Greenwich’s Historic 1875 Lockwood House May Vanish

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50 Lockwood Ave, July 20, 2016 Credit: Leslie Yager

Update: On Aug 2 the Greenwich Planning & Zoning commission approved the subdivision of 50 Lockwood Ave, where the historic Lockwood House dating back to 1875 stands.

There is no law prohibiting the demolition. The decision hinges on the individual’s property rights. Planning and Zoning doesn’t approve the demolition per se. The owner received the okay for a subdivision and will next for for a demolition permit.

“This is the reality of the market as it exists. New houses sell quickly, old houses take longer.” – Thomas Heagney, attorney for the applicant said to the P&Z commissioners on July 19.

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Original story: July 23   At the July 19 Planning & Zoning meeting, Robert S. Stone, the owner of 50 Lockwood Ave, a historic home dating back to 1875, was represented by attorney Thomas Heagney in his application for a two lot subdivision of the .83 acre property into two lots. The area is zoned R12.

That subdivision would result in the demolition of the historic home. Mr. Heagney said his client had been unable to sell the house as is, and that the only offers he had had were from developers. Furthermore, he said his client was not interested in the incentives offered through a historic overlay.

“We want to do  everything possible to support and preserve the historic nature of our town,” said Commissioner Levy. “It seems to me there may be more discussion ahead to help the applicant in preserving this house.”

“We do have a contract for the house,” Mr. Heagney said, adding that the buyer did not want to proceed with a historic overlay. He noted that there is no town ordinance that prohibits the removal of old houses.

An article dated February 3, 1938, from The Greenwich Press, shared courtesy the Greenwich Historical Society, read, “…the history of the Lockwood house… is a tale of ten generations of the well known family…. Here, facing the south, its flat roof capped with one of those cupolas about which we have raved before, is a tall white house, from top to bottom adorned with many and large windows, shutters abounding.”

According to the article, written by Allan F. Kitchel, Jr, “Robert Lockwood, one of the settlers of Watertown, Conn., died there. His widow died in Greenwich, having first linked the Lockwood name with another famous Greenwich family, the Ferrises. She married Jeffery Ferris, one of the first settlers of Greenwich, who landed on what is now Tod’s Point about the year 1640.”

“Robert had a son, Jonathan, who took after his mother in his wanderings brought him to Greenwich…in 1670. …His mother, Susannah, we have mentioned married Jeffery Ferris. What did Jonathan do but hie himself off and marry Jeffery’s daughter, Mary Ferris. Thus the two lines were further cemented.” – The Greenwich Press, Feb. 3, 1938

The article, goes on to describe the house: “There is something gracious and stately, in a mild Victorian manner, about the house as it stands grandly on its ample tract of land along the west side of Lockwood Avenue… The dominating motif of the exterior along the road, made up of long porches, two old apple trees at the southeast corner, and the extensive facade of the house is the doorway, a thing of pride to the family and a thing of joy to the passer-by.”

Mr. Stone proposes to subdivide the parcel, demolish the historic house, raze the existing site features and construct two new residential dwellings on the new parcels. A demolition permit has yet to be applied for, and would not be until the transaction is completed.

Other improvements would include the installation of various underground utilities, concrete driveways, patios, walks and retaining walls.

The commissioners noted that a large Maple and a large Oak, in addition to an old stone wall that the applicant’s attorney described as a “farmer’s wall,” would all be removed.

“We do have the option to preserve natural features of the site. I’d like to ask the applicant to revise the lot line in a way that gives the opportunity to preserve the house and other natural features on these proposed lots,” said Mrs. Alban.

“The applicant has nothing to lose by re-configuring the lot,” commissioner Alban suggested to Mr. Heagney.

As part of the record Jo Conboy of the Greenwich Preservation Trust, submitted a letter opposing the demolition of the historic property.

Stephen Bishop of the Historic District Commission, said, “We’re very concerned. It’s a very significant and beautiful house. We’d love to see this house saved. The Lockwoods are one of the founding families of the town and this may be the last Lockwood house in town.”

Mr. Bishop said the he thought the house didn’t sell because it was on the market for a high price that reflected it is a double lot. He said he thought it might have sold if the house and one lot was sold separately from the buildable lot.

“I think it’s a very restorable house,” he said. “We’re losing our history so fast.”

