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Time Machine

When old becomes new again



When Melanie Marks says her husband Eugene “bought the farm,” she means it. In 2007, the couple purchased their home, an 18th-century farmhouse on Redding Road that sits on 18 acres in Greenfield Hill and Easton. Stepping into their house is like being transported back in time. But getting there was no easy task.

Marks, a historic research consultant and professional genealogist, learned of the house after a friend asked her to document the property for the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. It was for sale and being marketed as a teardown. They wanted to get it listed as an endangered property to rescue it from demolition. Marks says that she took her husband with her when she went to photograph the property. At the time, they were living in an antique salt box on Bronson Road with their children Jenn and Joe. Soon after, her husband came home and told her he’d purchased the dilapidated farmhouse. “If I didn’t have a heart attack then, I’m never going to,” Marks says.

Marks, who researches other people’s homes through her business Connecticut House Histories, was determined to preserve the character of her own. She and her husband set about returning it to its roots with the help of Danbury-based contractor Jim Basli of Basli Construction and John Rountree of Rountree Architects in Westport. While they took care of physically bringing the house back to its former glory, Marks says she got a unique look into the home’s past thanks to 98-year-old Easton resident Winifred “Winnie” Steckles Kent. As a girl, Kent worked for the previous owners, Henry and Augusta “Minnie” Witzke, and she told Marks all about them and the home. In 1909, the Witzkes bought the property and turned the home into a boarding house. Marks says they added partitions upstairs to make extra rooms for guests. Their son Jacob, who lived in the house until his death in 2006, later moved to the first floor and the second floor was converted into an apartment for his daughter and son-in-law.

The Markses did make some 21st-century changes of their own, but mainly, they just put things back to the way they would have been when the home was built, allegedly in 1785. They returned a staircase to its rightful place, restored the three-sided chimney, exposed beams, and basically fixed things from top to bottom. “Practically every inch of this house was touched in some way, but we tried to keep as much as possible original,” Marks says. “Where we could keep the floors, we did. Where we couldn’t keep the floors, we took, there was a whole stash of barn wood in the barn and my contractor ripped things down and made new floors out of old barn wood.” Some of their flooring was also made out of reclaimed lumber from a mill in Wilton. “That’s why there’s lots of you know, knots and things in it. I didn’t want new.”

She also didn’t want new when it came to the other buildings on the property; a carriage house the Witzkes converted into an apartment and a barn that she especially wanted to preserve. The Markses put siding on their barn to stabilize it and put on a new roof, but they kept the inside the same. “I know some people, when they get old barns, they take them down to just the framing,” Marks says. “I just couldn’t do that because these boards were just absolutely amazing.” The scribe ruling on the wood used to make their barn is one reason the historic researcher believes her house is older than its listing age. She says it was used to determine the English barn was built around 1769, and it’s unlikely the barn would have been built nearly 20 years before the house. Marks, tapping into what she does best, did some digging and traced the house back to Eleazer “Eli” Sherwood. However, she says Sherwood wasn’t born until 1801, so she thinks the home actually belonged to his in-laws Jonathan and Abigail Banks. One unburied clue pointing her in that direction? The Markses found Abigail’s head stone in their cellar. “I’m beginning to believe that this was their house and when Jonathan died, Mom was still living and daughter Anna Caroline was the baby and she married Eli, and I think they moved in here,” says Marks. She hopes one day to get to the bottom of her home’s history in between her many other projects.

The frenetic pace of her schedule is how she got the name for one of her latest endeavors, beekeeping. She started making honey under the name Busy Bee Farm because a friend nicknamed her Mrs. Busy Bee. “He said, ‘Your house is like a bee skep. People are always flying in and flying out.’ And it just stuck.” You can purchase her honey at the Greenfield Hill Farmers Market, where she says the man who tended her back garden for the last two years, David Hacker, also sold her produce. There’s a garden in the front of the home as well, which Marks says you would have seen during the 1700s. “My front garden is what they would have called a kitchen garden, and that’s where they would have had all their herbs. So I have an herb garden out front, and mostly heirloom plants, flowers out there that are all bee-friendly. Have to keep them happy too.”

