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Built in 1776

Annette Norton is Restoring Westport

The floorboards are valuable, as are the antique sconces and light fixtures. “This home would be worth more if I disassembled it,” laughs Annette Norton, owner of Savvy + Grace.

But Annette wasn’t interested in fracking its floors for fast cash. She was interested in restoring 29 North Avenue, built in 1776, as close to its original state as she could.   

If houses could talk, this one might complain a bit. Even though it’s roughly the size of an average Westport kitchen, it housed families of up to 15. That’s 13 screaming kids, for anyone interested in the math. It also saw troops head to Compo during the Revolutionary War in 1777, and had the good luck to avoid conflagration by British troops in 1779.

Conflicting rumors claim Native Americans did/did not visit this home. Well, Annette discovered an antique grinding stone, an ammikallu, in the stone wall, so…

When former residents weren’t scuffling with enemies, potty-training off-spring, or receiving native guests, they labored on their onion farm, which has since been divvied up into numerous properties much larger than the original homestead’s.

By the time the house came to Annette, it had witnessed turbulent times and even more turbulent upkeep. Almost every inch had to be scraped, repointed, removed, replaced, primed, painted, installed, or stone-stacked. Which Annette did, in the interest of preserving the history of a town she adores.

She scoured websites and markets, searching for replacement parts - doors, sconces, hardware. “There’s a lot of salvage, but I try to keep it historic,” says Annette. She found an antique door at Mongers Market and a lovely 1700’s mantel from a home in Lebanon, CT.

Then she tackled the challenge of tucking today’s creature comforts into the small space. Pegs on the walls for hanging coats, washer/dryer behind a closet door, and repurposing interior doors to hide upstairs storage space.

Finally, she affixed an antique sparrow to her staircase banner. In the nascent and harried days of Savvy + Grace, uncertain her hard work would pay off, a sparrow flew into the store. “A woman told me, ‘If a sparrow comes into your life it means you’re going to be strong, you’re going to be okay.’”

Years later, worn down by concurrently restoring her new residence and running a busy store, a sparrow flew into the house. She steeled herself to the daunting task and successfully finished the renovation.

And she’s not the only one basking in its completion. “People stop me all the time to tell me they’re happy I saved the house,” she smiles. “They even ask to come see it.”

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