652 Ridgefield Road – $2,950,000

 Isaiah Keeler Homestead c. 1738A Connecticut TreasureRarely does a property come on the market that seamlessly blends almost three hundred years of historical significance with the finest modern amenities in a superb location. Welcome to 652 Ridgefield Road, a local landmark home situated on one of Wilton’s highest ridge lines with two private entrances and views eastward towards Long Island Sound and westward over a large parcel of town conserved meadow.The property, approximately 3 acres, is close to both Wilton and Ridgefield town centers, yet is set back from the road and landscaped to ensure privacy. The home was centerpiece of the original Isaiah Keeler homestead, a working farm until the 1970’s, when much of the property to the east was developed into the highly sought-after Keeler’s Ridge neighborhood. A tranquil cul-de- sac is accessed from the home’s south entrance and is ideal for walking or bike riding.The main house, over 6500 square feet, wraps around the original 1730’s core, with additions added in the early 1800’s and again in the 1920’s when the property passed out of the Keeler family for the first time. A stunning two-bedroom guest house, a five-car garage connected to the main house by a covered walkway, and a pool/pool house were constructed about eighteen years ago. Various owners have continued this legacy of stewardship with extensive renovations and restorations that reflect current living standards yet preserve historically significant features.Each expansion was creatively constructed so that the house now encircles an east-facing center courtyard evocative of a European manor home, and the main house, the carriage house, and the pool area surround a lush central lawn ideal for entertaining or family athletic events. An ancient beech tree stands guard to the south of the main house and leads to a small barn with additional storage, and to a magnificent formal garden with perennial beds lined in boxwood.Copious sets of French doors and windows bring light and views into every space in this eight-bedroom compound, which includes a master suite with three walk-in closets, two baths, and a sitting room or office. Seven working fireplaces and antique Chestnut wide plank floors are balanced by eight newly renovated bathrooms and the recent installation of a wet bar. The flow of rooms is ideal for intimate family time as well as entertaining on a large scale.Landscaping has been a particular focus of periodic owners, and the entire property is graced with stone walls, wood fencing, and mature evergreens as well as an extensive lighting system. Glorious perennial gardens provide copious blooms nine months a year, and flowering specimen trees, bushes and spring bulbs create beauty year-round. Arbors, stone pathways and terraces abound. The property has been featured in numerous publications over the years, most recently as the cover subject for the Summer 2013 Wilton Magazine issue.  (See link in Menu Navigation at side of page) The colorful history of the home, from the Battle of Ridgefield during the Revolutionary War to its use as a town “enemy plane spotting” site during World War 2, is well documented in Robert Russell’s book on Wilton’s history. (See below)History, tasteful interiors and exteriors, seamless flow, flexible spaces, and private beauty make this property the ideal family compound.**********SETTING Over three-hundred years ago, the Keeler ancestors became the first guardians of this property. At one time, it was part of a seventy-acre farm. Two silos still sit on the property’s northeast border (although officially on a neighbor’s land). They’re visual reminders of the original farm, as is the antique barn with two horse stalls. Today, the property is still considered part of one of the most sought-after neighborhoods, with easy access to the downtowns of both Wilton and Ridgefield. Set atop a ridge, at one of the highest elevations in Wilton, it has easterly winter views of the Long Island Sound, with spectacular sunrises. The westerly view overlooks acres of permanently protected and preserved flowering meadowland (part of the Wilton Land Trust), with tranquilizing sunsets.While most historic homes suffer from being set so close to what are nowadays very busy roads, the Keeler home is situated on a commanding site that is deep into the property, far away from the road, virtually hidden by mature evergreens. It’s both a landmark property and a hidden gem. It’s the original flagship home that gave birth to the entire Keelers Ridge neighborhood everyone covets today.Also unusual is that this property enjoys two entrances: one is directly on Ridgefield Road and the other is on a quiet, private lane with a cul-de-sac (Keeler’s Ridge Extension). So, you enjoy convenient access to area