WESTFIELD — A Westfield home that has watched the community grow up around its eaves may be getting a second lease on life as the area’s newest living history project. The pre-Revolutionary War home, located at 112 Ferris Place, is one of two local sites that were recently approved by the Westfield Historic Preservation Commission as worthy of local historic designation.
The Ferris Place site and another at 23 Stoneleigh Park were approved for designation by the commission during its regular meeting held on Monday.
The house at 112 Ferris Place has a fascinating history that spans several centuries, said Historic Preservation Architect Barton Ross.
The colonial-style building was first erected on East Broad Street in or around 1750. It then received some “modern updates” and a new Greek-revival-style makeover in 1857. It was eventually moved from its original location on East Broad Street to its current spot on Ferris Place around 1900.
“It has gone through a lot of changes over time, obviously, but the structural frame of the house is actually still largely left over from the original construction. It even still has a lot of hand-hewn joists. Overall, it’s in great shape and would definitely be worth preserving,” said Mr. Ross.
The Ferris Place house was purchased by investor James Ward in 2020 as part of a larger development project.
“This property is very special,” said Mr. Ward. “When I was taking apart some of the old sheetrock, I found some of the original beams from the 1700s. A lot of these beams are just plain hand-hewn trees. I just thought that was such an incredible thing to see. I realized then that I wanted to save the house and incorporate it into my new vision of what I want to put on that site.”
Ultimately, Mr. Ward said, he plans to connect the house at 112 Ferris to a new, four-story apartment complex that he intends to build on the lot next door.
“When you walk around Manhattan or Chicago or Boston, you see these great old buildings sort of incorporated into more modern construction projects,” said Mr. Ward. “That’s what I’m envisioning here. I think this could be a really beautiful way to bring the past and the present together.”
Mr. Ward said he would like to restore the house at 112 Ferris to its “original 1750’s design” in order to open it up to the general public as a sort of living museum.
“I think children and school groups in particular would find this fascinating,” he said, noting that while the two buildings would be connected structurally, there would be no access route between them. “I’m very excited about this project, and I sincerely hope that other people will want to get on board once we get going,” Mr. Ward stated.
Things continued in a positive direction for Mr. Ward on Tuesday when the governing body voted to adopt the Prospect and Ferris Redevelopment Plan.
The vote represents the first real step towards making Mr. Ward’s vision come to life, said Mayor Shelley Brindle.
“I think this is going to be a beautiful project for Westfield,” said Mayor Brindle, noting that Mr. Ward’s consideration for the historic significance of the property was greatly appreciated.
Although not as old as the home on Ferris Place, the Stoneleigh Park house, built in 1905, is “just as worthy of recognition,” said Mr. Ross.
“It’s an excellent example of the first period of colonial construction in Stoneleigh Park, which as everyone knows was designed as a planned residential community with park-like features,” he said. “This home is definitely one of the earliest in the district. It still retains its park-like setting; it’s still in excellent condition. The homeowners have obviously taken very good care of it.”
According to information found in the town’s historic preservation plan, “Stoneleigh Park (ca. 1904) is a fine example of a small, picturesque, upper middle class residential development of the early twentieth century. [The community] was designed to take advantage of the natural beauty of the site and to preserve a peaceful suburban setting for the homeowners, who were commuting New York executives and affluent Westfield businessmen and civic leaders.”
Stoneleigh Park was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
“Since we already have that national designation, the local designation makes a lot of sense,” said Mr. Ross.
Robert and Anastasia Harrison purchased the home and its 0.4 acres of land from the previous owner in 2020. Since then, the couple said, they have been working with the commission to learn as much about the property as possible.
“The listing actually indicated that the house was built in 1899, so we would love to know if there is any way to nail down the actual date,” said Mrs. Harrison, speaking with the commission during Monday night’s meeting. “We’ll keep doing some digging.”
The two recommendations for designation will now be forwarded along to the Westfield Town Council for official approval.
The commission also heard from homeowners Timothy and Sadaf Morbelli during Monday night’s meeting in reference to another Revolutionary War-era home located at 1481 East Broad Street. In 2017, the Westfield Zoning Board denied an application to build a six-unit, multi-family development at the site. The Morbellis purchased the home in March of this year.
“We’re very happy that TJ (Timothy) and Sadaf have agreed to take on this property,” said Commission Chair Maria Boyes. “They’re really looking to preserve it, but would also like to add a few modern amenities like an attached garage.”
The house at 1481 East Broad Street, Mr. Ross said, is likely “one of, if not the most, historically-significant structures in the town of Westfield.”
The structure, built in or around 1757, served as a Revolutionary War homestead for three brothers — Daniel, David and William Pierson, each of whom played a role in the conflict itself.
“One of the most interesting stories involving the house itself has to do with a claim that Daniel Pierson filed after the war,” said Mr. Ross. “Evidently, British soldiers raided the property and stole 48 sterling pounds, which was really quite a lot of money.”
The Morbellis presented an artists rendering that included their preliminary plans for restoring the home to the best of their abilities.