Sunday, April 14, 2024


Old House School Lectures Return to Westport Historical Society

Hilary Stevens: Owners of antique homes have distinct needs. Contributed photo
With Westport teardowns at a record pace, a Westport Historical Society program spotlighting preservation of antique homes may not be more timely.

The group on Jan. 29 begins another year of its successful Old House School series with lectures and panel discussions highlighting the preservation and restoration of antique homes.

Hilary Stevens, creator of the event and a Westport-based Realtor with William Raveis Real Estate and Home Services, said antique homes comprise the bulk of the housing within Westport and surrounding towns.

Yet, she contends that antique homeowners are not recognized as a group with distinct needs and interests.

“In offering this series of lectures, the Westport Historical Society seeks to raise community awareness of the importance of preserving these historic homes, and in doing so, preserve the regions unique character,Ҕ Stevens said.

Stevens, a Society board vice president and a member of the National Trust, will serve as moderator of series, which will provide information and resources by well-known guest speakers from a diverse range of disciplines.

“We hope to deliver the information that antique homeowners need by mixing speakers from last year with a few new topics, she said. “I think this year will be even better than last.”

Joni Andrews, president of the Society’s board echoes StevensԒ sentiments.

Old House School is a perfect fit with the mission of the WHS to preserve, present and celebrate the history of Westport,” she said.

“Not only will the lectures educate on the history of house styles, furniture and landscape design, but they help the homeowner to know how to acquire, assess and renovate an antique home.”

The series will take place on Jan. 29, Feb. 12, and March 12, with three lectures per day at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m. All lectures will be held at Westport Historical Society at 25 Avery Place, Westport.

The series kicks off on Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. with “Old House: Home Inspection, Insurance and the Realtor,” which will cover topics including working with a realtor on buying or selling an antique home.

Moderated by Stevens, speakers will include Sandra Bravo of PLI Brokerage, Inc. who will speak on the unique insurance needs of antique homes, and Peter Seirup, the founder of Ridgefield-based Home Directions, who will speak on the antique home inspection process.

The series continues at 1 p.m. with “Assessing and Preserving Your Old House.” Stevens will address the different types of available designations. James Sexton, PhD, a consultant and writer for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, and Bob Weingarten of the Historical Society, will speak on historic structure assessment, preparing nomination forms, and researching house history.

At 3 p.m., architect David Preusch returns for the second year to speak on design planning and design choices when renovating an antique home with the presentation “Design Approaches to Renovating an Old House.”

On Feb. 12, local builder Michael Heslin will lead three panels with sub-contractors involved in the renovation process. Panelists include specialists in the areas of exteriors, mechanicals, and interiors such as roofing, woodwork and plumbing.

Panels will be held at 10 a.m. (“Caring for the Exterior of Your Old House”), 1 p.m., (“The Mechanicals of Your Old House”) and 3 p.m. (“Caring for the Interior of Your Old House”).

The final day of the Old House School on March 12 begins at 10 a.m. with Christopher Wigren, deputy director of the Connecticut Trust, speaking on identifying of house styles, from federal to Greek revival to Queen Anne and others, as he addresses “Identifying Period Building Styles.”

At 1 p.m., design historian Judith Gura addresses the “History of Furniture from Colonial to Colonial Revival.” Gura directs the design history program at the New York School of Interior Design, is an associate professor at Pratt Institute, and lectures on design and decorative arts for the Bard Graduate Center, ChristieӒs, Sothebys and other institutions.

At 3 p.m., popular landscape architect Sheila Wertheimer will bring Old House School 2005 to a close with a discussion of the history of landscape design entitled “Period Style Landscapes.”

Reservations can be made in advance and tickets will be available at the door on the day of each program as space permits. Ticket prices for WHS members are $15 for each single lecture, $35 for three, or $100 for all nine.

For non-members, tickets are $20 for each single lecture, $50 for three, and $130 for all nine. For more information, please call (203) 222-1424, x201 or visit

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