amenities, along with everything that’s wonderful about being part of the Keeler’s Ridge neighborhood of family homes: quiet roads for walking the dogs or bike riding; plenty of neighbors for playdates, pickup games of basketball, trick or treating; and holiday and neighborhood block parties.300 Years in the Making This is not the typical old (nor new) home. No one architect or builder (or owner) could even hope to replicate what has taken 300 years to conceive. Its layout includes spacious open areas (like a new home); but overall it still feels unique because wings were added seamlessly every hundred years or so (starting in the mid 1700’s, early 1800’s, 1900’s and again just after the millennium). Then, over the last eight years, the entire home was renovated to reflect current living standards, while restoring and preserving historically significant aspects.  In the last three years, the current owner made even more improvements (worth approximately $250,000).  The Kitchen was renovated (including Subzero® and Wolf® appliances), a Wine Cellar was added (with custom Redwood racks and room for 1300 bottles), and a full property irrigation system was installed (with 60+ zones).Each expansion was creatively constructed in a way that the house now wraps around an east-facing center courtyard and lush lawn. They’re a hub of outdoor living, between opposite wings of the house. So, no matter which part of the house you’re in, you’re always overlooking the flagstone courtyard.There is a ton of storage. The main house hides large walk-in wardrobe rooms, coat and linen closets, pantry and storage closets, plus a huge (clean and bright) basement and attic. You’ll also find heaps of storage in the Barn and other buildings.Set on about three acres of high and dry, and flat and level land, is everything one needs. It all flows and connects seamlessly. It is an ideal, contained family compound: with a main house, guest house, five car garage, potting shed, barn (with two horse stalls), formal and cutting flower gardens, pool, pergola and pool house, central lawn, and terraces for entertaining – all enclosed with historic stone walls and white split rail fences.  There are seven working fireplaces, antique Chestnut wide-plank floor boards, and windows and French doors throughout that bring light into every room. The floor plan allows for entertaining a large crowd or holiday gathering or just feeling cozy on a lazy afternoon with family. The landscaping has been a particular focus of the prior owners. There’s nothing left to do outside, except enjoy it all. Best of all, 90% of the plantings are perennial gardens, boxwoods, flowering trees, rose bushes and spring flower bulbs – which all reappear and endure year after year (with virtually no effort).The perimeter of the property is lined with wooden fences featuring arbor gates, stone walls and substantial tall evergreens and other flowering bushes or trees. There is outdoor lighting across the property. The entire property has been re-landscaped over the last eight years, and has over 1000 boxwoods, flowering shrubs and bushes, hundreds of spring daffodils and tulips, and more than 50 different varieties of perennials.HISTORYAncestry This three-hundred-year-old property is aptly known as the “Keeler Homestead” because the original seventy-acre farm and house belonged to the Keeler family from the mid 1700’s until the early 1900’s. The first piece of land was given to Samuel Keeler, Sr., in 1709 by the Town of Norwalk, as payment “on condition that he erect a belfry on top of the meeting house.” Several generations and many Samuels later, Isaiah Keeler was deeded a superbly sited house and twenty-five acres on the Ridgefield Road hilltop in 1819. (Isaiah was the great-great-great grandson of the patriarch of the Fairfield County Keeler’s: Ralph Keeler.) The bequest came from Isaiah’s father (Samuel IV) who built the original part of the house shortly after his marriage in 1770. Isaiah made additions to the house and constructed a grand farm on the upper part of the property, while his twin brother (Samuel V) remained in the family homestead at 550 Ridgefield Road. The property was inherited by two more generations of Keelers until it left the family only in 1907. William Keeler, the last Keeler owner, sold the house, outbuildings, and 42 acres in 1907. There have been eight owners since then, including Mr. and Mrs. F. Sheffield Faulkner and Mr. and Mrs. John Roten.ConstructionThe oldest, or south, part of the house was built by Samuel Keeler III, before 1744. (The list of “Old Wilton Buildings” at the Wilton Historical Society gives the construction date as 1738.) The house was extended to the north in the Federal style in the 19th Century, and it was enlarged again after 1926, when the house was transformed into a seasonal