The White House
Lounsbury House’s new look
A newly renovated Lounsbury House is more open and welcoming.
Photos by Kristen Jensen
For more than a century, the historic Lounsbury House has seemed delightfully impervious to change. From its prominent spot overlooking Main Street, the stately white mansion exudes the same authority that it surely did when occupied by the former governor of Connecticut at the turn of the 20th century.
Yet beyond the mansion’s massive doors, several recent renovations quietly breathe life into the aging rooms. “We were hearing comments that it needed to be refreshed,” explains Lounsbury House executive director Louzette Dovaras. “There is so much competition nowadays, and we needed to remain relevant.”
As a venue, the Lounsbury House serves as the backdrop for countless milestone events, including birthday parties and anniversaries. However, Dovaras says one key client found the floor plan wanting—the bride. “We lost a lot of brides because they felt it wasn’t open enough,” says Dovaras of the main floor.
Since wedding celebrations constitute “a big bulk” of the house’s revenue, Dovaras knew alterations were necessary. Kennedy-Leonard Design, which completed the interior décor, expanded the ballroom to create a more open feel. After the removal of one of five sliding, mahogany pocket doors, which has been kept in case of future use, the previously separate foyer and ballroom now flow together seamlessly, creating a much better space for wedding receptions.
The house also now has an airier feel thanks to the lighter moldings, which are replicas of the original, and fresh, dark-wood flooring that shines bright. New light fixtures, punctuated by a new chandelier, lend an element of sparkle to the scene. The Crystal Room received a wall of mirrors that brings to mind the famous Hall of Mirrors at Versailles—though on a slightly smaller scale.
Renovations have moved quickly. The town of Ridgefield owns the building and property and rents to the board that operates the facility as the Community Center and Lounsbury House event space. The board of selectmen approved the plans in late 2014, and soon work began. The new design allows the property to strike a comfortable balance between functional modernity and the faithful preservation of a true historic jewel.
And the house has seen plenty of history. In 1893, then-governor Phineas C. Lounsbury became so taken with the Connecticut State Building that he built a replica to serve as his family home upon his retirement from office. When the Neoclassical home was completed in 1896, Lounsbury surrounded it with greenhouses, an orchard, and a windmill. The property, which once required a full-time staff of 21, soon became a Ridgefield landmark and a haven that allowed Lounsbury and his family to entertain in a style befitting their upper-class friends.
Present-day renovations are expected to be finished in late August. According to Dovaras, the right side of the house’s yard is slated for transformation into a community garden, complete with patio. “It will be much more serene than the current garden,” Dovaras promises.
Even with a little tweaking, the stately white mansion continues to serve as a beacon of Ridgefield’s past and future. “It’s known as the heartbeat of our community,” says Dovaras of the property. “We want it to be everyone’s community center.”
In celebration of the renovation, The Grand Reopening Gala is set for September 18. The evening will begin in the garden with hors d’oeuvres and move inside for dinner, from Sarah Bouissou Catering. The festivities will continue to Sunday for the Lounsbury House’s Family Day Open House.
The theme of the gala is Welcome Home.