NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- In a few years when Rachel Walsh reflects on living at 587 Brookside Road in New Canaan, she’ll remember the prairie shoes. Certainly other aspects of the historic six-bedroom home will also be recalled, but she’ll always remember the shoes.
Walsh, an agent for William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty and based in New Canaan, recently listed the home for $2,895,000.
In the midst of a recent kitchen remodeling project at the house, which was built in 1890, Walsh was surprised to discover a pair of 19th century women’s prairie shoes that were concealed behind a wall that was taken down during construction. “I called historical societies and museums in an effort to donate the shoes.’’ Walsh said. “But then one of the historians told me about the practice of leaving a personal belonging of the owner to bring good luck and fortune to the home. One historian called them 'spirit shoes.'"
Walsh removed the shoes from the wall while calling the historical societies but then coincidence or not, the Walsh's personal stock portfolio took a minor hit. "Needless to say, those shoes went back in the wall even though a new wall had already been constructed!'' Walsh said. "My builder thought I was nuts."
The shoe story is just one of the unique aspects of the house, which was originally built for two sisters. The house is sited near the Darien border and Walsh said the home originally was within Darien’s borders when the street was formerly called Gracie Street. “What we know about the house is due to many neighbors, past owners and local experts who told us that two sisters went to the south of France in the 1880s and came upon a house they loved,’’ Walsh said. “They found an architect to draw the house, came back to New Canaan and had it custom built. The sisters supposedly loved the idea of owning a truly one-of-a-kind house, and frankly, so do we.”
The house was originally sited on a 16 acre lot but then was inevitably sub-divided through the years. Walsh’s plot includes 1.33 acres and the house is sited perfectly to allow for maximum sun exposure and a huge backyard. In addition to the main house, there is the original Carriage House, which has a fully renovated first and second floor, new windows, heating, cooling and propane heat. The Carriage House also has a working greenhouse where Peter Walsh has grown delicious tomatoes for years.
"The main house has been a joy to own," Walsh said. "Unlike other homes we've lived in, this one has a sense of peace and welcoming to it."
The kitchen was taken down to its studs and is a result of 4 small rooms and a closet being combined. It allowed for the Walshes to maximize the space, keep the architectural integrity of the home and also keep a floor-to-ceiling original brick fireplace intact. Modern upgrades were also added such as granite counters, a ceramic farm sink, a separate dimpled nickel sink, SubZero refrigerator, built-in Miele coffee maker and a DCS chef’s range.
The main house includes five bedrooms. The master suite has a hallway with a bay window that overlooks a 200 year-old Copper Beech tree and a heated and cooled sleeping porch/sitting room flanked by a set of original arched windows. “It’s my favorite room in the house,’’ Walsh said. There is also a marble bath with shower and a walk-in closet.
There are two more bedrooms on the second floor and two additional bedrooms on the third floor, each floor with their own marble or limestone bath. The lower level includes an office or playroom, laundry room, powder room and an additional mudroom. There is a whole house generator which is less than 2-years old that also powers the Carriage House.
More unique features to the house include an open front porch with three front doors, and a pub room complete with a sink, wine refrigerator and wrap-around wood bar, tucked between the living and dining rooms.
Walsh and her husband, Peter, who raised three children in the home, worked diligently to preserve its heritage while also modernizing and updating it. Reclaimed flooring was sourced to match the antique fir floors where needed. There is also a newer roof, boiler, copper gutters, central air conditioning, bathrooms and windows, although Walsh said they kept any windows with unique architectural details or importance. “There isn’t an inch of the house that hasn’t been touched and improved’’ Walsh said. "It's been a labor of love."
The house includes triple arched doors and windows, and the property includes a large and level dry lot, inground heated pool, and mature plantings and trees, including numerous specimen trees such as a Weeping Hemlock.
“When I woke up in the house for the first time I felt like I knew where everything was and that I was meant to be there,’’ Walsh said. “As much as we chose the house, the house also chose us to be its keepers.”
Click here for the property listing. To arrange for a showing, contact Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 203-912-5908.