A Greenfield Hill icon Is remade
Photographs by Neil Landino & Sidney Paiz
Fairfield was home to a thriving community of about 70 families as early as the 1640s. Two families in particular—the Baldwins and the Purdys—were successful settlers in the area. The Baldwins’ homestead was located on Old Academy Road, in what would one day become Greenfield Hill. The Purdy family’s eight-acre farm was spread out on the Old Post Road. No one knows for sure if these two families crossed paths then, but fast forward 300-plus years, when Taylor Baldwin and husband Tom Purdy decided to purchase and renovate one of the oldest and most treasured homes in the area.
Built in 1750 and sharing the green with the Greenfield Hill Congregational Church, this Meeting House Lane dwelling is familiar to most everyone who drives or walks the nearby roads. Known on the Historic Register as the Zalmon Bradley house, it was originally a colonial saltbox. The house was then owned for over a century by another Baldwin family (no relation to Taylor’s family) which included Abraham Baldwin—a delegate to the constitutional convention in 1787 and founder of the University of Georgia. The home was a haven for VIPs, including Joel Barlow, a politician, diplomat, and poet who was one of the Hartford Wits, and to Talleyrand, Napoleon’s chief diplomat in the United States.
It was always and still is one of the focal points of the “Hill.” But even though it had been renovated a couple of times to achieve its gracious present day Georgian design, it was in rough shape when Tom and Taylor purchased it. “It had no insulation,” explains Purdy. “It was certainly elegant and had great bones, but it needed a lot of work.”
Tom and Taylor moved in and began to raise their three children there, first doing some small fixes to make it livable, but then later undertaking a complete rehaul of the property and the house and barn, adding on, moving things around, even lifting up the home and redoing the foundation to provide for modern day heating and cooling. “Tom had a complete vision for it,” says Baldwin.
The addition of a stone room added more interest to the property as whole, but is historically correct. “I was inspired by a lot of historic buildings both in the area and also from the Merion Golf Club in Philadelphia. I love slate roofs and stone buildings,” explains Purdy.
Tom and Taylor collaborated with Paul Tallman Builders and Baker Batchelder Architects to change the house from the inside out. With a house of this historic significance, the Historic District Commission needed to be consulted on almost every change. One of the key things was to redo the insulation starting from the basement up.
“The only way that could be done without damaging the footprint, was to raise it up,” he explains. “We hired a group of Mennonites to come in to do just that.”
All of the floors, systems, windows, and walls were replaced. “Essentially we have a brand new house within the walls and footprint of an historic structure,” says Baldwin.
An estate in the truest sense of the word, there are several parts to the home. The main house features five gracious bedrooms, all with bathrooms. The stone addition, with its vaulted ceiling and original beams taken from another part of the home, was added onto the east wing of the home but it blends seamlessly with the rest of the property. For the barn on the property, Purdy and Baldwin employed Southport architect, Mark Finlay to completely rebuild and restore the circa 1900 Barn. It houses an eight car collector’s garage, a separate apartment with kitchen, bedroom, living room, laundry room, and full bath.
When it came to design, a local mother-daughter team and their firm were instrumental in not just the décor, but also in the way the house was reconfigured. Chickie Ruger and Amy Whiteley of Ruger Interiors helped Taylor and Tom decide on many crucial elements of both the design and decor. “Chickie helped me envision the bar that connects to the living room,” says Purdy.
“She found talented artists to add a faux wood finish, and marble the ceiling in both the bar and dining room.” Ruger, a former Sotheby’s buyer and longtime art collector is an expert at finding the correct piece of art to go into a space. “Chickie showed us the work of the celebrated American artist Hunt Slonem, and Tom and I fell in love with it,” says Baldwin. The couple added two of his pieces to their collection, one over the fireplace in the dining room and another in the stone addition.
“Amy and I enjoyed working with Taylor and Tom to bring in an eclectic mix of antique and contemporary pieces to complement the historic nature of the house, but also highlight the renovation,” says Ruger. The dining room is one of the “show-stopper” rooms—featuring dramatic turquoise paint, the Hunt Slonem piece, “Butterflies,” 19th century French sconces and a mid-century modern brass table.
“I always wanted a room in this soothing color palette,” explains Baldwin. In the living room, Ruger placed two little brass benches with a Caio Fonseca mixed media painting in front of the fireplace, flanked by two velvet mid- century modern chairs. For art in the bar area, Ruger worked with Adrienne Conzelman of ARC Fine Art LLC in Fairfield to find a Jaanika Peerna series, “Traces of Sweet Connect.”
During the renovation, Ruger suggested moving the kitchen so that it overlooked the garden, the patio, and the gracious pool area—an idea that really appealed to Taylor. Ruger also helped choose sleek white marble and stone from The Stone Workshop in Bridgeport for the kitchen and every bathroom. An expansive sunken family room is not directly connected to the kitchen, another change Taylor liked.
“I love to cook and I like having the kitchen separate from our gathering space.” This is a home whose history enhances its character, and whose redesign creates a timeless backdrop for everything from entertaining to casual family living, no matter the season.