CLINTON — Sitting high upon a knoll, overlooking Long Island Sound, Gull Cottage is a Victorian era cottage that has withstood the test of time and New England weather for the last 140 years.
For the first time since 1935, the 3,566-square-foot home with direct waterfront, at 33 Shore Road, is up for sale for $1.2 million. This sale will mark the end of an era, with ownership transferring out of the Davidson family.
On Saturday, Nov. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the public will have the rare opportunity to visit the historic beach cottage, to learn about its architecture and history.
No parking is available. A shuttle will be running for the whole event from the Clinton Town Beach on Waterside Lane. Attendees are requested to RSVP by visiting www.cttrust.org/events or calling 203-562-6312.
The Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization whose mission in part is to promote the value of preserving historic places, is co-sponsoring the event as part of its “Open House Talks” held around the state in partnership with local realtors.
“It’s a shoreline cottage, it’s very well intact and there’s at least one other cottage on that street that has been recently demolished and so that’s always a concern of historic buildings that have really valuable land access,” says Jane Montanaro, executive director of the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation.
The trust was contacted by Realtor Mary Jean Agostini, Re/Max Right Choice, who felt the house deserved some historic recognition. Montanaro explains that it’s important for people, especially those interested in purchasing, to understand the house’s history.
“The current owner is only the second family to reside in the house and have been fantastic stewards,” says Montanaro. “We would love to see a similar preservation minded buyer take on that responsibility going forward.”
A presentation on the history and architecture of the house is planned for 12 p.m. with owner James Pollowitz, a Davidson family descendent, and Bob Bruch of the Adam Stanton House, a local museum providing a glimpse into 18th and 19th century life in a privileged New England family home. The event is co-sponsored by Agostini.
Built in 1880, the Victorian era house was owned originally by the Redfield family. Sturges Redfield was a president at Clinton National Bank and a local community leader and philanthropist.
In 1935, the home was sold to the Davidson family, founders of Davidson & Leventhal (D&L), Weathervane and J. Putnam department stores, whose descendants have owned it ever since.
The house was built as a Queen Anne Victorian, complete with a tower. It was originally a summer cottage and then winterized. Pollowitz explains that his maternal grandparents made changes, resulting in the current gambrel shingle style house.
He says that the late 1930s, early 1940s renovations occurred over the winter while the family resided in their New Britain home.
“My grandmother hired German craftsmen that were, I guess they had escaped Germany and they were here working and needed some jobs and they lived in the house all winter long, unheated, to do the renovations,” he says.
“It is a house that has been lived in, loved and changed to meet the needs of the family, but also reinterpreted to try to protect as much as the original as possible,” he says.
The original elements of the structure include very high ceilings, original moldings, two fireplaces with field stone chimneys and a stone foundation created from stones collected on the beach.
“The dining room window, which is today not considered that unusual, was probably was one of the largest plate glass windows, still there, that was ever put in a private home on the Shoreline,” Pollowitz says.
“Because my grandfather was in retail, he had glass suppliers and that was put in to really maximize the view,” he adds. “Then, it was really something quite amazing. It looks right out onto the water.”
It was this plate glass window that gave the family a unique view of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938.
“My grandparents literally sat at the dining room window watching some of the houses over at Clinton Beach, where it’s much lower, get taken out to sea,” says Pollowitz, sharing a family story.
“Because the house had gas, gas stove and so forth, it became sort of a center for people who were displaced,” he says. “They opened up the house and they were there for as long as they needed.”
It is the waterfront location that piqued Agostini’s interest.
“These waterfront homes are pretty precious,” she says. “Many people buy them and tear them down, so we’re really hoping that the next buyer buys because they love historic houses.”
While it is bittersweet, Pollowitz is looking forward to relocating to the Maine coast.
“It feels sort of like I’m abandoning the house and you know, it’s been so loved and to have it face an uncertain future is quite sad to me,” he says.
Yet, with changes in the area over the years he is ready to make the move.
“The neighborhood has really greatly changed,” says the 60-year-old. “It was so wonderful; Sturges Redfield was one of the founders of Clinton and he lived across the street, it (Gull Cottage) was his grandmother’s house and it was just a whole different variety of people and the values and the tastes have completely changed.
“Instead of trying to preserve these old homes so many of them have been demolished for huge McMansions on postage size lots in which they challenge the existing zoning laws and just the whole environment is not what it used to be,” he adds.
Pollowitz recalls spending summers at the home.
“It was a wonderful home for children growing up, not only because of the marvelous beach and the views, but the many rooms and passageways it was probably one of the best hide-and-go-seek houses you can imagine,” he remembers. “That was such a wonderful activity for the family on rainy days and sitting by the fire. Just wonderful, wonderful memories.”
Pollowitz is looking forward to sharing his family homestead with the public during the open house.
“It’s to really understand and to see the house that, as is, it’s a very livable place,” he says. “You don’t necessarily need all the modern en suite bells and whistles to make it a very livable, beautiful home.
“That it’s something out of another era and that is something that really is kind of rare on the shoreline,” he adds. “Some pieces are original to the house and to just have that intact is really a wonderful experience.”