A historic home pulses with all things old, local, and new
Photos by Susan Fisher Photography
Nudged by the impending arrival of daughter Cory, their desire to live in a walkable town, and prior positive experiences remodeling fixer-uppers, Jane and Howard Turner moved to Ridgefield in May 1986, becoming the fourth owners of 50 High Ridge Avenue, also known as the A.L. Benedict House.
At the time, the 1880 Victorian farmhouse needed serious TLC. Their creative plan of attack: strengthen the original foundation, then carve a modern, circular layout from a traditionally closed-off structure. Thanks to local builders, masons, artisans, and craftsmen, and two-plus decades of renovations, the Turners’ vision lives on.
Jane expressed that the home and High Ridge Avenue have come full circle since A. Barton Hepburn initially relocated the house so that his New York and Boston friends could spread out and build a surrounding compound of culture. One could argue that the home’s new design embodies this full-circle effect—everything is about flow and a forward-looking preservation of history.
Now, with its understated, quaint farmhouse façade and airy, updated interior, the Turners’ whimsical revamp encourages old and new to cohabitate. Open the turquoise front door and you’re greeted head on by the kitchen area. To the right is the main living space—containing a ground-to-fourth-floor round balcony staircase—where neutral walls, open arches, and original and period-mimicked molding juxtapose the wood furnishings. In the main living room, windowed doors stand tall on either side of the fireplace, framing the backyard like a piece of art. “We kind of saw the outside and inside as a whole. As we were opening up the inside, we were creating spaces outside,” says Jane.
Both the ground floor and the deck grant access to the backyard where hydrangeas and peonies pocket the lawn among century-old trees. A step above the L-shaped pool is a patio, and across the lawn sits what the Turners affectionately call the Little House: a multipurpose, functional loft space built on the footprint of the original carriage house, its doorway framed by a pergola climbing with trumpet vines.
Throughout the home, contemporary pieces sit beside flea-market finds—like a coffee table from the Paris Flea Market and porch benches from Santa Fe. Each room contains a burst of color: blue on ceilings and floors, orangey hues in pillow stitchings, rugs, and terra-cotta tiles. Precious collectables also have a special place. On spot-lit shelves in the main living room rests Howard’s cross-cultural pottery collection. “I love that some of these really ancient pieces look so contemporary,” says Jane. Such an aesthetic influences the Turners’ consistently eclectic design.
With its library balcony, exposed beams, and vaulted ceiling, the master bedroom and bath are the most contemporary of the upstairs rooms. The rest of the partitioned bedrooms showcase the original structure in their angled ceilings and slightly slanted wood floors.
Early on, the Turners’ property functioned not only as a place to live space but as a vital community space. In the late ’90s, their backyard hosted the founding fundraiser for the Ridgefield Playhouse. From their dining room table, a small group of families restarted the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance after Patricia Schuster’s death. That same table also saw the first board meeting for Ridgefield Academy.
Since living in Ridgefield, Jane has served as president of ROAR (Ridgefield Operation for Animal Rescue) and of the Ridgefield Playhouse. She is also on the board at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance where husband Howard is the current chair; he is also the founding chair of Ridgefield Academy. “All of these organizations were things we care about. We wanted to see them be what they could be, and then let someone else carry on,” says Jane, who also authored and illustrated a children’s book set in Ridgefield titled The Dog Who We nt to Main Street. Most recently, Jane and daughter Cory co-founded Dogly: a curated website pooling local pooch products from small business.
Although a need to downsize has prompted the Turners to move away from this beloved house, Howard and Jane plan to remain close, to stay involved in the organizations they’ve nurtured. “I feel about Ridgefield the way I feel about this house,” remarks Jane. “It has a very happy heart.” Howard smiles. “There is a spirit in this town that is a consistent spirit of optimism,” he adds.
The Turner property—currently listed by Laura Freed Ancona of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty—waits for new residents who will make it their own by inviting and entertaining the energy of the vibrant community that surrounds it.