Connecticut Trust For Historic Preservation

Historic Properties Exchange

Ernst House, Norwalk

This stately Neoclassical mansion was built in 1908 for George Ernst, an important collector of early American furniture. It is now owned by Norwalk Hospital. Located on Elmcrest Terrace overlooking South Norwalk and the harbor, the building is one of a row of three large houses built in the late nineteenth-century. Known locally as the “Three Sisters,” they are reminders of the grand architecture of a once wealthy and prestigious residential neighborhood. The other two buildings, which stand to the left of the Ernst House are excellent examples of the Queen Anne style and are now used as apartment and rooming houses. A parking lot for Norwalk Hospital is located to the right. The house is under imminent threat of demolition for more parking, but the hospital has allowed a short reprieve while preservationists seek a buyer for the house and lot. If the hospital can recoup its purchase costs by selling the house quickly, it will forgo using the site and will expand its parking capacity elsewhere.Constructed of brick on a granite base, the building was designed to provide a setting for Ernst’s extraordinary collection of early American furniture and decorative objects. The academic precision of the architectural details reflects his knowledge of history. An impressive two-story portico with four Doric columns lends grandeur to the facade. A second-story balcony rests above an elaborate front door, and dentils trim the pediment, which contains a semi-elliptical window. The main roof is tile, while slate is used on some of the additions. These were probably added by Ernst himself soon after the house was built and are in keeping with the original concept. The rearmost addition suggests a brick one-story kitchen ell of a type seen in the South. A freestanding low brick wall encloses a rectangular plot for a kitchen garden and remains as a landscape feature behind the house. Ernst was a pioneer in the appreciation of American decorative arts and amassed his collection before it became fashionable.The interior retains many interesting features including a mantel derived from the work of Christopher Wren and accurately referenced Federal style moldings. The building has been vacant for about a year. It was most recently used as doctors’ offices and could become an office complex again or a multi-family residence.  The building contains 6,000 square feet of floor space, which could be augmented by constructing an addition if needed. Price: $925,000. Contact: Norwalk Preservation Trust, 203-899-0480.

Worthington Meeting House, Berlin

The Town of Berlin is requesting proposals for the rehabilitation of this eighteenth-century building on a half-acre lot at the northernmost point within the Worthington Ridge Historic District. The town will consider selling or leasing the building. Constructed in 1774 as a large meetinghouse, the building served as a school and administrative offices from 1908 until 1973. The interior was largely gutted in the 1970s and the plaster removed from the walls. The work halted and the interior remains in a completely unfinished state. Original oak and chestnut timbers survive.  The exterior is sheathed in clapboard with a wood shingle roof. The twenty-over-twenty double-hung windows are 1970s’ replacements. All the doors were replaced at the same time. Some of the windows have already deteriorated, and the building requires extensive repair and rehabilitation throughout. The footprint measures 45 feet deep by 62 feet long. The area is zoned for single-family residential use, but the town will consider other uses, such as professional offices. As a contributing structure within a historic district listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the building may be eligible for a twenty-percent federal historic-preservation tax credit for rehabilitation of income producing propertiesDeadline for proposals: February 14, 2003, at 11:00 AM. For further information call Bonnie L. Therrien, Town Manager, 860-838-7002.

Hubbard Farm, Middletown

This evocative farm, which was established by one of Middletown’s founding families, is threatened by a subdivision proposal. An eighteenth-century house rests on a small hill surrounded by lilacs and mature maple trees. An eighteenth-century barn, other outbuildings, and a fenced-in paddock create a traditional barnyard. The Hubbards called the farm “Green Hill.” Due to the historical importance of Hubbard Farm and its high degree of authenticity, the Middletown Planning and Zoning Commission imposed a one-year moratorium on developing the one-acre parcel that contains the principal buildings and the paddock. The commission wanted to allow time for a buyer to emerge who would retain the buildings, paddock, and farm-like character of the property. The existing eighteenth-century house incorporates parts of an earlier watch house, built in 1675, when Middletown colonists needed protection. In a most unusual combination, much of the first floor retains the seventeenth-century brownstone exterior of the watch house, while the rest of the house is sheathed in clapboard. The house was built with a center chimney and a second-story overhang on the front and side. The east side retains a gable overhang as well. A double-attic roof-framing system, which is an unusual structural feature, remains above the second story. Although the actual floorboards to the second attic have been removed, all the early structural members remain. A two-story bay window was added around 1868. The interior retains many historic features including wide-board floors, paneled fireplace walls, and wainscoting.For further information on purchasing the property contact Dennis Amato at 203-671-9234. For further information on the history of Hubbard Farm go to or call Carolyn Laban at 860-344-8926. Price: $440,000.

House and Country Store, Seymour

This one-and-a-half-story house was probably built around 1800. At present, it is engulfed in over-grown vegetation and in serious need of stabilization. An addition that is approximately 45 years old has collapsed and exposed the building to the weather at the rear.  Fortunately, the earlier core building still remains dry, with no evidence of leaks. The roof on the front entry porch has also given way, but this is not an original feature. Local lore says that the house was built in the seventeenth century, but the construction techniques do not support such an early date. The remains of another building foundation are said to exist on the property, which may mark the spot of an earlier house that became confused with this one over time.The owners, who live on a separate parcel directly behind this house, want to see it restored, but cannot afford to do the work themselves due to their limited income from Social Security. They are considering selling the house along with a country store that stands adjacent to it on the same lot.  They would also consider a partnership or any other proposal. The store was built about 50 years ago and has a spacious six room apartment on the second floor, which is in much better condition, but lacks heat. The store is now operated on a very limited basis, but has the potential to bring in substantial income as the only store on Route 334, a well-traveled state road. The existence of the apartment would allow someone to live there while restoring the house. For further information please call Mrs. Nightingale, 203-735-4902.

Deming House, Litchfield

This house, built in 1884, stands in a land-locked position behind a nursing home in the Litchfield Historic District. The district is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The house originally fronted North Street, but was moved back in the 1960s, when the bank next door acquired the site for parking. Apple Health Care now owns both the Deming House and the skilled nursing facility, Rose Haven. The company plans to build an addition to the nursing home and would like to find someone to remove the Deming House from the property and restore it at another location. Although aluminum siding hides the window surrounds and other architectural details, the Deming House retains its graceful form and asymmetrical massing. The aluminum siding covers the first and second stories, but dormers at the attic level are still sheathed in board and batten siding. Originally, the dormers were also accented with Stick-style decorative trusses. At present, the interior contains three rental units. Apple Health Care will allow approximately six months for removal of the Deming House from the Rose Haven property. Price: $1.Contact: Jamick Szefer, 860-678-9755.

888 Mill Hill Terrace, Southport

This small late-nineteenth-century vernacular house is on the market in the Mill Hill neighborhood and may become a victim of the destructive teardown trend. The area is experiencing development pressure, and the building is endangered by its small size and the desirability of the land it occupies. The house has a front porch with decorative brackets at the sides (not visible in photo). Wood shingles sheath the exterior, and the foundation is made of fieldstone. The interior has oak and pine floors.  The building contains 1,130 square feet of floor space and stands on a parcel of about one and a half acres. The property is primarily open and sunny, with a wooded glen and a stream at the rear. Two sides of the lot retain stonewalls. There is also a nineteenth-century outhouse on the property.The location is about one mile from the historic village of Southport and Southport Harbor. Price: $539,000Contact: Norman Marsilius, 203-255-3449.