New Canaan Now & Then: Calvin Kiessling House


1 Wahackme Lane.

‘New Canaan Now & Then’ is sponsored by Brown Harris Stevens Realtors Joanne Santulli, Karen Ceraso, Bettina Hegel and Schuyler Morris.

The stone house at 1 Wahackme Lane was built in 1930 by architect Calvin Kiessling. Mr. Kiessling was born in Boston and practiced there for a few years. He moved to New Canaan in 1921 and, a year later, spearheaded an effort to rebuild part of the business section of town to make it more attractive.

The Colonial Revival Style that Kiessling favored is evident in the New Canaan Playhouse and the bulk of modern day Elm Street. Mr. Kiessling enjoyed great acclaim for the work he had done on two historic homes in both “The Architect” in 1924 and “House and Garden” in 1927. 

Kiessling designed his own home at present day 1 Wahackme Lane. Wahackme Lane itself did not officially open until 1946 and was known as Wahackme Woodlands Lane. The 1938 Fairfield County Atlas showed a dirt road with the thirteen acre Lucy J. Smalley Estate at one end and the residences of William Lusk and C.D. Andrews flanking the path. Kiessling chose a Cotswold cottage style of stone and slate for his own home. The house had an unusually open plan for the era: a shallow vestibule faces a wide set of steps to a great hall with a stone fireplace in the center of the house and built in bookshelves. Opposite the fireplace is a barn-like two story living room. The dining room overlooks a garden and there is a large bay window. The children’s areas are separated from the adult sleeping quarters and the bedrooms are on different levels. It is interesting that the open floor plan and multiple levels would become characteristics in future decades when the Modern architects built homes in New Canaan. The original site plans also included two parallel garden beds and straight walkways and show the attention Kiessling devoted to an orderly exterior in addition to his well thought out interior.

In the mid-1950s the home was purchased by Gilbert Stanley. Mr. Stanley and his wife, Louise, had lived in New Canaan for 15 years before they moved to Wahackme Lane. Mr. Stanley worked as an investment adviser for Auchinloss, Parker and Redpath in their satellite office on Cherry Street. Mrs. Stanley started her professional life as a singer and was a member of the Brahms Quartette that toured the country but her interest in piano was so great that she made it her primary focus. In 1948, she was involved in the formation of the PTA sponsored Glee Club in New Canaan. She was a member of the group “The Four Louises” that performed in local venues. Mrs. Stanley also performed at the library’s first musical song recital in 1947. In 1960, she joined the faculty of the Wykeham Rise School in Washington Connecticut as head of the music department. Their son, Gilbert Jr,. was recruited as a scholar athlete to play football and hockey at the Kent School. He went on to play these sports at Middlebury College and earned a masters degree in history from Dartmouth College after he served in the United States Marines. Gilbert devoted his life to working in private education, spending 32 of his 45 year career at the St. Mark’s School in Southborough, Massachusetts. He was considered a gifted painter and musician. He died in 2020. 

 Mrs. Stanley began performing with her second husband, Andrew M. Heath. Mr. Heath founded the music department at Fairfield University. By the 1980s, she had joined her husband on the faculty as a music teacher and voice coach. She died in 2000. Her second husband died in 2005.

On June 1, 1966, 1 Wahackme Lane was purchased by Arthur Boylston Nichols III. Mr. Nichols graduated from Harvard in 1948 and was a cofounder of the Krokodiloes, the original a cappella group at Harvard. He married his wife, Frances Adams, in 1949 in Orleans Massachusetts. Mr. Nichols graduated from Harvard Business School in 1958 and moved to New Canaan. He worked initially for McKinsey & Co. and then worked for the Celanese Corporation, becoming the Director of Quality Control. Mr. Nichols was involved in the community and served as Chairman of the Board of New Canaan Country School, and President of the Little League, Winter Club, Nature Center, Waveny Care Center, and the Country Club. In 1963, he performed with the Town Players production of the “Music Man.” Mr. Nichols died in 2011 at the age of 85. Frances Nichols was involved in the Women’s Group of the First Presbyterian Church, served on the board of the Waveny Care Center, and belonged to the Garden Club for 40 years. She died in 2007 at the age of 79. 

In June 2012, the property transferred from Arthur B. and Peter B. Nichols to the current owners. Additionally, Daniel G. Johnson is listed as the seller of property at the same address. He was an estate planner in Stamford. The new owners were committed to keeping the integrity of the house. In 2014 they were honored with the highest award for preservation from the New Canaan Preservation Alliance celebrating the modernization of  essential aspects of the home that did not alter the exterior.

4 thoughts on “New Canaan Now & Then: Calvin Kiessling House

  1. My husband Rich and I are the proud owners of 1 Wahackme Lane. Thank you for the beautiful article on our one of a kind home. The amount of compliments and questions we receive on our home are endless. We have raised our two daughters here and they love it as well. In fact, we have almost sold it a few times, but could never go through with it because nothing could ever compare to our unique and special home. We are honored to have received our award from the New Canaan Preservation Alliance and look forward to taking care of our home for many years to come. Thank you again!
    Gretchen & Rich Fedeli

  2. Wow! What a historically rich home you live in! I’m so glad you chose to keep the integrity of your home as originally planned. Some day I would love to see it.❤️

  3. My brothers and I grew up in that house and the open floor plan made it such an exciting and unique design for its time. It’s the kind of architectural expression that happens when an architect designs his
    own dwelling, ie Glass House.

    Maybe due to an issue of space or insufficient primary information, the house actually went to the three of us Arthur Nichols, Peter Nichols and Christina Nichols… my name was left out.

    FYI My husband and I live in a New Canaan mid century modern, recognized by the National Register of Historic Places.

    Thank you,

    Christie Nichols

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