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Madison Historical Society’s Tour of Remarkable Homes

The Madison Historical Society will host its seventh annual Tour of Remarkable Homes on Sunday, June 23, 2019, from 11 am to 4 pm. The self-guided tour will feature three historic homes and two contemporary homes. One landmark property once served as a local gas station, and another was the backdrop for summer plays and legendary Halloween parties. One of the two contemporary homes hugs the banks of the Neck River, and the other lies just steps from Long Island Sound. This highly anticipated event offers visitors the rare opportunity to peek inside some of Madison’s most spectacular private residences.

A contemporary shingle-style home on the banks of the Neck River is a coastal oasis with old-world charm. The current owners bought the land with an existing foundation and, with the help of Point One Architects in Old Lyme, created a comfortable retreat for their family of five and three Jack Russell terriers. The 4,400-square-foot home with an attached two-car garage features coffered ceilings, hardwood floors, and a wall of south-facing windows on the main level. An expansive eat-in kitchen has a large center island, a wood-fired pizza oven, and marble-topped counters above Shaker-style cabinets. The neutral tones of grey, light blue, and off-white used throughout the house feel like an extension of the outdoors. The first-floor master bedroom connects to an ensuite bathroom featuring a soaking tub and a separate shower surround, accessed via a hallway of built-in closets.

A gracious staircase with a Craftsman-style newel post leads to the second floor. The upper level features four bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Also here is a family game room with a balcony with a hot tub and ipe hardwood decking. A small outbuilding located just steps from the main house offers a workout room on its lower level and another family space with a bar and full bath on the second floor. This gorgeous riverfront home is a hidden gem.

The 1897 Swiss chalet-style home known as “Oakledge” was named for an ancient oak tree that once grew on the property. Designed by Madison architect A. B. Willard for George and Mary Wilcox, the house was built on an estate that originally encompassed all the land on both sides of Island Avenue from the Boston Post Road to the Sound. The home was considered the cultural center of Madison for decades. Constance Wilcox, the only child of George and Mary, founded one of the nation’s first summer theater groups, which performed in an open space behind the home. Many charitable events, club meetings, and social gatherings—including Constance’s wedding to an Italian prince—were also held on the grounds.

The nearly 3,500-square-foot home is the perfect blend of old and new. A generous wraparound mahogany porch and original casement windows with diamond-shaped panes add to the charm of the house. The current owners have updated the architect’s design by reconfiguring the front stairs to allow for a first-floor half bath. New crown molding has been added throughout the home, and a new mantle adorns the living room fireplace, flanked by custom bookshelves filled with antique books. The eat-in kitchen has a French bistro flair, with its white tile backsplash and brass and glass shelves mounted above its sink. Dramatic landscaping improvements complete the refreshed scene here. The owners removed several trees to provide more sunlight; they installed a fieldstone patio with comfortable seating surrounding a fire pit; and they built a potting shed for garden tools. The history of Madison is intertwined with the history of Oakledge, beautifully restored to its former glory.

Built on a corner lot, the charming early-nineteenth-century yellow colonial with black shutters is known as the Zenas Wilcox House. Visitors enter the home through a mudroom and eat-in kitchen that were added in the mid-1980s. The current owner, wanting the new spaces to flow with the antique character of the house, used beams from an Ohio barn to support the addition’s vaulted ceiling. She used reclaimed chestnut boards from a Connecticut farmhouse to create its floor. The cover of a book of family recipes, published by the owner’s grandmother, inspired a brick surround that houses a stove that divides the space. The custom kitchen was built by local cabinet maker Thomas Korn. Much forethought and attention to detail was given to the design and use of the space. The detail of his artistry is apparent everywhere, as seen in the small cabinet above the poured-concrete counters; a stowaway space for small appliances, it features a lovely reticulated pull-down shelf lined with tin.

The dining room was completely reimagined by the owner to reflect the home’s historic past. Again Korn worked his magic. He installed a Federal-style corner cabinet that houses a collection of antique porcelain, and he made raised-panel floating millwork, painted in a traditional grey/blue. The property is situated across from a horse pond where locals enjoying frogging in the warmer months and ice skating in the winter. Located on just over an acre of land, the home also features a heated pool, a sunroom, and a porch that utilizes stone repurposed from an earlier foundation.

The cedar-shingled contemporary colonial with deeded beach rights was completely redesigned by its current owners. Built in 1945, the house was expanded in the late 1990s and brought down to the studs for its most recent renovation. The 3,150-square-foot home features an open floor plan. The living room, with sixteen-foot vaulted ceilings, opens onto a limestone patio. In springtime, this space is transformed into a garden oasis. Banana trees in concrete containers are placed around the perimeter of the generously sized patio, offering visitors opportunities to relax in relative privacy.

The kitchen has a central island topped with limestone counters. Dark walnut cabinetry is offset by stainless steel appliances and the white oak floors that are used throughout the house. The owner’s flair for design is seen in surprising and delightful accents.. The first-floor workout room, for instance, features feather wall hangings that look like flowers and a collection of sepia-toned images from the Far East, while a guest bedroom has industrial tools that have been made into lamps. Among the most interesting aspects of the home are the two staircases that flank the living room. Original to the house, they lead to “wings” designed as separate entities—one side for the adults, the other for the owner’s eight grandchildren. One bedroom features a weathered wooden room divider that now serves as a headboard, while the kids’ space has an impressive acacia coffee table in front of a large wrap around sectional sofa that doubles as a bed. Located steps from the beach, this shoreline retreat uniquely showcases the owner’s design skills in a comfortable, casual setting.

The circa 1874 Greek Revival known as the William T. Graves House features an arched gable window and a front staircase banister, both typical of this architectural style. Until 1957, this landmark property located on the corner of the Boston Post Road and Liberty Street served as a small gas station and candle shop, complete with pumps, outhouses, and an oil barn. Multiple additions and renovations have taken place over the years, with major improvements in 2004 and 2018. The husband-and-wife team behind HGTV’s Former Glory completed the most recent renovations, with Gulick & Co. Renovation Contractors leading the construction and Smith & Madison Designs providing the interior design. Additionally, TEC Landscape Design rerouted the driveway and enclosed the backyard to orient the property toward Liberty Street and away from the Boston Post Road.

The owners’ love for Swedish design is reflected in the calm, light-filled retreat the team created for the family. Classic finishes, a neutral palette, and layered textures are found throughout the home, which mixes Swedish antiques with contemporary furnishings. Cherished collections are highlighted throughout the home. Rare books and castle lithographs are displayed in the sitting room, and Winnie-the-Pooh prints from the 1930s hang in the upstairs den. The third-floor home office has a signed Rolling Stones guitar and an extensive selection of Stones-themed books and art.

The kitchen features Shaker style cabinets, caesarstone countertops, a spacious pantry, and a custom island. In the living room, French doors flow seamlessly out to the screened porch with a gas fireplace for cozy enjoyment all season. Upstairs, the master suite is flooded with natural light, and the beams spanning the cathedral ceiling are fitted with up-lighting to cast a warm glow at night.

Tour tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door and can be purchased at Walker Loden locations, online at www.madisonhistory.org, or by calling (203) 245-4567. A program book with a map of the featured properties can be collected the morning of the event at 14 Meetinghouse Lane on Madison’s historic green. All proceeds benefit the Madison Historical Society and support its mission of preserving and protecting the town’s rich cultural and architectural history.

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