On the market: A home to Westport history ... and Paul Newman

  
   Meg Barone

 Stand in the center of the enchanting 10.46-acre estate at 277 and 275 North Ave. in the Coleytown section of town, and harken back to the sounds of 18th-century, horse-drawn wooden plows clopping through its flax and corn fields. Two centuries later, imagine the laughter of Paul Newman's children as they sledded down the hillside on the back of their famous father.
Influential farmers, artists and actors have inhabited that large property at the corner of North Avenue and Coleytown Road, currently on the market. The site will be sold as a whole or in two separate parcels.
The property is rich with Colonial and contemporary history. Generations of the Coley family lived there for almost 200 years. It's significant that it remained in the Coley family until 1920, according to Bob Weingarten, the Westport Historical Society's house history chairman. David Coley purchased a large area in what was then Fairfield in the early 1700s. That area became known as Coley Village, then Coley Town, and finally the Coleytown area of Westport.
The village had a mill, shoemaker, blacksmith, yarn manufacturer, stables, small village green and one-room school house, which has since been razed and replaced with a large, modern Colonial residence.
As a whole, it is one of the largest residential parcels in town, comprising three houses -- the main house, the former grist and later cotton mill, carriage house, two barns -- one of which is 200 years old and the other was converted into studio space with one bedroom and one bath -- and an approved 2-acre building lot for a five-bedroom house and pool with its own driveway and ample road frontage on North Avenue.
The 10-acre parcel has 680 feet of water frontage on the Aspetuck River.
The earliest portion of the main residence, known as the Ebenezer Coley House, is a well-preserved Colonial Saltbox built circa 1763. Kirby Grimes, noted Hamptons architect, designed the newer addition, which adds functionality and comfort yet echoes the saltbox form and brings the total square footage to 6,442. The transitional space from the old house to new addition has seven sets of French doors to the rear patio and wisteria-entwined pergola.
It is also known as the Kerr Eby House after the noted artist and anti-war activist, who lived there and named it "Driftway." He made sketches and etchings of it between World Wars I and II, which are still sold today. Other notable names from Westport's arts colony who owned portions of the property are sculptor James Earle Fraser and his former student-wife Laura Gardin Fraser, also a famous sculptor, and sculptor Lila Wheelock Howard and her husband, illustrator Oscar Howard.
Unconfirmed rumors suggest the main house was a stop along the Underground Railroad.
The 1,600-square-foot carriage house was built circa 1900 and has three bedrooms and two baths.
The manicured grounds contain formal and informal gardens, heated in-ground Gunite swimming pool near the main house, vintage stone walls and mature trees. And a river runs through it. Closer to the second house the Aspetuck River winds its way through the property. A footbridge crosses the river by a waterfall, and a sunroom in the second house provides a picture-perfect river view.
The second house, the former mill, sits along Coleytown Road and dates back to 1790. It has 2,100 square feet of living space and two fireplaces, one with a bread oven.
Melissa Newman, daughter of the late actor and philanthropist Paul Newman, who once owned the Coley mill house and property with wife Joanne Woodward, has fond memories of life there, including sledding down the hill with her siblings atop their father's back as he navigated a Flexible Flyer.
"My grandmother kept a dresser full of fabric scraps in the house that she used to share with me. I still have some of them," she said.
"My little sister had a tag sale in front of the barn so she could buy a pony with her friend Susan. My parents came by with Sir Lawrence Olivier, and he was so charmed he gave them a check. They did, in fact, buy the pony, a handful named Sugarbear, who they kept and rode for several years," Newman said.
The main house and the mill maintain their central fireplaces. Both houses are within walking distance of the Newman-Poses Nature Preserve.
For more information or to make an appointment to see this house, contact Mary Palmieri Gai of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices New England Properties at 203-984-2169.

ABOUT THIS PROPERTY
- TYPE OF HOUSE: Antique Colonial, main house
ADDRESS: 277 North Ave.
PRICE: $7,499,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 12
FEATURES: 1900-era carriage house, 200-year-old barn, heated Gunite in-ground swimming pool, 7.34-acre level property, 355 feet of river frontage, wine cellar and tasting room, patio, porch, two pergolas, wood shingle roof, first floor master bedroom, five working fireplaces, wide-plank chestnut floors, exposed beams, original woodwork, stone walls, energy-efficient features, well water, proximity to Coleytown Elementary and Middle schools, six bedrooms, five full and one half baths
ASSESSMENT: $3,837,200
TAXES: $68,640
- SECOND HOUSE: Antique Colonial, former Coley mill
ADDRESS: 275 North Ave., formerly known as 39 Coleytown Road
PRICE: $2,399,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 8
FEATURES: 330 feet of frontage along the trout-stocked Aspetuck River, footbridge, waterfall, corner lot, converted barn/guest house, 3.12-acre level and sloped property, two-acre building site, potting shed, stone patios and decks, two fireplaces, well water, three bedrooms, two full and one half baths
ASSESSMENT: $938,900
TAXES: $16,844
SCHOOLS for both homes: Coleytown Elementary, Coleytown Middle, Staples High
TAX RATE: 17.94 mills
PRICE for the entire package: $9,898,000 (10.46 acres)
 More Information
ABOUT THIS PROPERTY
TYPE OF HOUSE: Antique Colonial, main house
ADDRESS: 277 North Ave.
PRICE: $7,499,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 12
FEATURES: 1900-era carriage house, 200-year-old barn, heated gunite in-ground swimming pool, 7.34-acre level property, 355 feet of river frontage, wine cellar and tasting room, patio, porch, two pergolas, wood shingle roof, first floor master bedroom, five working fireplaces, wide-plank chestnut floors, exposed beams, original woodwork, stone walls, energy-efficient features, well water, proximity to Coleytown Elementary and Middle schools, six bedrooms, five full and one half baths

ASSESSMENT: $3,837,200
TAXES: $68,640
SECOND HOUSE: Antique Colonial, former Coley mill
ADDRESS: 275 North Ave., formerly known as 39 Coleytown Road
PRICE: $2,399,000
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 8
FEATURES: 330 feet of frontage along the trout-stocked Aspetuck River, footbridge, waterfall, corner lot, converted barn/guest house, 3.12-acre level and sloped property, two-acre building site, potting shed, stone patios and decks, two fireplaces, well water, three bedrooms, two full and one half baths
ASSESSMENT: $938,900
TAXES: $16,844
SCHOOLS for both homes: Coleytown Elementary, Coleytown Middle, Staples High
TAX RATE: 17.94 mills
PRICE for entire package: $9,898,000 (10.46 acres)