Ernst House, 5 Elmcrest Terrace
This 1908 early Colonial Revival home is in great condition with beautiful interiors and is the last of its type in Norwalk. Originally slated for demolition to make way for additional surface parking for Norwalk Hospital, the Norwalk Preservation Trust worked with the Norwalk Redevelopment Agency and a private developer to encourage the Hospital to save the house. It is now beautifully restored both inside and out as condominiums.
Ernst House has an interesting history and illustrates Norwalk's role in the "Golden Age" of American growth. George G. Ernst was born in Malvern, Ohio in 1864 and came to Norwalk in 1893, forming a tobacco company called Graham, Kelsey and Ernst with members of his mother’s family. The company was located in South Norwalk and is thought to have manufactured cigars from Connecticut tobacco. He married Juliet Wyman (probably from Norwalk) and the couple built 5 Elmcrest to house their considerable collection of American antiques. Part of the collection was auctioned in 1926 by American Art Galleries in New York. According to the auction catalogue's introduction:
"…Quality was always the foremost consideration, but as in the case of all collectors, Mr. and Mrs. Ernst discovered that quantity was becoming a disturbing factor; wherefore, in 1908, they designed and built for themselves a large, spacious, and very elegant Georgian mansion, situated on the high ground on the outskirts of the flourishing old town of Norwalk, from which one can obtain a wonderful panoramic view of Long Island Sound and the surrounding countryside for a distance of some twenty miles. In the house itself, which has a delightful old world atmosphere, the main entrance hall was tastefully furnished with a large Duncan Phyfe sofa against the staircase and, at the opposite wall, a very charming Duncan Phyfe table of the rarest quality and possibly the only one of its kind in existence…"
The catalogue continues to describe the house and contents room by room. The interior still retains many of the fine features of the original.
Winthrop House, 166 Rowayton Avenue
In 2005, Norwalk Preservation Trust worked with the developer (Andrew Glazer), the Rowayton Historical Society, the Rowayton Community Association, and the Norwalk Planning and Zoning Office to return the exterior of this splendid summer Italianate hotel in the heart of Rowayton to its original 19th-century glory.
Built in 1848 by Charles L. Raymond along Five Mile River, Winthrop House was known as Fairview Hotel (1890 and 1900), Colonial Inn (1926), Pleasant Inn (1930), and Rowayton Inn (1935). It was also used as a private residence in the early 20th century. By 2004, it was a single-room occupancy hotel, with stucco covering the 19th-century clapboard exterior. The developer's original plan was to completely demolish the building. Instead, it was converted into three luxury condominiums and restored to its rightful place as a landmark beside Rowayton's Pinkney Park.
As NPT President Tod Bryant said when the renovation plans were approved, "The most important thing here was the willingness of Mr. Glazer to listen, to change his plans, a
nd to evolve it to the point that we reached today, where it truly is preservation. This is a really wonderful example of how preservationists and developers can work together." Norwalk Hour
Margaret Hoyt Smith House, 30 Highland Avenue
The Margaret Hoyt Smith House, an 1870 Victorian at 30 Highland Avenue, was demolished at the end of June 2006 to make way for 12 upscale homes. The house was the residence of Margaret Hoyt Smith, the first woman architect in Norwalk who designed many significant structures throughout the state. Architecturally, the home represented the classic Victorian style home that is fast disappearing all over the city.
The developer, while not keen on demolition of the well-built and elegant home, was not able to incorporate the existing Victorian house with the more modern architecture of the new homes planned for the site. The only option was to move the house. The Norwalk Preservation Trust and the Rowayton Civic Association worked to find a site and a way to move the large 3500 square foot structure. This proved unfeasible. Even though a site and a willing owner were found within a reasonable distance, the large house could not be moved down Highland Avenue without the loss of the mature trees that lined the street. Thus, in spite of the best efforts of the community, Norwalk lost another piece of its heritage.