36 Mayo Avenue, at the gateway to Belle Haven, recently sold for $10,000,000 plus and the new owners now want to tear it down. The Greenwich Historical Society, naturally, objects, and seeks to “educate” the buyers on the merits of the house, in the hope of persuading them to rehabilitate the mansion rather than raze it. My response is, where were you when this place came on the market five years ago? Houses like this appeal or don’t appeal depending on taste: to me, it’s a large pile of unsightly rocks, a testament to too much money and too little taste belonging to an 1890’s textile merchant. And, although its former owner claims to be torn to pieces by the prospect that it’s destined for the dumpster, I note that he placed no restrictions on its sale; if he had, he’d never have sold it. The place was a dump, I’m sorry to say, and all the old molding and fantastic details did not outweigh the building’s obsolescence. I love old houses, and I’ve championed them in this column for many years, but this particular piece of architecture was ugly from its inception and has only grown uglier over the years. The new owners apparently hoped to resurrect it from ruin until they received cost estimates from their architect and builder and then decided to go for new. As Bruce Robertson, president of the Belle Haven Land Association said (quoted in Greenwich Time)” I don’t think anyone is going to be surprised [that it’s being replaced by a new home]….If done right, this could be a beautiful addition to the community”. This house is “historical” because it’s been here for 120 years, but I’m not at all convinced that it deserves another century. If the Historical Society disagrees, I ask again, where were they when the house sat unsold for so many years? The time to preserve old houses is just before or when they first come on the market. Don’t sit idle while these homes languish on the market and then bemoan their demise after the fact.
I just heard about this product, and it intrigues me. It’s sheetrock, sort-of, but designed with an interior layer that dissipates sound by converting it to energy (or something). When I worked as a builder during college vacations a long time ago, I know that my boss and his customers worked mightily to insulate powder rooms, kids music rehearsal rooms and whathaveyou from the living areas of the house, usually without effect. Thirty years on, technology appears to advanced and you can now hang a ½” panel that eliminates most sound. Seems a bit pricey – check it out by Googling “Quiet Rock” – but at around $40 a panel, it’s not excessive, considering the total cost of a renovation. I haven’t used it and I don’t know if any of my builder /clients have, but it seems worthy of investigation.
Two Nice Houses
There is nothing more subjective than real estate (see my comments about Mayo Avenue, above) but I really liked two new listings last week, 25 Stony Wylde Lane and 10 Sparrow Drive (off of Parsonage). The former is new construction by Jordan Saper and, I’ll confess, I usually don’t like his projects. That’s my loss, not his, as Mr. Saper designs and sells to the market and his houses sell instantly, at full price, and resell later for even more. He either hired a new architecht for the Stony Wylde project or the lot forced changes, but this house has some nice, quirky rooms jutting off at odd angles and it all feels much more cozy than some of his previous efforts. Again, that’s just my opinion: Mr. Saper builds an incredible house and his sales reflect that quality; if I don’t “get it”, whose fault is that? Anyway, I think almost anyone will like this one. Wilson Alling, New England Land Company, has listed it at $8,475,000.
Bryan Tunney, of Cleveland, Duble & Arnold, has listed a 1900 converted barn on Sparrow Lane for $5,200,000. It was renovated and expanded in 1997 and, considering its condition, its close-to-town location and its acre-and-a-half flat yard, I think it’s a good value. Five bedrooms, a million bucks each, what else do you want? Seriously (and this is serious money) this is a really nice house and it outshines many others in its price range.