entertained as many as 250 guests in
the ballroom.
����������������������������������������������������� of the Gilded Age enhance the rooms, and Homewood is the second Ridgefield
����������������������������������������������������� the original built-in cabinetry has been home the couple has restored, along with
maintained. French doors embrace light two in the Midwest. “It’s now on the mar-
���������������������������������������� and open to stone patios. The porches that ket, and we hope the new owners will
�������������������������������������������������������� originally graced Homewood’s exterior have appreciate it,” she says. “We will miss it, but
all been restored or replaced. it is time to move on.”
Outside, Homewood has more than For information on Homewood, listed
���������������������������������� three acres of meticulously landscaped at $4.5 million, contact Maureen Kozlark,
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������������������������������������� ��������������������������������� grounds, with a heated pool and hot tub. Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 203-
The separate pool house, built to reflect 733-8823. ■

14 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011


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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 15


Home Moaner continued from page 5
�������������� moved to the site from a nearby army base. corner of the property with a view of the

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The carpets are so frighteningly stained, I vacant lot across the street and an old hotel
am surprised there are no chalk outlines that struggles to keep tenants in its newly
of former tenants remaining on the floor. renovated shops on the ground floor.
Under your fully clad feet, you can feel Join me dear readers as we start our
the channels chewed along the grain of the journey together. We have not only bought
����� �������� hardwood floors, resting on stringers that I ourselves a fascinating, historical property,
������� ������� fear are held against the ground by nothing we have bought an endless supply of mate-
������ ������ more than gravity and termite saliva. There rial for this column.
is a very active beehive in the wall. And the termites tell me it’s delicious! ben.
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16 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011


James Scott Homestead continued from page 11 ly
mi and
a
F ed d
n te
paneling that looks additional fam- trees. “We just live restored as a two- Ow pera
like the work of a ily room. Today’s on this porch in car garage with a O
young child. family lifestyle is the summer,” Tim separate entrance
The owners apparent. says, and points to the second-floor
worked with Gary Large recessed to what he calls a guest bedroom. Professional marble & stone refinishing
Samuelson, a spe- panels conceal “buttery” – a pan- Realtor Tom
cialist in 17th- and audio and video try/kitchen/serv- Thomas of Coldwell “let us make your stone look new again”
18th- Century equipment. The ing area designed Banker puts it this
homes, and John staircases are stur- for convenient and way: “As a Realtor, I � marble � Granite � travertine
� limestone � terrazzo � slate
Galligan, whose dily functional, and gracious entertain- have seen countless
cabinetry and the four full baths ing. home renovations,
woodwork display and two half-baths Upon entering so I think I have
museum-quality
workmanship. For
have the best mod-
ern plumbing with-
the house, the first
impression is of a
a pretty good idea
about quality and
We can restore your:
the creative team, it out losing an old- romantic idealiza- attention to detail. floor
was a labor of love fashioned charm. tion of the past, Never have I seen
and skill. Practically speak- but upon closer a finer example Shower
“The house had ing, the electric look, you realize of the thoughtful
good bones,” Tim lines are new, the this is a functional attention to quality vanity
remarked, mak- furnace is updated and livable home, and detail that has
ing it possible to and the boiler was steeped in memo- gone into the James countertop
use the lower level recently rebuilt. rable history – a Scott Homestead.”
to accommodate a Right outside the masterful blending For more infor- walls
large living area and screened porch are of new and old. A mation, call Tom
full bath, which a bluestone patio, large barn, with Thomas at 203-438- Furniture
make an excellent flourishing gar- an attached garden 9000 or 203-733- top
guest bedroom or dens, beautiful old shed, has been fully 7447. ■
—or any stone surface!

