On the Market / Queen Anne Victorian was the main house of the Joel Farist estate with lineage connected to Fairfield’s founders
FAIRFIELD — Laureen Hewitt was five years old when her family purchased a local landmark, the Farist House, an impressive Queen Anne-style Victorian house at 220 Farist Road in the Stratfield section of town.
Today she is Laureen Collins, having married Stephen Collins in the “entrance room” of the 17-room buttercream yellow house when she was 19 years old. On Saturday, Oct. 13, listing agent Susan Vanech held an open house and fall festival there giving Laureen and Stephen Collins, now of Newtown, a chance to visit her childhood home, and they posed for photographs in the very place where they exchanged vows. It was the first time in decades they were seeing the house and they were amazed at its transformation.
The updated antique house was built in 1894 with many architectural details of the late 19th century time period including stained glass windows, turrets, an attractive staircase with decorative newel posts, bull’s-eye moldings and other decorative millwork, original hardware, and pocket doors. One room features a late 19th century safe built into the wall. It is more decorative than functional these days with hand-painted birds and flowers on its doors. The chef’s kitchen, which underwent a major renovation in the last decade, includes a center island, granite counters, and six-burner Dynasty range with a double oven.
The current owners preserved most of those distinctive details when they updated and renovated the 5,300 square-foot house three years ago, which included updating the master bedroom and its bathroom. Originally, the house had six bedrooms, but they converted one into a sizable boutique-style walk-in closet and dressing room, although it could easily be returned to a bedroom if necessary. They insulated the home’s seven fireplaces - only one of which works, and retiled five of them, although the only working wood-burning fireplace is in the paneled library. They also converted staff quarters and storage space on the third floor into a large in-law apartment with a beautiful kitchen of its own.
“The third floor is beautiful. They did an awesome job. I could live up there,” Laureen Collins said.
During the renovation the owners also insulated the first and second floors, including the ceiling of the 1,900-square-foot, wide, covered front porch, which wraps around both sides of the house. Some light fixtures were replaced, fencing was installed around the entire property, and various areas of the house interior were repainted.
The improvements would probably meet the approval of the home’s original owner, Joel Farist, a notable steel manufacturer (1832-1904). “The story of the steel industry in Bridgeport would be incomplete were there failure to make prominent reference to Joel Farist, who was president of the Farist Steel Company. As a skilled mechanic his expert knowledge was sought in many connections,” according to History of Bridgeport and Vicinity Volume II, published in 1917 and edited by George Curtis Waldo Jr. The book says Farist was also the first president of the Bridgeport Electric Light Company and vice president of Bridgeport Hospital.
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Further, the book says, Farist was a “progressive and public-spirited citizen and throughout his life was actuated by broad humanitarian principles … (working) for civic betterment and right conditions in the labor world … He stood as a man among men, honored and respected by all.”
His son, J. Windsor Farist, who eventually became president of the Farist Steel Company, communicated with world famous inventor Thomas A. Edison in a letter dated July 10, 1880, provided by Vanech.
Dozens of people visited this historic house during Vanech’s open house and fall festival at which a magician entertained children and adults on the wrap-around porch and under the porte cochere by this 0.54-acre property’s semi-circular driveway and circular cutting garden, which includes hydrangeas, roses, phlox and other colorful perennials. Visitors walked through the spacious rooms with tall ceilings and wide hallways that Vanech said offer the drama one would expect in order to feel like the king or queen of one’s castle. She called the house “stunningly elegant and wonderfully livable by today's standards … Fairfield’s fairytale castle is not just for the storybooks; it can be your life,” Vanech said.
“It is definitely a fairytale house,” one woman said during Saturday’s event.
ABOUT THIS HOUSE
TYPE: Queen Anne-style Victorian
ADDRESS: 220 Farist Road
NUMBER OF ROOMS: 17
FEATURES: landmark antique house, 0.54-acre level and fenced property, seven fireplaces (only one in working order), wide wrap-around covered front porch, balconies, stained-glass windows, turrets, in-law apartment, double-pane storm windows, patio, deck, semi-circular driveway, porte cochere, front and rear staircases, cutting flower garden, stone foundation, cable ready, minutes to shopping and restaurants in Stratfield Village and Black Rock Turnpike, walking distance to Jennings and Fairfield Woods schools and the Fairfield Woods branch of the public library, unfinished basement, attic, central air conditioning, oil heat, public water and sewer, five bedrooms, four full baths
SCHOOLS: Jennings Elementary, Fairfield Woods Middle, Fairfield Warde High
MILL RATE: 26.36 mills
And a practical one, too. This house is conveniently located within walking distance to schools, and a short drive to stores and restaurants.
For more information or to set up an appointment for a private tour of the house, contact Susan Vanech of William Pitt Sotheby’s International Realty at 203-685-2348 or firstname.lastname@example.org.