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Landmark Cottage In Fairfield Named 'Connecticut Treasure' In People's Poll

Amelia Johnson, second from left, is Jonathan Sturges' great-great-great-granddaughter and his mom, Helene Epifano is standing to her left. Wells Johnson 7, and his brother, Henry, stand in front of their mom. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
Jonathan Sturges Cottage has been named a Connecticut Treasure by the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness
The Jonathan Sturges Cottage was named a National Historic Landmark in 1994. Photo Credit: Meredith Guinness

FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Jonathan Sturges Cottage, a Gothic Revival gem in Fairfield that boasts the first indoor “water closet" in the state, has been named one of Connecticut’s Treasures by the state chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The 35-room stunner, which sits just across from Mill Plain Green, was chosen over seven other competitors to represent all of Fairfield County in a September People’s Choice poll conducted by the organization.

“We’re so grateful. It is a true honor and a pleasure,” said Helene Epifano, Sturges’ great-great-granddaughter.

Several members of the Sturges family attended the official announcement of the home’s win. Polly Roessler, who lives in the home, was not able to make it. But Epifano’s daughter, Amelia Johnson, brought along her two sons, Wells, 7, and Henry, 5.

“This was a revolving door,” Johnson said of her childhood days playing in the house. “We had a blast. We had birthday parties here, my brother’s rehearsal dinner was here.”

Johnson said she was sorry her grandmother, Mary Rousseau, who passed away in 2015, wasn’t alive to receive the honor. She had lived in and lovingly preserved the home for many years, she said.

Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1994, Sturges Cottage was built as a summer home for Sturges and his family, who had a permanent residence in New York City. Sturges was a co-founder of the Illinois Central Railroad and a founder of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A lover of art and architecture, he sponsored such Hudson River School artists as Thomas Cole and Frederic Church.

Sturges Cottage was one of the first Gothic Revival houses built in Connecticut, and it features 11 staircases, 13 fireplaces in six stories from the ice house below the cellar to the book tower at the pinnacle. Stained-glass windows and doors, parquet floors and ornamental sculptures and friezes abound.

A bathtub and water closet in the main bathroom, the first in Connecticut, were installed before the White House had central plumbing.

The state’s American Institute of Architects chapter held the People’s Choice poll as a way to increase awareness of Connecticut’s rich cultural heritage and architecture.

Jack Franzen, a local architect who attended Monday’s announcement, was on the committee that chose the nominees for Fairfield County. The award recipients will be acknowledged at a December reception.

Fairfield First Selectman Michael Tetreau said the home is important to both the history of the town and the country.

“We’re very proud of the cottage winning,” he said.

Other state winners include Lake House in Washington, Colt East Armory Building in Hartford and Stony Creek Brewery in Branford.

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