183 Ridgefield Road: Barn will be saved, house could survive, too

Though they were both slated for demolition, certainly the barn and possibly the house at 183 Ridgefield Road will instead be disassembled and relocated, marking a win for preservationists.

According to owner Jim Fieber’s attorney Casey Healy, after a “concerted effort to find interest,” a couple, Michael and Janet Foster, will be accepting the barn onto a parcel of theirs.

The Fosters are clients of Wilton architect Rob Sanders’. Fieber, a developer from Wilton, reached out to Sanders, and to many others in his search to find demolition alternatives.

But the Fosters won’t be buying the barn from Fieber; they’ll be making a donation matching the cost of the disassembly to the Wilton Historical Society instead.

“We’re not interested in receiving compensation,” Fieber said. “This is good for the community.”

Healy added that a separate party has also surfaced and expressed interest in accepting the house at 183 Ridgefield Road, though “those discussions are ongoing.”

In the coming weeks, passing motorists will see blue tarps drawn over the roofs of the house and barn, but they are not to worry, Healy said; these are not the harbingers of demolition.

Rather, the function of the tarps will be to weatherize the structures, while hazardous substance abatement — necessary if the buildings are to be repurposed — is performed.

First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice told The Bulletin, "This is great news."

"I applaud Jim Fieber, Rob Sanders, and Michael and Janet Foster for working together to achieve an outcome which both keeps the Schlichting barn in Wilton and benefits the Wilton Historical Society."

"It is a win all around," she said.
Background information
The two historic structures, together with other outbuildings at 183 Ridgefield Road, are known collectively in town as the “Schlichting Homestead.”

In late August, Dave Schlichting sold the property, which had been on the market for two years, to Fieber.

Not only is the house at 183 Ridgefield Road more than 160 years old, it is one of only three built in the Victorian Italianate villa style remaining in Wilton. At least one member of the Schlichting family has occupied it since 1897.

So when a legal notice was printed in The Bulletin on Sept. 24, publishing the developer’s intent to demolish the house and its satellite structures, some residents became concerned that a last bastion of Wilton’s fading historic character was about to fall.

The Wilton Historic District Commission even convened a special meeting and public forum and voted unanimously on Oct. 7 to delay the demolition for 90 days.