New Home Project In New Canaan Adds Thrill To Former Mill

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A color rendering of the home development at Jelliff Mill, which will have six homes, three condos and a loft unit.
A color rendering of the home development at Jelliff Mill, which will have six homes, three condos and a loft unit. Photo Credit: Contributed

NEW CANAAN, Conn. – One of the most unique developments in New Canaan real estate is under construction at Jelliff Mill Road, and occupancy could come next summer.

Halstead Property is marketing six free-standing homes, three townhouses and a loft unit at Jelliff Mill Falls. The complex was designed by Judy Larson and Associates and homes are being built by the Gardiner Group. Mary Higgins of Halstead is marketing the properties, which range from $1.1 to $1.550 million.

Higgins said two units already have accepted offers. Most of the homes have views of the nearby Noroton River.

“It’s very sophisticated, incredibly beautiful and charming,’’ Higgins said. “It’s close to the parkway and train station, and offers a carefree lifestyle.”

The site is the location of a former saw and grist mill, as well as weaving mills, which were in continuous operation from the early 1700s. In 1949, the landmark mill burned down and a utilitarian concrete block structure was built to replace it. The Gardiner-Larson team will soon replace the concrete building with a historic-looking wooden mill building, complete with an operating waterwheel, which they hope will once again become a landmark in town.

Larson has based her design on a series of old photos and artistic renderings of the original mill found at the New Canaan Historical Society. The team is also honoring the history of the property by naming all of the 10 homes after former mill owners.

Each residence has a distinct floor plan and exterior.  The six free-standing homes and carriage barn will be clad in gray shingles, with a historic, Nantucket-style look, and accented with a different colored front door.   Every home will have at least one fireplace, an attached garage or a garage bay, generator, central air conditioning and energy-efficient thermal windows. The homes, in the West School district, will range in size from 1,800 to 3,900 square feet.

Interior features include thick, 8-foot tall doors, paneled and bead board wainscoting, character oak plank flooring and timeless bathroom and kitchen design with Sub Zero, Wolf, and Miele appliances. Buyers who purchase a home prior to its completion are free to customize their interiors.

“The architect and the builders made the choice not to try to cram a large number of units in there,’’ Higgins said. “They were looking to create something that was more of a village, something new in condominium living.”

Higgins believes the unique village feel and conveniences make the homes attractive to buyers. “There isn’t anything close by that is styled like this,’’ she said. “It’s in a residential zone, you can look out either to water or to other residential property, and it’s a wonderful feeling of open space.”

For more information, visit the Jelliff Mill Falls website, or call Higgins at 203-966-7800, ext. 484.

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In case there is anyone in New Canaan who still does not know, this very historic site, - the dam, the existing concrete block mill, and the Stevens- Waterbury-Merritt mill-owner's house - listed as The Jelliff Mill Historic District on the CT Register of Historic Sites, is going to be demolished.

I suppose that is a "thrill" for some people but I call it wanton destruction of our heritage.

This historic c1755 single family house, with its large stone fireplace and beehive oven, is being replaced by six new houses, plus three townhouses, on 1.69 acres in a one-acre zone, where water is supplied by wells and all houses have their own septic systems.

How is this possible? Easy - with the developers' $200,000 donation to New Canaan's Affordable Housing Program, because the town has not built enough such housing to meet the State's requirements for a moratorium. The Planning and Zoning Commission reached this Settlement, even though there are certainly no "affordable" units within this proposed development.

The New Canaan Preservatiion Alliance Inc subsequently proposed an alternative arrangement of the new houses in order to preserve the original house at its present location but it was dismissed by the developers.

The site was a location for Native American gatherings with relics and arrowheads dating from as far back as 2800 BC, collected by Mrs. Aaron Jelliff in the 1920's, and now at the Stamford Museum. The original dam is mentioned in property records as early as 1715 and Jonathan Talmadge, whose family homestead still exists on the south corner of Jelliff Mill Road and Old Stamford Road, is the earliest identifiable occupant of the original, c1755 house, following the marriage of his sister to David Stevens Jr, who owned the land north of the road. At that time the house was only the eastern half - its door on the left plus two windows to the right and a loft upstairs. James Talmadge succeeded his brother and ran the grist and saw mills until the property was sold to Deodate Waterbury in 1801.

A revolutionary War patriot from Darien, Waterbury immediately enlarged his house by adding the west side of the house, and raising to roof for a second floor to accommodate his wife and eventually seven children. He was a mechanical genius, with many inventions and skills including wood working as a coffin-maker.

The entire two and a half-century story of the development of the mill and its accommodation to the new eras of technological improvements from the Talmadge, Waterbury, and Jelliff periods is fascinating…. and resulted in that neighborhood of New Canaan being named "Millville" in the 1867 Beers Atlas map.

A copy of the Jelliff Mill Historic District nomination to the CT Register, providing a detailed history of the property, is at the New Canaan Library, on the Connecticut shelf. There are photographs of the house interiors taken when it was renovated in 1987 showing its earlier and later sections, and the monumental 1755 chimney base in the cellar.

Soon, that is all that will remain of this most significant architectural, cultural, and historic site. At least we have the documentation and photographs to review in the future.