Our the
f or r k
professional y o u
an k ng w e o u
o
“Th t a n di re s t o r i ate
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o u t did t o appre c o u
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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 17


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PRACTICAL SOLUTIONS TO SIMPLIFY DAILY LIVING
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by Janis Gibson
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“When I first began to investigate devel- to feel comfortable and safe in their homes.
oping a specialty to help homeowners age They want to be sure their roofs aren’t going
in place, I thought it would primarily be to leak; they want composite siding so they
about ramps and grab bars, stair lifts and don’t have to worry about painting the exte-
elevators, but that did not turn out to be rior. If it is an older house, they want state-
the case,” says Bob Boothroyd, head of of-the-art insulation.”
the Boothroyd Group LLC, a construction He also notes that where younger clients
management, design/build, remodeling firm often want the “wow” factor to impress their
based in Greenwich. “Even though many of friends, “seniors are very practical. Many
these clients are older, most are still able- have down-sized from a big house. They
bodied and are looking primarily for ease don’t go for ‘fancy.’ They want things to be
of maintenance and energy efficiency. They easy to reach. They go for such nuances as
want value – not a bargain – but quality at a lighting and non-slip tiles.
fair price,” he said. “Huge on anyone’s list is not getting

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“Whether clients have been in their hous- ripped off,” he continued. “Many of our
es a long time or down-sized, they want seniors grew up in a time when a person’s
to stay in their homes until they cannot be handshake was good enough to do busi-
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there anymore,” he continued. “They are ness and that leftover trust can make people
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�������������������������������������� fixed income – and predictability; they want are the number one complaint with the

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18 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011


Department of Consumer Protection and a Finding shifting needs among some of alone for 23 years and wants to stay in her tially created to meet the requirements of the
large amount of money can be involved, but his older clients, Bob entered the aging-in- house as long as she can.” Americans with Disabilities Act.
there are a number of steps that consumers place arena about three years ago. He tapped Second, the avid outdoorsman has been “ADA-compliant hardware, for example,
can take to protect themselves.” (See sidebar, into the large network of organizations and a volunteer with Vermont Adaptive Ski & which enables a door to be opened by press-
page 21.) agencies that is available for seniors, noting, Sports for many years. “That has taught me ing down on a handle rather than turning
Bob has been doing construction and “Every town has agencies that advocate for a lot, made me very aware of people who a knob, is great if you’re holding kids or
remodeling all of his life and cites more than seniors and try to be a nexus for services, have limited abilities. But not all limitations carrying something.” Having experienced
30 years of professional experience. He was including home improvement.” He also gath- are the same, and the gradation of limits is the advantages of such products in the
a also a commercial real estate broker for 12 ered useful information from the Connecticut important to understand. I have learned a workplace and public facilities, Bob says,
years and performs commercial as well as Collaboration for Fall Prevention at Yale. lot by transferring people from wheelchairs “Boomers ask about things to do when they
residential work. His firm is a long-stand- Bob believes two things give him better to some sporting device, which I use when remodel. We might make sure all doorways
ing member of the Connecticut Remodeling insight into assisting those with or facing remodeling homes.” are 30 inches wide, that staircases have a
Contractors Association, where Bob has sat diminished abilities. “First, I have an 84- He also notes that everyone can benefit
on the board of directors. year-old mother in Hartford who has been from many of the products that were ini- See Simplify page 21

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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 19


����������������������
■ RACKING I ONE’S I BRAIN ■

Should that stay or should it go?


