Pond Weed House: 300-year old Darien house’s history to be preserved
A 200-year-old Darien house’s preservation is the goal of several Darien and state organizations after its most recent owner died.
From its location perched on the edge of town on one of its busiest thoroughfares, the historic Pond Weed House has had a curbside view of the many iterations of Darien’s history — starting from its earliest days as a wooded outpost of Stamford.
Also known as the “House under the Hill” for its location near the steep corner of Boston Post and Hollow Tree Ridge Roads, the house, one of the oldest structures in Darien, is listed on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.
The most recent owner was the late Timothy D. Miller, who lived in the Pond Weed house for 33 years. With his passing, his estate representative, James Wojtal has been working with both the town and the Museum of Darien to study the structure in order to determine the best options for preserving as much of the house as possible.
This week, officials from Connecticut Preservation met with local officials, Wojtal and the future listing agent, Barb Hazelton of Houlihan Lawrence, to discuss strategies.
The Museum of Darien formed a committee to study the issue and members have consulted with many experts for guidance and advice.
“We are in the process of determining the best way to restore/revive the property and will be actively listing it on the MLS but also through Preservation CT and the CT Registry. We hope to identify a buyer that appreciates and values the home and can breathe new life into this remarkable antiquity,” Hazelton said.
Several months ago, the Museum hired one of the nation’s foremost experts in early New England architecture, Yale Historian James Sexton, Ph.D., to conduct an up-to-date thorough study of the house.
While a major study had been conducted in the 1970s as part of the application process for the National Historic Register listing, members of the committee felt the historic nature of the structure warranted having a paid expert visit for a review and recommendations, said Maggie McIntire, executive director of the Museum of Darien.
The report pointed out several significant architectural features of the house. On the second floor, there are several distinctive “gunstock posts,” so called because they were carved with a flair protruding outward at the middle of the post and extending to the top of the ceiling, resembling a rifle stock, Sexton wrote.
Most intriguing, however, is that the house combines architectural elements of both New England and Dutch styles, according to Sexton.
“This is really interesting because the actual location of the house adds to its historical significance,” said McIntire. “Not only is the house located in one of Darien’s first settlement areas near Holly Pond, but the fact that it stands in New England on the border of New York and combines both architectural styles, makes it even more historically relevant.”
Sexton’s report concluded that the house was built later than originally thought — the 1970s study determined the date to be circa 1690s, while Sexton dated it a circa 1730s structure. Sexton pointed to the lack of decorative features carved into the exposed wooden beams for the houses later date, because that indicates the beams were intended to be hidden behind plaster.
“This ambivalence about using the building’s frame as a decorative feature suggests that the building may have been constructed at the end of the first period, a name applied to years from settlement until ca. 1725 in coastal Connecticut,” Sexton wrote.
According to Sexton, the next step in the preservation process would be to hire a structural engineer specializing in historical wooden structures. However, the significant cost of the specialized engineering study proved to be a stumbling block for officials studying the privately-owned structure.
An example of early 18th century architecture, the house was built near the Noroton River, location of the town’s earliest settlements, when this area was part of Stamford. The land was first purchased in 1696 by Nathaniel Pond, “blacksmith of Branford” and later sold to Nathaniel Weed, also a blacksmith, and it remained in the Weed family for nearly two centuries.
Located very near the Historical Noroton Burial Ground, where many original settlers (including members of the Pond and Weed families) are laid to rest, much of the interior of the house is original and remains in-tact.
About the Museum of Darien
Established in 1953 as the Darien Historical Society, the Museum of Darien welcomes all ages to experience and discover the crafted objects, narratives and works of art that have shaped this community.
To learn more about supporting the town’s history, visit our website at www.museumofdarien.org or call us at 203-655-9233 For more information, visit: museumofdarien.org.