estate. The north, gable-ended wing and rear wings are 20th Century, and the entrance in accented by a revival, tripartite frontispiece with side sash, and a recent addition of columns.The main house has a central-hall floor plan, with two chimneys made of stone to the attic roof and the brick above. The south part of the house has a typical central-chimney floor plan. However, one fireplace was built at a 45-degree angle leaving room for a Dutch oven made of brick at the side of the fireplace. The north part of the house has stone fireplaces showing the skilled workmanship. In the cellar, there are two massive fieldstone foundations supporting the four large hearthstones. In total, there are seven working fireplaces. The attic is constructed of rafters two feet apart held together at the top by wood pegs. There is no ridgepole.Previous owners built the garages, guest house, pool and pool house. The prior owners spent nearly a million dollars to restore the main house and redo all its bathrooms, add a wet bar, first floor laundry room, and major millwork and custom cabinetry, as well as audio-visual and lighting systems. They replaced most of the roof and gutters, and added wooden shutters to the main house.  The current owner renovated the Kitchen, added a Wine Cellar and installed a property-wide irrigation system.Many Wiltonites have said we are indeed indebted to a number of successive owners who have cherished the antique home, adding on and refurbishing with sensitivity to and awareness of its history, preserving its place in Wilton. The original Isaiah Keeler home still stands today, and its current owner says she considers herself the Guardian of this treasure.********
 GATHERING SPOT: A Historic Home with Room for EntertainingBy Carolyn Rundle Field // Photographs by Pam RouleauAs published in Wilton Magazine (Jul/Aug 2013)http://www.townvibe.com/Wilton/July-August-2013/Gathering-Spot/A rambling historic home in North Wilton has been the site of Independence Day celebrations since 1776, so when the current owners hosted a birthday party for three generations of family members last July, they chose a red, white and blue theme. "My mother-in-law was turning 84, my son-in-law was turning 30 and my sister-in-law was turning 57. Every year we celebrate their birthdays together. It's always a collaborative event. My husband plans the main course. I do the desserts, and our daughters help with the flowers and table decorations. We have a large extended family," explains the wife, "and our house tends to be the gathering spot."It is easy to see why. The 6,500 square foot center-hall colonial, located on a ridge offering views of Long Island Sound, provides ample space for entertaining. Gracious and charming today, its origins were decidedly more humble. It was built as a one-room-up, one room-down farmhouse in 1738 by one of Wilton's oldest families, surrounded by orchards and open pastures where dairy cows grazed. The house remained in the same family for 169 years. Sometime in the early 1800's, they expanded its footprint at the northern end, with a Federal Style addition, more than doubling its size. In 1907 they sold the property to a family from New York City, who used it as a summer home. The new owners added a wing with an eat-in kitchen and a keeping room on the 1st floor, and servants' quarters on the 2nd floor, reached by rear stairs. As the house evolved, it took on a U-shaped configuration; each wing flanks a central stone terrace and opens onto it.Eight successive owners have put their stamp on the property, designing formal gardens, a pool and pool house, and a 5-car garage with a 2-bedroom apartment above it. The current owners, who have lived in Wilton for 24 years, were happily raising their four children in a newer home in town when this historic property came on the market. "We were not planning to move, let alone into a larger house. Our kids were at the stage where they were starting to leave home," says the wife. But she and her husband had always admired the property, and had attended several fundraising events there. "Coming to look at this place was the kiss of death," she laughs, "because we couldn't let it go. I grew up in an old house, we'd been history majors in college, and we have inherited or collected antique furniture for over thirty years. We fell in love with this home."Although the previous owner had taken good care of the property, the house still required major upgrades to the heating and plumbing system, and a new roof. The new owners also renovated bathrooms and added a wet bar. They converted the existing dining room, located next to the kitchen wing, into a cozy family room, preserving the antique millwork and large stone fireplace while adding modern touches like a computer workstation. A solarium featuring three walls