Architect will discuss significance of Wilton’s historical architecture
Wiltonian Rob Sanders, principal of Rob Sanders Architects, LLC in Wilton, will discuss the architecture of Wilton and its significant properties at Wilton Library on Wednesday evening, Oct. 7.
“It’s going to be an exploration of how buildings in town have changed and what the first structures were influenced by,” said Sanders, a licensed architect since 1984. “Wilton was mostly an English-influenced area.”
Sanders said his presentation is titled Wilton Rediscovered because its focus is on “understanding why some of Wilton’s properties are unique.”
“I think there’s a general perception of most homes that they’re Colonial, and of course, most of them are from after the Revolution,” said Sanders, who received a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Cornell University in 1981.
“People will look at old houses and say, ‘It’s an old house,’ but most people don’t realize there are several rolling style waves that went through town.”
The 1989 Wilton Architectural Survey, a catalog of historically important structures in town, lists a number of structure styles in Wilton — ranging from Colonial, Tudor Revival and Greek Revival, to Italianate, Federal and Vernacular.
Sanders said structure styles — including not only homes, but churches and schools as well — are “statements of people’s eye towards style.”
“The old ones that have survived, and even some of the new ones today, are kind of snapshots of people’s ideas and aspirations at the time,” said Sanders, who became interested in architecture at a young age.
“I grew up in the house at 530 Danbury Road, which was seven acres with a house and two barns, which needed a lot of work,” he said. “My folks worked on restoring that property and I was right alongside them.”
Through that, Sanders said, he “developed mechanical skills and an interest in what can be done with structures.”
During his Wilton Rediscovered: The Origins and Evolution of Architecture and Landscape presentation, Sanders said he will discuss “the growth of the town and the different styles of structures that were built, what is surviving, and what’s now threatened and why they’re still valuable.”
Sanders said he will also explain “why some properties remained open,” as well as the role of the Wilton Land Trust and the town’s acquisition of open space.
“Bruce Beebe from the land trust will also speak a little bit about what’s been done and what’s going forward,” he said.
Sanders said most of the surviving historic structures in Wilton are residential buildings. During his presentation, Sanders said, he will talk about a couple of notables ones like “the Greek Revival structures on Grumman Hill Road and Sturges Ridge,” as well as one of the few remaining Italianate style structures in town — the Schlichting Homestead at 183 Ridgefield Road, which, he noted, is “under the threat of demolition.”
“There are only about three Italianate structures left in town,” he said. “There used to be more, and that one [183 Ridgefield Road] is certainly special because of the site.”
Sanders said his favorite structures in Wilton are of all different styles.
“There’s the Belknap property up on the north edge of Wilton and Weston [11 Wampum Hill Road], and the Greek Revival on Sturges Ridge is a great old house [137 Sturges Ridge Road],” he said.
“There’s also a really neat modernist house on Shadow Lane [30 Shadow Lane] and some wonderful houses in the Meadows neighborhood.”
Sense of place
Sanders has lived in Wilton all his life and said “there’s been a lot of change” in that 57-year period.
“I think history is important. What’s been built in the past responded to the land quite closely because people had to, and those land use patterns, I think, are still important,” said Sanders.
“When new structures are built, fitting with the character of the town is really important. That doesn’t mean they all have to look the same, but that they complement and strengthen the character of the town.”
When structures don’t have “some continuity with each other and don’t respond to the land they’re on,” Sanders said, “then the town loses its individual character.”
“When a town loses its individual character, it could just be anywhere — it doesn’t feel like it has a sense of place,” he said.
“The forces of growth and commercialism have kind of eroded Wilton’s sense of place, so it’s kind of an important time to look at these [structures] and say, ‘Well, this is still important.’”
From his presentation, Sanders said, he hopes people develop a deeper interest “in finding a character for Wilton’s building environment.”
“I hope that they’ll be more interested in finding something that preserves that sense of progression of time in history and neighborhood,” he said, “because that all leads to community, and sometimes it feels like it’s just getting eroded.”
Wilton Rediscovered: The Origins and Evolution of Architecture and Landscape will take place from 7 to 9 p.m. There will be a Q&A and reception following the presentation. Registration is highly recommended.
Information and registration: wiltonlibrary.org, 203-762-3950, ext. 213.