Historic home sells to developer
One of Wilton’s oldest family-owned properties has been sold to a developer.
The Schlichting Homestead, which was occupied by at least one member of the Schlichting family for the last 118 years, was sold on Aug. 20.
“Selling it didn’t make me happy,” said fourth-generation Dave Schlichting, who together with sister CarolAnne Keely put the property on the market. “The house was in pretty bad shape when we inherited it, and we would have had to spend more money than we were willing to to keep it.”
It was previously lived in by Dave’s aunt, Anna Marie Schlichting, for the entirety of her life. She was born there in 1920 and died there 93 years later in 2013.
“We dodged buyers who wanted to tear it down for two years,” Dave said. “Actually, we ended up settling for less money so that we could give it to this developer, who’s restoring the house and barn instead of demolishing them.”
“He seems to want to keep it for himself,” he added.
Schlichting told a story about his final day as the co-owner of property.
“On my last day there, I was in and out of the house,” he said. “During one of my trips out, one of the front steps gave and I fell through. My leg got pretty chewed up. Either that was the house’s way of getting back at me for leaving, or it was trying to keep me from going,” he joked.
Seated on a hill overlooking Ridgefield Road and sharing a boundary with Hillside Cemetery, the Schlichting Homestead was built in the mid-1850s by William A. Sturges.
Sturges was a successful forty-niner. He participated in the California Gold Rush with two of his brothers, Theodore and W. Howard, and returned to Wilton to open a shirt factory, the first business in what is now known as Wilton Center. He also opened a general store at 77 Old Ridgefield Road, now the oldest building still standing in that area. Dating from 1803, it is currently occupied by Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.
Sturges purchased 11 acres of land with a barn from Abijah and Elizabeth Jones in 1854 for $1,500.
According to local historian, author and former First Selectman Robert Russell, “We attribute the building of the Schlichting Homestead to William Sturges; when William sold it in 1865 for $9,000 to G.A. Palmer, the deed read ‘with buildings.’”
A farmhouse, barn, shed and outhouse are sited on the property.
In 1868, Palmer conveyed the property to Dr. J. Edward Turner, known as one of the first doctors to have treated alcoholism as a disease.
Turner intended to build a hospital in Wilton for “female inebriates and opium eaters,” Russell wrote in his book Wilton, Connecticut, but the plan fell through due to insufficient funding. He mortgaged 183 Ridgefield Road in 1887.
The mortgage was eventually foreclosed and the house was leased to August Schlichting, Dave’s great-grandfather, in 1897.
August Schlichting was a German immigrant. According to Dave, he came from near Bremen.
Russell wrote that August “farmed the eleven acres and lived in the hilltop home with his wife Christine and family.”
“He farmed produce, kept livestock for tilling and planted fruit trees. He was also a beekeeper,” said Dave.
August’s son, William C.A. Schlichting, Dave’s grandfather, purchased the homestead for the family in 1902.
During the early 1900s, he rented out rooms for the summer, a practice Russell said was common among Wilton farmers looking to supplement their incomes. Russell wrote that William favored renting to other German immigrants, and his inn came to be known as “The Pines.”
In 1925, William acquired an additional 2.5 acres from his neighbor to the north, George Thomson.
William was a selectman from 1913 to 1915 and again from 1928 until his death in 1933.
According to Dave, he was one of the founding members of the Wilton Fire Department, and was the one who ordered the first fire trucks for the town.
William and his wife, Anna, raised three children on the property, sons William and Carol and daughter Anna Marie. Carol was Dave and CarolAnne’s father.
Architecture and construction
The Schlichting Homestead was constructed in the Victorian Italianate villa style, popularized by Andrew Jackson Downing in the Hudson Valley area prior to the Civil War.
According to Russell, “distinguishing characteristics include a low hip roof, broad eaves with heavy ornamental brackets and a cupola with round-headed windows.
Also typical of the Italianate style are windows at the attic level, round in this home, in a symmetrical cube. The first level features asymmetrical fenestration with oversized windows, reaching nearly to the floor on the first level.”
The Schlichting Homestead is one of three houses remaining in Wilton that was built in this style.
“It is considered to be not only the finest example in town but also to be in a remarkably complete state of preservation and is as ambitious and au courant as any nineteenthth-century house in Wilton,” wrote Russell.
Off the record
Though Russell was able to compile a seemingly comprehensive history of the Schlichting Homestead, there are some things he left out.
For instance, the fact that William A. Sturges is buried so close to the boundary between Hillside Cemetery and the Schlichting Homestead that he could “reach out of his box and touch the property,” as Dave put it.
Or that Anna Marie had a live-in helper who cleared out because she thought the house was haunted.
And who would know that Dave once took to the basement with a metal detector in an attempt to locate his great-grandfather’s treasure.
“I figured, if he was a gold miner, there might be some gold hidden away,” he said with a laugh.