New Canaan Now & Then: The Valentine Estate


The Valentine Estate, present-day LeeFair Condominiums. Photo courtesy of the New Canaan Museum & Historical Society

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

The LeeFair Condominiums on South Avenue have an interesting history. The original home, which was often referred to as “The Valentine Estate,” was built for Luciano Fabbricotti and his wife, Sarah Frances Moller Fabbricotti. 

Ms. Fabbricotti, born on November 15, 1861, was the daughter of John “The Commodore” Moller and Louise Moller. John Moller was born in 1837 and died in 1923 in New Rochelle, N.Y. He was in the sugar industry. Luciano Fabbricotti was born in 1861 to Otavian and Adele Fabbricotti.  The Fabbricotti family controlled the Cerrera marble industry in Italy. They had one son, Luciano Jr., born in 1888. He married Stella Goldstein Fabbricotti and died in 1910 at the young age of 21 in North Carolina. The Fabbricottis made 210/213 South Avenue their family home for many years. 

After Luciano’s death, Sarah Fabbricotti lived in the house for a short time and then spent her summers as a resident of the Ardsley Inn. When she died on August 13, 1932 she left $50,000 in charitable donations. 

Between 1905 and 1910, the Valentines bought the big yellow Victorian on the corner of South Avenue and Bank Street. Myra Ball Valentine was born on February 17, 1874. Ms. Valentine was the daughter of Theodore Searing Valentine, who was born in 1844 and died in 1915. His father was Myers Valentine,who had a childhood home that is currently on the historic register in Roslyn, N.Y. Myra Valentine’s mother was Anna Clark. The Valentines were a prominent family in Roslyn before they moved to an apartment in New York. It has been speculated that Ms. Valentine was the heir of the Valspar fortune (a clear varnish) which was developed by Lawson Valentine Pulsifer, grandson of Lawson Valentine of Minneapolis.

The Valentine property had barns, cottages, greenhouses and extensive gardens. Originally the family came to New Canaan just for the summer months but eventually became year round residents. 

After the death of her parents, Myra lived on the property alone. Ms. Valentine was ahead of her time, having a keen business sense and serving as treasurer for her father’s business in New York, which required her to commute to the city three times a week. Her commute involved driving a team of horses to the Talmadge Hill Station where a groom would return the horses to her property and return at the end of the day to retrieve Ms. Valentine, who would drive the team home. 

In November 1952, Myra Valentine was the president of the New Canaan Bird Protective Society and she was instrumental in raising enough money to purchase a 12-acre parcel of land off of Wahackme Lane to be named the Henry Kelly Sanctuary. Mr. Kelly was a longtime educator and town official in New Canaan. Ms. Valentine, along with her resident gardener, A.V. Carver won prizes for their horticulture prowess. Valentine and Carver won first prize for violets and second prize for vegetables in the Greenwich Horticulture Show in 1916. Mr. Carver won second prize for his table decorations from the Stamford Horticulture Society.  

Ms. Valentine was the President of the Garden Club from 1920-1922. In 1922 she won first prize for the Big Dahlia Show at the New York Botanical Garden which covered one hundred and fifty square feet of space and displayed 85 varieties of dahlias. Among the varieties was the “Myra Valentine” which is a copper rose in color. Apparently her purple cauliflower was also a sure bet at the horticulture shows. Additionally, Ms. Valentine was instrumental in organizing the New Canaan Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve on Old Stamford Road. She served as treasurer and then as president of the New Canaan Audubon Society (formerly the Bird Protective Society), retiring when she was 80 years old. 

Ms. Valentine also was a supporter of the Parks Commision, the Community Orchestra and local hospitals. Ms. Valentine held two orchestra seats to the Metropolitan Opera and traveled to the opera no matter the weather. She was the quiet patron of some young artists and musicians. 

Ms. Valentine lived a jet-setting life, sailing to Florence in 1928, and then off to Paris for four months in June 1929. She continued to be an avid traveler throughout her long life, traveling to Europe many times as well as Japan and Africa. Her last long trip was to South America with a niece at the age of 83. Ms. Valentine spoke both German and French and took her own home movies of her travels. Her friend, Helen Bristow remarked upon her death that it was a shame that the younger generation did not know her. 

In November 1953 the Board of Selectmen offered Ms. Valentine and her neighbor, J. Kelley Johnson, and the Veteran’s Club $148,000 for their property to build the new high school which totaled 15 acres. The Board also extended an offer for the 39 acres that was owned by Irene Kiel as was formally a polo field. Johnson and Valentine declined the offer stating that their properties were not for sale. Kiel believed the price was inadequate. 

The Valentine property remained in Myra Valentine’s possession until April 1972 when the Stamford Advocate described the real estate deal as “the most expensive land deal in the history of the town.” The real estate, which was a proposed site for 70 condominium units, included 11.5 acres of land on South (7 acres belonged to Valentine and 4.5 belonged to J. Kelley Johnson). The market value was estimated to be $1.224, with Johnson’s property being worth $430k and Valentines worth $794k. Planning and Zoning approved the subdivision of the Johnson property and New Canaan Builder Johnson Lee reported in 1972 that he was holding an option on the purchase of the Valentine property. There were concerns about storm drainage at the time which caused at least one competitor, Charles Cornell of Wilton, to drop his option. 

Johnson Lee purchased the property from the estate of Myra Valentine in March 1974 and in July 1974 the property was transferred to the LeeFair  Inc.

5 thoughts on “New Canaan Now & Then: The Valentine Estate

  1. I wonder what Mrs. Valentine’s travel time from South Avenue to the City was — noticeably less than now, I’d bet.

  2. Myra Valentine’s estate was on the corner of Park and Old Stamford Road, within easy walking distance to Bristow Park – New Canaan’s Bird Sanctuary and Wildwood Preserve. Myra was President of the Bird Protective Society for many years and oversaw the protection of over 40-acres of bird sanctuaries in our Town. We all owe Myra a debt of gratitude for her conservation efforts.

  3. I remember Miss Valentine’s huge Christmas tree, lit with what seemed like thousands of lights to a little kid, being a highlight of the holiday season growing up.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *