From Many, One
A 19th-century house and its many offshoots
Once upon a time, in 1875, Dr. Newton Shaffer, a renowned orthopedic surgeon and family physician to President Theodore Roosevelt, built a summer home in Ridgefield. Clearly Shaffer appreciated good bones, for the house doesn’t sag like some old homes. Its fieldstone foundation stands unbowed by time—and many efforts to tug it apart and move it around.
It’s easy to imagine why Shaffer chose the property named Beacon Hill. Through an oval window on the third floor a patch of water shimmers in the distance. It’s Long Island Sound—explaining perhaps why a nearby road is named Soundview. British troops looked for beacons on Royal Navy boats in the Sound during the American Revolution from this location.
Today JoAnn Kish and her sister Mary Ellen McGuire own the home, on Wilton Road West. Their parents, Mary and Mario Marcheggiani, had purchased it from Peter Lorenzini in 1970. Local builder Lorenzini had bought the home in the 1950s. Soon after moving in with his brood, Lorenzini began dismantling the house. He detached whole sections, including its sweeping porches, and relocated them to other, adjacent properties. He removed five chimneys and lowered the ceilings to conserve heat. One of the home’s sections was moved to Soundview Road. It eventually became the home of EJ Carfi, a Ridgefield boy who recently died from epidrmolysis bulosa, a rare skin disease for which there is no cure.
Back in the 1950s and 1960s Lorenzini subdivided the property. The Marcheggianis bought the piece of property situated just in front of the “big house.” There they raised their girls. In the 1970s they bought Beacon Hill, moved into it in 1976. That’s when Mary set about restoring the house to its Victorian-era grandeur.
Today Kish lives in the former caretaker cottage. Its tool shed was once a cowshed; Kish’s grandmother used the low-slung structure as a chicken coop. Various occupants moved in and out of its rooms for more than 100 years, but they have left traces of their lives like fingerprints on crystal. On the third floor the tiny room still wears the wallpaper two monks hung decades ago. Shamrock patterned plasterwork graces the 12-foot ceilings in the formal dining room and living room.
With its exterior double staircase, the home appears perched atop a bridge straight from a fairy tale and indeed its share of characters have lived inside. There once was a woman who fled the Hungarian Revolution with two monks and a nun. A romance ensued; one summer a monk and the nun married.
“My mother took everyone under her wing,” says JoAnn Kish, a realtor with William Pitt Sotheby’s who will put the house up for sale. Bidding the home farewell is bittersweet for the sisters. “It’s hard letting go but we know whoever buys it will love it as an antique,” Kish says.
Since this article was published the team of JoAnn Kish and Jane Scarbrough have listed the home. Go to: kishandscarbrough.com