of windows, located down two wide steps from the living room, became the new dining room. These two rooms flow together beautifully and result in very flexible entertaining spaces. "It works so well for small dinner parties, large receptions, and everything in between. When we hosted a sit-down dinner for 75 people, we took all of the furniture out of both rooms, set up round tables for dinner, and served cocktails outside on the terrace. It never felt crowded," says the wife.The oldest rooms, located off a center hall at the front of the house, are now used for more intimate gatherings. One features a Steinway piano in its bay window nook; another was renovated to create a home office. The family has tried to maintain the character of the old house by using period-appropriate hardware, trim, paneling and cabinetry, as well as a palette of historic colors. Despite its size, the house never seems overwhelming, thanks to the well-scaled proportions of each room. "Now that our children are in college or launched into their adult lives, we can close off spaces when we don't need them," the owner notes. "We never feel like we are rattling around in over-sized, under-used rooms." With seven bedrooms and bathrooms and first floor rooms oriented around the back terrace and gardens, the house has a great sense of flow. The owners entertain frequently; they have hosted engagement parties, bridal showers, baby showers, and fundraising events, as well as many family get-togethers including large yearly Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings as well as this annual three-generation summer birthday celebration. One of the best features is the way the inside spaces flow to the outside. Because the house evolved over centuries, almost every first floor room has one or more doors leading to the terraces and gardens that surround the home. "Despite-or perhaps because- of its age, it's a very flexible house," the owner notes. They created a small apartment for the wife's mother on the second floor over the kitchen wing, converting former servant’s quarters into light filled spaces. "This is a home that was meant to welcome many generations under its roof," the owner says.The beautifully landscaped property offers inviting spots for guests to gather. The large central lawn is perfect for soccer, lacrosse, touch football and croquet matches. The pool area, flanked by a pergola and a small antique barn on one end and a pool house on the other, is in constant use during the warm months. The wife loves to garden, and has made many improvements to the almost 3-acre property. She expanded the existing formal gardens, adding boxwood borders and many new perennials including roses. She designed cutting gardens and planted thousands of spring bulbs. Her favorite tree, a towering beech standing in the side yard, is probably older than the house itself. Asked what she loves most about the house, the wife replies, "The seven fireplaces - everyone is different, and that we use all of them. The creaky wide plank floors. This is not a cookie-cutter house. Living in it, I feel like I am a steward of history. We have been able to enjoy the house, and someday, it will be passed on to new owners who will appreciate and take care of it."************Tidbits about the Keeler FamilyFrom the book Wilton, Connecticut: Three Centuries of People, Places, and Progress by Robert H. Russell.The Keelers are one of the oldest families in the area. Ralph Keeler was a founder of Norwalk in 1651 and owner of Home Lot VII. Several of his descendants were among the original settlers of Ridgefield in 1708. Three of Ralph’s grandsons, Ralph III, John II, and David, were among the thirty-one signers of the 1726 petition for Wilton Parish. Two more grandsons, Ebenezer and Samuel II, were also early Wilton residents. All were Norwalk proprietors, hence owners of land in Wilton.Brothers John II (1682-1763) and David (1690-1773) Keeler were settlers before 1721 on Belden Hill. John’s first house at 468 Belden Hill burned in 1744 and has been rebuilt at least once on its original site. John Keeler was a notorious crank, as evidenced by his refusal to pay taxes, leading the Society to appeal to the colonial assembly in 1729. A grandson John, born in 1741, died at Ticonderoga in 1758 in the French and Indian War.Several other grandsons served in the Revolution, including Justus (1750-1821), who married a second time at age sixty-seven, Charlotte Olmstead. Their daughter Charlotte Keeler Raymond (1819-1911) was celebrated by the DAR in 1904 as one of the last surviving actual daughters of the Revolution. Another grandson, Stephen (1746-1812), was a Tory and a founder of Saint Matthew’s Episcopal Church in 1802.David had two sons in the French and Indian War, James and Thaddeus, and three grandsons in the