WESTPORT, Conn. -- The Kemper-Gunn House on Church Lane was moved across the street to its new home Tuesday, Nov. 18, after nearly two years of controversy surrounding the 1885 Queen Anne Victorian house that stood in the way of the Bedford Square development.
“This is an exciting moment,” First Selectman Jim Marpe said. “We are repurposing [the Kemper Gunn House] and the Family Y building to mixed-use commercial as well as apartments, and it is part of the renewal of our whole downtown area.”
More than 50 Westport residents were on hand to witness as Wolfe House and Building Movers transported the structure to its new home early on Tuesday morning.
Moving the house across the street to publicly owned property allow the town to use this space as a business incubator, according to Marpe. He, as well as members of the community, were beginning to worry that Westport’s downtown area was becoming too commercial and saw an opportunity in the move to grow local businesses.
However, in the almost two years since the controversy began over whether the town should demolish or preserve the 129-year-old estate, the home has come close to being demolished.
The historic home was on the path for demolition after the Planning and Zoning Commission voted in September 2013 against a proposal to relocate the house—despite overwhelming public support to save it from the wrecking ball.
However, thanks to a group of more than 80 Westport residents who signed a petition urging the Representative Town Meeting to intervene, the Westport RTM was able to appeal the Planning and Zoning Commissions under state and town laws.
The decision to relocate the structure was reached on a unanimous vote, according to a the Westport Weston Chamber of Commerce.
“I was in on the project since the instigation of it,” said Executive Director of Westport’s Chamber of Commerce Matthew Mandell. “It’s been a long haul but worth it.”
The two-and-a-half story, four-bay wide, wood-framed house will be used as an incubator for “non-chain businesses that are locally owned" in its new home, Mandell said.
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