“This is the reality of the market as it exists. New houses sell quickly, old houses take longer.” – Thomas Heagney, attorney for applicants, Thomas and Betty Stone

“In order to move this along I suggest we continue to Aug 2nd meeting, have further discussion, go back to our client and review it with him,” Heagney said.

“One of the things about this Lockwood lot is that it is highly visible,” Ms. Alban said, contrasting the proposed demolition to that of the Knapp House on Round Hill Road, which was less visible.

In the end, attorney Mr. Heagney offered to go back to his client and review the incentives for historic overlays.

“We look forward to seeing you next time,” Mr. Levy said.

“We appreciate your willingness to take a little more time,” Mrs. Ramer said.

See also: Spared from the Wrecking Ball, Elizabeth Feake House was “A Hidden Treasure under Our Noses”


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  • Anne Martine Cook

    The cool little video makes it feel just about criminal to knock this house down. The beauty and life that fills this house is so great to see and feel. I agree with Steve Bishop. If the price is lowered there is a good chance the house will sell soon. It is absolutely sickening and unfathomable that demolishing this house is even being entertained. Please people in charge, please think about this some more. It will be sad to feel we no longer live in out beautiful town with houses that reflect a life earlier than one of the last few decades. Suddenly not recognizing where we are feels as if it is on its way. This thought has almost a Twilight Zone-y feeling.
    Thank you, Leslie,
    Anne

  • achris von Keyserling

    So very sad that a few squeezed real estate dollars out weigh all the sense of community, history, and grace of a whole community. Pure., ignorant,greed,it would seem, is the only motivator.
    There is great irony that it was the very predecesors who created with their homes the very ambience which makes this community such a “hot” real estate value for opportunist developers. They “eat our seed corn” without any consideration or remorse, and then move on like invasive rodents destroying attics.
    We should acknowledge that application lawyers only represent whether client wishes. Even so, when it comes to such lawyers who reside and prosper on the quality of Greenwich charm and value, perhaps, they might look to the long run in their career and reputation,
    and forgoe representing such rapacious and unconscionable clients.
    There is a certain pool of business in town which is constant and always flowing. A deep and fresh river, why pollute ones own life beverage?
    Chris vK

    • Diane Voigt

      I question why anyone would buy a house/property with this character if they did not intend to rejoice in it…care for it so it could pass to the next owner with the same affinity for historic homes. Here is a home that has been standing for over 250 years. Yes, it is old, the rooms are smaller on average than in a new home, and the closets could use custom racking. There were four children in our family, but each child could have a room of their own. There was still a guest room. And there is a full bath for every two rooms–albeit small ones, but very functional. Radiators give off wonderful heat in the winter. The walls are made of horsehair and brick, but I imagine new insulation could be blown in for a price. When that fan in the cupola runs, it cools down the house in summer beautifully in the evening. I think the charm and the beautiful front door go a long way toward making this house better than anything new on the market with a postage stamp piece of land around it. The Lockwood family built that house with integrity you don’t often see in modern homes. Your first paragraph says it all.
      Thanks, Chris.

  • Property owner.

    It’s Greenwich, the property values are sky high. Why not replace one historic building worth a few million. Once it’s gone and the Parcells divided, you will have two houses worth 5 times that amout. Greenwich needs to move from the past and embrace the future. Lay off undesirable employees and promote more wealth for the wealthy of the town. Who cares about the history of the town, it’s all about how much we can make off the real estate.

  • Efranz

    This is so sad. I have always loved this house and jumped at the chance to see it and make an offer as soon as I noticed it was on the market. Sadly, it seems that several others felt as I did, but none of us quite hit the mark when it came to offers.

  • Diane Voigt

    This is absolutely heartbreaking to me. My parents owned this beautiful house from 1960-1973 and took immaculate care of the property inside and out. It has so many exquisite features from the original wide floor boards and mouldings, and the mantels to the beautiful mahogany stair rail. At one time, you could see Long Island Sound from the cupola. The history is meaningful to our town. I so hoped that a buyer would come forth who possesses a love of history and beautiful architecture. Someone who would tastefully renovate the bathrooms and kitchens to bring them up-to-date. And those stone walls have history, too, being original to the Lockwood farm. Don’t destroy those! I feel blessed to have had parents who instilled a love of history, architecture, and landscaping in their children. I completely agree with Mr. VonKeyserling. I would also add that the present condition of the yard alone would deter any buyer. Maybe even the pool is a liability for a buyer? This house is gem begging to have her sparkle back. Please do not let it be destroyed or the property be subdivided.