Between the bees, preservation work, historic research and connecting people to their families’ pasts, Marks is constantly on the go, but she says she and her husband feel like they can truly relax when they’re home. “It’s just such a different feel up here. I’m still in Fairfield, but I feel like I’m in the country.”

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January 2019

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
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Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

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In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

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The Imagination Movers are a rock band for families and the Emmy-winning stars of a hit TV series seen worldwide on the Disney Junior channel. There are 76 episodes of "Imagination Movers...

Cost: $22.50 - $70.00

Where:
Wall StreetTheater
71 Wall Street
Norwalks, CT  06850
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Sponsor: Wall Street Theater
Telephone: (203) 831-5004
Contact Name: Jeanne Moore
Website »

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World-renowned medium Thomas John is a trusted advisor to influencers and celebrities, including Courteney Cox, Sara Gilbert and Goldie Hawn. He stars on Lifetime’s “Seatbelt...

Cost: See Website

Where:
Ridgefield Playhouse
80 East Ridge Road
Ridgefield, CT  06877
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Telephone: 203-438-5795
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Show More...
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Wednesday, January 16, 12:30 – 1:30pm: Country Acres & Cul de Sacs in Connecticut: 1938 - 1952 Join Dr. Jay Gitlin, history professor at Yale University and Fairfield Museum curator Laurie...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Sleep is the pillar of solid physical and mental health. The science of sleep has made strides in recent years due to advanced medical technology, and the results of sleep deprivation are sobering....

Cost: free

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
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Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

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Join us to explore adventures in stories about Alice in Wonderland, animals, and games!

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce is hosting its annual 2019 Economic Outlook Breakfast at the Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield on Thursday morning, January 17th (Snow date: January 18th). ...

Cost: Chamber Members: $40 Non-Members (Public): $50

Where:
Brooklyn Country Club
500 Algonquin Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
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Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Contact Name: Krista
Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Dr. Dan Villiers, co-founder of the Anxiety Institute in Greenwich, Conn., will give a free talk titled In the Trenches: Family Impact and Parenting Strategies for Anxiety and OCD. Dr....

Cost: 0

Where:
Greenwich Town Hall
101 Field Point Road
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: NAMI Southwest CT
Telephone: 203-400-6264
Contact Name: Karen West
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Robert Kalm discusses his documentary Self Make: The American Dreams of Philip Musica, about the notorious swindler Doctor Frank Donald Coster, also known as Philip Musica, who was a respected...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Bruce Museum is organizing an exhibition of small artworks created entirely by the public for the public. We invite art lovers of all ages, interests, and abilities to submit a depiction of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bruce Museum
One Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-869-0376
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

We invite you to join us at Dojo Fairfield on Saturday January 19, 2019 when we host the founder/CEO of C.O.B.R.A. Self-Defense, Chris Sutton, for a one-day self-defense/ASRP (Active Shooter...

Cost: $129.00

Where:
DOJO FAIRFIELD
2317 Black Rock Tpke.
FAIRFIELD, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: DOJO FAIRFIELD
Telephone: 203.319.9989
Contact Name: Karina Gramesty
Website »

More information

Celebrating its 50th anniversary, the Hartford Boat Show (HBS50) features the newest boats on the market including center consoles, fishing boats, luxury cruisers, deck and pontoon boats, sport and...

Cost: $12 in advance online, $14 at the door, $10 Senior/Military one day pass

Where:
Expo Center at Mohegan Sun
1 Mohegan Sun Blvd
Uncasville, CT  06382
View map »


Sponsor: Connecticut Marine Trades Association
Telephone: 860-767-2645
Contact Name: Kathleen Burns
Website »

More information

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