This house is significant enough that it’s listed on the Connecticut Freedom Trail, which designates “sites that embody the struggle toward freedom and human dignity” and “celebrates the accomplishments of the state’s African American community.” So why is this particular property worthy of recognition? The designation honors Henry and Lyzette Munroe, a black farmer & his wife who built the house in 1806 — during a time when race slavery still existed in Connecticut. And that’s not a typo. Many people don’t realize that slavery existed in northern states (though on a much smaller scale than the South) well into the 1800s — and the census of 1800 still counted 951 slaves in Connecticut. Thus, the Munroes were bravely making their way in a world where the odds were stacked against them, building this house and creating a family farm some 55 years before the U.S. Civil War ended American slavery.
But the owner of the house applied last year to demolish it. Stating the 2,872 sqft house didn’t “suit the needs of a modern, growing family,” and that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he requested a waiver of the 180-day waiting period that is meant to deter owners from making rash decisions that destroy historically significant properties. Not only was that waiver denied, but a significant public outcry ensued locally and beyond. Still, despite the protests, many suspected the house would be bulldozed when the 180 days was up. But as the waiting period lifted, something interesting happened. According to a local newspaper, instead of demolition equipment rolling onto the lot, a “For Sale” sign was planted out front.
I applaud the owner for having a change of heart, no matter what the reason. But the situation is far from resolved. Someone else still needs to buy the property. The demolition permit has not been withdrawn, so technically, the house could still be in peril. Even though the real estate agent (Danna Rogers) says this isn’t the owner’s intention, she also flippantly asserts that preservationists should “stop complaining and buy it.” I hope someone does.
Here’s the thing — it’s a really nice house! Frankly, based on the owner’s initial desire to trash the building, I expected a cramped, rustic house with creaky boards and low beams to knock your head on. But the place is actually quite appealing and very updated (check out the pics below), featuring a nice combination of older features and modern, stylish conveniences. Located at 108 Cross Highway, the house offers 4 BRs, 2.5 baths, over 2,700 sqft, 3 fireplaces, “lush grounds,” and a renovated barn with living quarters that might be rent-able. That said, keep in mind that this is in Westport, CT — a swanky town on Connecticut’s “Gold Coast” north of New York City. As such, the price tag is relatively hefty at $1,085,000 (listing here). Still this is less than the owner paid, and pretty reasonable for that area, I think. Photos: