The main barn on Elmstead Lane dates back to before the Revolution. Plans are afoot to preserve it as a single-family home. / Photo by Thane Grauel.
The main barn on Elmstead Lane dates back to before the Revolution. Plans are afoot to preserve it as a single-family home. / Photo by Thane Grauel.

By Thane Grauel

WESTPORT — Some of the oldest barns in town can be found on Elmstead Lane, a short road between Morningside Drive South and Turkey Hill South.

The street has only one address, its latest house dating back to 1781, and three barns perhaps dating to 1771.

The barns predate the American Revolution — before America was America, and before Westport was Westport.

They were set ablaze during British Gen. William Tryon’s infamous raids on civilian homes after the colonials had the nerve to declare independence. The original home was burned past repair. A new house was built.

Portions of the main barn on Elmstead survived the torching, an architect believes, and now he and other professionals are helping plan a much kinder alteration to the historic structure than the lobsterbacks had in mind way back when.

Plans are afoot to dismantle the main barn, catalog each piece of lumber, and repurpose it for single-family home on a one-acre, divided lot.

The Historic District Commission and Architectural Review Board will hold a joint meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 6, to discuss the plans.

Gloria Gouveia of Land Use Consultants is representing the owners. Duncan S. Milne, of Durham, Conn., is the architect.

“Let me just say that these three barns may be the most historically significant barns left in Westport,” Gouveia told the Historic District Commission at a pre-application hearing in April.

The barns’ significance also is noted on Preservation Connecticut’s Historic Barns of Connecticut page.

“Duncan tells me on the basis of his examination of the building that he’s quite sure that a portion of the barn has actually survived Gen. Tryon’s raid,” Gouveia said, “which many hundreds of structures did not, most of them homes and barns, so this is really an iconic property.”

Milne said the intent is to save the building — and save the history.

“This barn will be remade, and largely reconstructed as a home to be sold,” Milne said.

One of Westport's oldest barns, on Elmstead Lane. / Photo by Thane Grauel.
One of Westport’s oldest barns, on Elmstead Lane. / Photo by Thane Grauel.

He noted it has a rough stone foundation, 200-plus years of wear and tear, and was made for animals, not people.

Still, he said, it’s “very salvageable, and quite wonderful.”

Thane Grauel, executive editor, grew up in Westport and has been a journalist in Fairfield County and beyond more than three decades. Reach him at editor@westportjournal.com. Learn more about us here.