Revolution. A total of fifteen Keelers served in the Revolution from Wilton.Brothers Ralph III (1685-1765) and Ebenezer Keeler (1689-1735) were cousins of John II and David and also in the 1727 church seating. Ralph Keeler moved to New Fairfield but Ebenezer and his family remained in Wilton. By 1770, there were twelve Keeler families on the Wilton property tax list, and no less than sixty-one Keelers mentioned in the Wilton Congregational Church records prior to 1802.Samuel Keeler II (1682-1763) was among the purchasers of Ridgefield but returned in 1710 to settle in Wilton at Hop Meadow, below the Ridgefield border on Ridgefield Road. He was Wilton’s first war veteran, joining the expedition to Port Royal in Queen Anne’s War in 1710. Samuel II never joined the Wilton church, but his son Samuel III joined in 1741, about the same time that he built the house still standing at 550 Ridgefield Road.About thirty years later, Samuel IV built the house at 652 Ridgefield Road. His son, Isaiah Keeler (1790-1874), expanded the house and added land until his farm was one of the largest in Wilton. He was a Wilton selectmen for several terms between 1824 and 1841 and was a dominant figure on Bald Hill for many years. He was the father of Fanny LeGrand, and Emily LeGrand (1815-1892) had four sons, all of whom attended Wilton Academy: Samuel (1845-1935), Yale 1867, a lawyer in Ridgefield; Edward I (1847-1896), storekeeper; Robert W. (1853-1933), North Wilton and Wilton Center storekeeper until 1927; and William L. (1860-1929), seven-term Wilton First Selectman and the last Keeler to live on the family farm at 652 Ridgefield Road, which he sold in 1907. He moved his family to Wallingford in 1915, where his daughters Catherine and Caroline died at the ages of 100 and 96. R. W.’s elder son Samuel was a real estate and insurance man and his younger son Raymond founded Keeler’s Hardware in 1939, which continues to be owned by the family.The other Keeler Homestead at 550 Ridgefield Road passed to Emily Keeler and her husband Isaac Benedict in 1860, and their heirs sold it in 1900. Both Keeler homes on Ridgefield Road were owned by the family for over 150 years. Frank Benedict, grandson of Emily and Isaac, sold thirty acres of his “Big Elm Farm” on Belden Hill Road to the Town of Wilton in 1961 for Miller and Driscoll school sites.---In April 1777, Continental Army General Benedict Arnold, one of the most perplexing figures of the American Revolution, and always eager for a fight, mounted his horse in New Haven and rode to meet Generals Wooster and Silliman in Redding. After camping for the night, the British passed quickly through Wilton on April 28, coming south on Ridgefield Road. During this march, the only Wilton citizen to be arrested was Benjamin Keeler of Ball Hill (742 Ridgefield Road), probably for firing upon the British. Benjamin was an Episcopalian and a Patriot, an atypical combination. Samuel Keeler IV (652 Ridgefield Road) suffered the loss of several cows, carried off by the British. When all loss claims were finally recorded by the state government fifteen years later, Samuel claimed a loss value of 30 pounds 15 shekels. The next stop was the home of Captain Samuel Comstock at 433 Ridgefield Road, occupied by his wife Mercy. She set her table with tempting food and wine, buried her silver, and hid herself on the hill behind the house. When the British arrived, they partook of the feast and left the house undisturbed.---William L. Keeler, First Selectman for most of the years between 1900 and 1913 and younger brother of R. W., was the last of the family to live on the Isaiah Keeler Homestead at 652 Ridgefield Road. He sold it in 1907 to Charles Root, a New York publisher who also amassed large holdings in the Bald Hill area. Keeler moved his family to Wallingford in 1915, where two of his daughters lived to a great age, Catherine dying in 2002 at 100, and Caroline in 2003 at 96.---During World War II, early in 1941, the Army Air Corp established airplane-spotting posts all over the Northeast. Two were set up in Wilton, one at Ely Raymond’s on Chestnut Hill (now 12 Mollbrook Drive) and the other on the Marhoffer property at Bald Hill (807 Ridgefield Road). The North Wilton post was moved in April 1943 to the Henderson place (the old Keeler Homestead at 652 Ridgefield Road). The purpose was to listen and watch for aircraft and to estimate how far away and in what direction they were flying. Reports were phoned to Mitchell Field on Long Island. Herbert Whitman, Secretary of the Wilton Defense Council, led the recruitment of volunteers. Over four hundred men and women age eighteen and over signed up. They were assigned to regular weekly duty shifts of three hours or more.For more on the Keeler Family or the history of Wilton, Connecticut, please read Bob Russell’s book!