Alice and William Mahoney
991 Ponus Ridge
The large, imposing house, dominating the corner of Wahackme Road and Ponus Ridge for over 200 years, was probably built between 1772-1774 by William Weed, with a center chimney. During the nineteenth century it was owned by the Lounsbury and then the Davenport families. After 1926 it was purchased by Katherine and Lindsay Bradford, “who altered the house extensively” according to the essay, written while the Bradfords still owned the property, and published in Landmarks in New Canaan.
The center chimney was removed and two end chimneys were added. Nearly all the floorboards were replaced with narrow ones fashionable at the time, and doors and moldings were changed,
but “the paneled room ends were retained” in the two rooms to the left of the center hall.
This antiquarian interest between the wars and the love of the Colonial Revival style of architecture were evident in new residences being built in New Canaan at the time; it is seen as well in the commercial shopping center on Elm Street being developed by the Colonial Company, starting with the Playhouse in 1923. On the ridges, New Yorkers were decorating simple farmhouses with paneling and flooring made from old materials and furnishing them with newly acquired antiques, Currier and Ives prints and Staffordshire pottery.
This house is included on the New Canaan Historical Society’s List of Bi-Centennial Houses, built before 1783, and was both researched and inspected by Lois Baylis..
However, Nils Kerschus, a consultant for the New Canaan Historical Society, dates the house from c1802, after the land – with an existing house and barn – was transferred to Elijah Weed from his father, William Weed, in 1800. Kerschus considers the current house to have been built with the center hall and end chimneys in the Federal style at that time, saying the one Elijah’s father gave him “was probably not the existing house” now on Ponus Ridge.
The façade features an elaborate Federal-style front doorway with sidelights and an elliptical arched solid sun-burst fanlight above, perhaps original to 1802, or possibly installed by the Bradfords. The transom bar is carved with “punch and gouge work” spoon-gouged vertical grooves and punched holes, flanked by swags and sunbursts. It was probably the Bradfords who added the garage with arched doors to reflect the Federal style.
In the 1970’s the Sigler family replaced the narrow floor boards of the first floor with 18th century boards taken from the attic floor. An indoor poolhouse was built behind the house. But after the Siglers sold the house it eventually became derelict: a tree fell across the rear ell, and the porch columns sank through the porch into the ground below bringing the roof down with them. The Mahoneys with their two daughters have been in construction mode almost continually since they purchased the house in 2001, living on the property the entire time.
First they created an apartment above the garage for themselves so they could live there, using the renovated kitchen and sitting room in the poolhouse, while they reassembled and restored the damaged main block of the historic house and designed a large family kitchen within the existing rear wing, They also built a new family room with bedroom above it behind the kitchen.
Their team consisted of Robert Stewart Burton, historical consultant; Christopher S. Moomaw, architect, Ridgefield; King Chapin, project advisor; Paul Bauts, builder; and Nick Smacchia of Pastering by Nicholas Inc.
Following their move into the house they then. in 2009, remodeled the garage where they had been living, created a covered connection to it from the house and built a shed for garden equipment. For this second phase, they added Thayer West, contractor. Jackie Cameron was the landscape architect.
The Mahoney House demonstrates good preservation practices by
1) preserving and restoring the severely damaged existing structure (from c1800 and as altered in the 1920’s), the 1915 garage, as well as its old stone walls,
2) while rehabilitating the property with new additions, redesigned kitchen, bathrooms, guest quarters, office,
3) and embellishing the historic landscape and old trees with a new little barn, flower gardens, and other plantings, all of which enhance the architecture of the original structure.