A show to force the question
by Tim Murphy

Andrew has a problem. His yard is littered Watching one show can jar even the tidi-
with junk – rusted bicycles, old cars that est viewer into a quick feng shui refresher
don’t run, table tops, metal scraps, even a course. For those with the slightest tendency
��������� vacuum cleaner. toward pack-ratism, “Hoarders” is more fore-
������������������� Inside is just as bad. Small mountains boding: After seeing the show for the first
formed of clothes, containers, paper, bags time, I found myself staring at the boxes of
������������� and boxes make most of the house inacces- old magazines, newspapers and CDs lining
����������������������� sible. To get upstairs, Andrew must first navi- the floor and upper level of a bedroom closet,
������������������� gate the bannister before finding a sliver of wondering if this small collection was the
open space to step on. The kitchen is barely gateway drug.
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visible through the clutter, and there is no
running water.
Those fears were calmed after a brief online
research brought me to a WebMD page titled
������������������ He is allowing a homeless person to live “Harmless,” pack rat or compulsive hoarder?
���������������������������������� �����������������������
in a run-down aluminum shed on the prop- Not answering in the affirmative to any of
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erty; his brother has called Adult Protective the three questions designed to see if “you’ve
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Services, and there is a chance the house will crossed the line” made me feel better, at least
be condemned and razed. until a flashback to the boxes of textbooks,
Andrew’s biggest problem? He doesn’t notebooks and papers that I deposited in
really think he has one. my parents’ basement after college – a mini-
His story was part of a recent segment on library that stayed there untouched until
������������������������������������������������� “Hoarders,” a reality show on A&E that spot- they moved nearly 20 years later – somewhat
������������������������ lights people who are compulsive hoarders. lessened my confidence.
����������������������������������������������������� Most of the hoarders featured are similar to Many of us fall into the same category,
Andrew. They acquire items they don’t really holding on to items we attach sentimental or
need and have trouble getting rid of them. nostalgic value to and then seldom – if ever
The pattern repeats until their homes are – revisiting those possessions. Some of the
virtually non-functioning, with little room to boxes in my closet contain soccer magazines
��������������������������� walk, doors that don’t fully open, appliances that an aunt got for me on a business trip
too hidden to use and beds with no room for to Germany when I first started playing the
��������������� sleeping. sport and was eager for any information. I
���������������������� The behavior typically results in frustrated didn’t know German then and I still don’t
spouses and family members who are at their know it now, but the magazines serve a
����
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������� ������ wit’s end. You get the sense these beleaguered purpose: Reminding me of my aunt and the
�������
��������� � �������������� folks would gladly arrange for an interven- thought she put into getting them.
���������
��������� ����� tion, if only there was room to stage one. Ironically, shows about hoarders – there
� �� ��� � ��
Instead, the show sends in one therapist and is also one on TLC with the more terrifying
a convoy of 1-800-Got-Junk trucks to begin title “Hoarding: Buried Alive” – come at a
the mental and literal clean-up. The results, time when technology should be making
����������������������������������������������������������������������
however, are often mixed. it easier for people to have less clutter than
��������������������������������� In a word, the show is disturbing. Unlike ever. By paying bills and perusing newspa-
���������������������������������������������������������������� many reality-based programs, it stays with pers online, downloading CDs, and using a
���������������������������������������������������������� you. As “Hoarders” points out before each Kindle to read books, it’s possible to elimi-
airing – and also on its Web site – compulsive nate many items that used to stack up in
�������������������������� hoarding is a serious pathological condi- houses. True, there is a chance of becoming
tion. But knowing that doesn’t diminish the a digital pack rat, but while that may slow
������������ visceral wallop for the viewer, who departs down your computer at least it won’t get in
���������������������� every episode muttering the same sentiment:
How can people live like this? See Racking One’s Brain page 22
20 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011
Simplify continued from page 19 rather than large tiles with grout, or using
wood rather than stone, which would pro-
For information, theboothroydgroup.com, or
203-952-3414. ■
Credentials and Qualifications: Are they
licensed or registered with the state? You can
vide a softer landing should a fall occur.” verify licensing or registration and complaint
lower rise to make the steps more gentle, and In his work with clients, Bob takes a SELECTING A CONTRACTOR history on the Department of Consumer
railings become more important.” construction-management approach, which A Boothroyd Guide Protection Web site. Are they members of
Lighting is another important element. is not the same as being a general contractor, any professional organizations? Do they
“We need more light as we age, indoors and he explained. “It’s more of an open book. We First Impression: Does the contractor proj- attend continuing education programs and
out, which is built into the design – how enter into a detailed contract that defines the ect a professional image in demeanor, attire seminars? Ask them to describe the last one
many lights, their placement, the use of dim- scope of work, desired quality level and proj- and conversation? Were they on time for they attended, and when.
mers. We look to eliminate trip-and-fall haz- ect budget. The budget is not open-ended. I your meeting? Do you like them? Remember, References: Get references and call at least
ards – which might be as simple as putting use all of my experience to get you the best these people will be working at your home, three. Ask if they are related to or friends of
a plug in the floor so a lamp can be placed job at the best price and I get a flat fee to and they will likely be inside your home, the contractor. Ask about their experience
away from a wall without a cord going across manage the project – you write the checks. It maybe for an extended period if your project
the floor – or using smooth floor surfaces is a concept that is slowly catching on.” is large. See Simplify page 22

