‘A Beacon of New Canaan History’: Closely Watched Valley Road Antique Hits Market at $2.25 Million


A ca. 1750 home that New Canaan open space advocates and historic preservationists have been watching closely for several months hit the market this week at $2.25 million.

1124 Valley Road. Credit: Michael Dinan

1124 Valley Road. Credit: Michael Dinan

The “Grupe-Nichols-Brown House” at 1124 Valley Road—itself a well-preserved antique structure—also sits on 4.43 acres adjacent to a large, accessible New Canaan Land Trust property that fronts Grupes Reservoir. It’s owned by the first taxing district of Norwalk.

Chris Schipper, president of the Land Trust, called the house “a beacon of New Canaan history.”

“It has stood there for over 250 years and is at the center of what was once a 200-acre farm that extended all the way across the Wilton line, so it is definitely an important preservationist property,” Schipper said.

Because it sits beside the 10.3-acre W. Pritchard Browne Wildlife Sanctuary, it also “holds the key to the Grupes Reservoir ‘viewshed,’ ” Schipper said, meaning it’s positioned in a way to help preserve scenic beauty (and that’s a priority of the town—see the Scenic Resources Map on page 17 of the Plan of Conservation & Development).

“I clearly believe that there is a coalition of forces in New Canaan—historic preservationists, open space advocates, conservationists and the Land Trust—that all have an interest in seeing this property preserved,” Schipper said. “Interestingly enough, the first taxing district is known in Norwalk for its water and parks, so they should understand our interest in trying to preserve this open space.”

Here’s a map showing where the property is located—the Land Trust property is the long parcel directly north of it—article continues below:

The first taxing district of Norwalk purchased the property in February 2006 for $2.25 million, thinking that it may serve as a future treatment plant site, officials have said. Now, it’s listing the property at the same price.

Asked how he settled on the for-sale figure, James Fulton, the district’s attorney and owner of the parcel, as trustee, said: “Because I think that is what the property is worth.”

Open space advocates in town have said they’d be interested in pursuing a preservation easement for the property.

Under New Canaan Zoning Regulations, a special permit may allow for a variance of up to 75 percent in order to preserve a historic structure. Given that the allowable coverage of the parcel at 1124 Valley Road is the equivalent of about 9,461 square feet, officials say, and the existing footprint of the home itself is about 1,400 square feet, an owner could develop the property in a way that exempts the existing building and allows it to remain as a guest house or something similar.

Asked whether it’s important to him to see the property under ownership of the Land Trust and preservation-minded people, Fulton said: “The person who offers me the most money for the property is going to become the new owner. And I would not mind it at all if it were these people.”

Fulton is in no special hurry to sell it, he said.

“I want the property to be on the market for a sufficiently long period of time that a lot of people get exposure to it, that a lot of people get to see it and that a lot of people get the opportunity to offer me $2.25 million for it. In a nutshell, I am not in any big rush to sell the property. I have an obligation to my client and the electors of the first taxing district to get a good sale as opposed to a quick sale.”

Regarding the price tag, Schipper said: “Our sense is that it is only worth what the next potential offer would be.”

“The market will rule on this one, whether there is a fair market price on it or not,” he said.

According to research completed by Mimi Findlay, chairman emerita of the nonprofit New Canaan Preservation Alliance, the Grupe-Nichols-Brown House is a very important antique structure. Situated near the road, with a well in front, it now includes 3,200 square feet of living space and four bedrooms, though it isn’t clear whether the saltbox rear is original to it, according to Findlay.

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