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Third Annual Remarkable Homes Tour
Straw Hat Soiree

June 28, 2015

Please join us for one of the society’s most important fundraising events--a truly remarkable tour that gives access to five of Madison's most unique private residences. Each of the five homes reflects Madison’s diverse architectural heritage. Visitors can walk through the homes and wander the grounds at their own pace, and knowledgeable docents will answer any questions visitors may have.

Sitting atop a hill at the corner of Stonewall Lane and the Boston Post Road is the oldest home on this year’s tour, a nearly 4,000-square-foot salmon-colored Federal with black shutters and a low-lying fieldstone wall. Its owners have a passion for old homes, which is reflected in the many elements of the house they have carefully and thoughtfully restored. The heart of the home, the kitchen, is its oldest part, dating from the 1690s. The rest of the home has been expanded over time, with additions in every subsequent century. One of its many newer features is the Pool Room, which serves as a four-season family room. Its flagstone flooring and cantilevered doors bring the outdoors inside.

Visitors will enjoy three homes located in the Liberty Street Historic District. The John Augustus Willard House at 54 Liberty was built as a farmhouse in 1845. Its first owner set aside a portion of the property to allow the townspeople access to Long Island Sound through a tree-lined grove. The grove, now known as Grove Avenue, is still in use, although the beach has become private. The house is a grey Federal-style home that retains its period details while incorporating all the expected modern amenities. Its recently updated kitchen has an adjacent breakfast room that leads into one of two sunrooms, while the formal dining room opens into a later addition now used as a family room. The walled garden at the rear of the house features a koi pond and established perennial gardens of azaleas, irises, hostas, and a large Japanese red maple.

The yellow cape at 73 Liberty recalls an English cottage through its lush gardens and decorative detailing. Fittingly, this mid-eighteenth-century home is owned by an Englishwoman who hails from a long line of gardeners and is a practicing horticulturist with a garden design business. She and her husband believe that a cobbler may have been one of the house’s first residents, in part because they unearthed a wooden shoe-mold during a recent roof renovation. The mudroom-cum-utility room at the back of the house, with its wood floors, large sink, tile backsplash, and French doors, is a light-filled space ideal for repotting plants and reimagining outdoor landscapes. The beauty and charm of the interior are complemented by its outer gardens, which reflect the English sensibility of controlled chaos, sequential color, and flowering that offers something new each season. The arborvitae on the western edge of the garden were planted a century ago and are now shaped into a serene woodland tunnel offering shade on a hot summer day. The nineteenth-century carriage house at the end of the driveway now serves as a garage and tool shed. Preserving the property’s authenticity and charm during renovations was important to its owners, who purchased it in 2002.

The Billy Dowd House, built around 1794 and located at 100 Liberty, completes the trio. Sitting on three acres overlooking the Sound, this landmark home appears petite but actually boasts 4,000 square feet of living space. Meticulously restored, the white clapboard house features historic colored moldings, built-in cabinets, a piano room with blue paneled walls, wide plank hickory floors, and a large double fireplace original to the home. One of its many interesting architectural features in the “keeping room” is the oculus, a round ceiling cut-out, which is surrounded by a decorative railing and which allows natural light to filter down from the high windows. A nook in the family room includes a gaming table and an oil painting by contemporary artist Guy Philoche, who was inspired by the “Free Parking” square on a popular board game! The screened porch off the living room leads to a stone patio, perennial gardens, a sweeping lawn, and a freshwater pond. A stone smokehouse, also part of the original property, anchors an English knot garden.

Lastly, innovation and creativity, along with a healthy dose of thriftiness, are the hallmarks of architect Duo Dickinson’s raised home and barn at 945 Boston Post Road. What started as a 1,100-square-foot, one-room ode to small living has been thoughtfully expanded to accommodate a growing family. A whimsical outbuilding now known as the “Barn of Fun” was added to give two teenage boys space of their own. Located a few steps from the house, the barn features a three-story screened porch that utilizes thirty-two species of wood. Built on a budget over a decade, the barn is a showcase of salvaged and recycled objects, each of which has its own story. The house itself, built in 1984, features cedar shingles, a vaulted entry carport below the living spaces, and arched teak railings, reminiscent of a bridge, that lead to the front door. Two bedrooms added in 1989 bring the home up to 1,800 square feet. Despite its modest size, the home has an air of openness, enhanced by natural light that streams through a large bay window in the living room and by spectacular views of the tidal wetlands afforded by a wall of sliding glass doors.

Beginning at 11:00 am at the MHS office located at 14 Meetinghouse Lane, tour participants can collect program booklets that provide a map of the featured homes. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door and can be purchased online or by calling (203) 245-4567. Tickets for the Straw Hat Soirée can also be purchased online and are $100 per person. All proceeds benefit the Madison Historical Society and support its mission of preserving and protecting the town’s rich cultural and architectural history.

After the tour, the society offers its annual Straw Hat Soirée at a private home on the Madison green. The soirée features live music in a charming and beautifully landscaped setting. Guests will enjoy a hearty buffet of sliders, crab cakes, tacos, and hors d’oeuvres, plus an historically inspired punch and other refreshments. Throughout the soirée, guests can bid on a selection of silent auction items.

Tickets for both events are on sale NOW!

To purchase tickets online, please click on our GIVE NOW button to the left!

The Madison Historical Society is grateful for the corporate sponsorship of all five of Madison’s realty firms. The corporate sponsors are: Berkshire Hathaway Homes Services, Coldwell Banker, Page Taft/Christies, William Pitt Sotheby’s and William Raveis. In addition to providing docents for the homes on the tour, the sponsors serve on the steering committee and assist with all aspects of the planning and implementation of the event. We are indebted to them for helping the society continue its important work.


Madison Historical Society
14 Meetinghouse Lane
Madison, CT 06443-3155