A look at Wilton’s lodging past

In June, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved iPark Norwalk’s application to amend certain sections of Wilton's zoning regulations, including the allowance of hotel-building in town.
iPark had applied to amend certain sections of the regulations that deal with the town’s two Design Enterprise districts — the five-acre DE-5 district and the 10-acre DE-10 district — in order to eventually build a hotel on the northerly, Wilton portion of its DE-5 property at 761 Main Ave.
After having Planning and Zoning commissioners at odds, iPark’s application was approved by a 5-2 vote.
However, the building of hotels, motels and other lodging facilities wasn’t always a problem in Wilton.
In 1906, Wilton resident Sarah Davenport opened the Wilton Inn at 195 Danbury Road. The gable-roofed inn overlooked the Norwalk River south of Orem’s Lane, and featured rooms with indoor bathrooms.

Wilton Library History Room/Wilton Historical Society photos
In the mid-1930s, Wilton resident John Disbrow opened the Disbrow Motel and Cabins on the east side of Route 7 near 40 Danbury Road in South Wilton. The motel, which also had an ice cream parlor, was designed by Wilton architect Julian Whittlesey.
“Whittlesey was an interesting character — an inventor as well as an architect,” said town historian and former first selectman Bob Russell.
According to a 1989 Wilton Bulletin article written by former Wilton postman John R. Sturges, Whittlesey designed a prefabricated motel and construction started around 1935 with the help of students from the Danbury Trade School, who were paid $1 an hour to help make pieces of the motel in Redding.

Wilton Library History Room/Wilton Historical Society photos
Once finished, the pieces were loaded on the back of a truck and shipped to Wilton, where they were put together to build the Disbrow Motel, according to Sturges.
According to a 1939 postcard found in the Wilton Library History Room, a New Hampshire woman named Joan stayed in one of the “very nice” Disbrow Motel cabins, which featured “two floors with double beds in each room,” a parlor, bathroom and a “small kitchen downstairs.”
“I haven’t time or room to describe it all, but it’s ‘swell,’” she wrote.
The Disbrow Motel closed some time after World War II and was used for storage and parked cars. The property was eventually sold to the Perkin-Elmer Corporation, and the buildings were torn down in the late-1950s. Perkin-Elmer later converted the space into office space.