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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 21


Racking One’s Brain continued from page 20 Simplify continued from page 21 sure to get a properly signed copy of the contract.
Avoid: Large down payments, excessive payments
in the beginning of the job without appropriate prog-
the way of opening the refrigerator. working with the contractor. Inquire about quality of ress, work being done without a permit (unless the
On the other hand, there are viable reasons not to get rid of any- work, timeliness, financial responsibility, neatness of work is exempt from this requirement), work being
thing these days. Supposed pieces of junk sometimes fetch money on the construction site, overall impression. Ask if they done without a contract.
eBay or bring in larger hauls on Antiques Roadshow, and who wants would work with the contractor again. Your Responsibility: There are many reputable, hon-
to be the unsuspecting person who tosses something in the Dumpster Insurance: Does the contractor carry liability insur- est contractors in the industry. There is no need to
and then watches in disbelief as the two roaming dudes on American ance? Workmen’s compensation insurance? You may end up with a bad one because you did not use due
Pickers perform a restoration and turn your trash into their treasure. wish to have the insurance company send you an diligence in checking out the contractor. If the con-
But for those worried that they are harboring too many unneces- insurance certificate. tractor does not check out or if you cannot verify the
sary items, “Hoarders” is a must-see. To watch just one episode is to The Contract: Are the following items included information provided, move on. A little time spent
be scared straight. – price, payment schedule, complete work descrip- on this can save you an enormous amount of time,
Straight to the recycling center. ■ tion, commencement date, completion date? Make money and frustration later. ■

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22 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011
Tale of a house continued from page 3
Samuel Southworth House, her builder. I turing the past and bringing it to life as I do.
lobbied for a local historic district, which I was in awe of how she could absorb herself
gave her more protection. in any historical period, figure or subject
When we give tours, I point and blab on – teach it and move on to the next semester.
and on with pride. When I hear the oohs Like daughter like dad? It was then that I
and aahs I am rewarded for putting my felt a loosening – a feeling of freedom as I
money where my heart was, honored to be saw that the old gray lady was only a house.
sharing my life with her. It may sound like An artifact, a physical abode occupied by
it, but that’s not the end of this story. generations of families. No more than that.
As I now move into a maintenance From that space, I let her go.
mode, older and less agile, I realize that I I now realize that one cannot own his-
will have to leave her one day – I know I tory. History is an account of people by
will not be able to keep up with her. I had people. It is a continuum. It has threads
to do some soul-searching in order to come that can catch and tug on a child and even-
to grips with leaving her. How did this tually weave into stories – histories.
house become so important to me? We must help future generations, I con-
Kapowee! One night I see this snap- cluded, not just appreciate history, not just
shot of Emily, eagerly sanding a wall, the pass through it, but find meaning in it, con-
way only a five year old could. That image tribute to it and pass it along. In my case, One of two original 12-foot gilded mirrors represents the elegant features of this house.
held me for a moment, then clarity came. it took a brief affair with a much older lady

N
In thinking of my daughter, who is now a and my daughter to teach me that. And, It
professor of history, I realized that my rela- took my wife Ellen ... to allow me that. my renewed enthusiasm, “I’ll be helping For more information call Victoria Fingelly
tionship with my house was more elusive “What are you going to do with your hospice patients do their memoirs – I’ll be or Walter Dobosz, Nicholas H. Fingelly Real
than I had believed. time now”? Ellen asked, with the house a personal historian!” Estate, 203-255-9900, 203-226-1900; online,
Emily uses different methods in her now on the market. “Great, but what about your own mem- 2048elmstreetstratford.com. Open house:
work, but she takes as much pride in cap- “I found a new career”! I responded with oir?” she asked. “I’m working on it” I said. March 13, 1-4, 2048 Elm St., Stratford. ■

North Point Construction

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March 2011 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. 23


24 HOME, a Hersam Acorn special section, Ridgefield, Conn. March 2011