An Important Downtown Estate – 96 Woods End Road in New Canaan

Built in the 1930’s and sitting on just over 6 acres of elegantly landscaped grounds, this remarkable estate embodies the exquisite craftmanship of a bygone era. Quite literally designed to be shown off, the home features a series of formal rooms ideal for entertaining. A wide center hall just behind the front door hosts the sweeping grand staircase, flanked by the living room on one side and the dining room on the other. Each of these rooms are calibrated to life in all four seasons, equipped with a fireplace but also opening onto the extensive outdoor living spaces. The living room, all delicate wallpaper and built-in bookshelves, leads to the loggia which skirts the back of the house. Intricate French doors in the dining room open onto a similar scene, gently bringing the outside in. Beyond the patio lies a vast lawn, almost a small park of its own with neat lines of trees and even a gazebo. Moving through the floorplan, the home gradually sheds its sense of formality. A large, eat-in kitchen provides a cool and casual space to hang out, as does a comfortable joint library and den. A total of five bedrooms lie upstairs, including a spacious master suite overlooking the boxwood gardens below. Just a stone’s throw from downtown and the train station to take you further, the idyllic spot is everything you could want.

History of the house from Mimi Findlay, town historian:

The house was designed by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. Architect (1879-11/291933) Harvard '01, Columbia School of Arch, plus two additional years at Ecole des Beaux Arts, Paris, drafting staff at Delano and Aldrich, NYC. He became a very prominent NYC architect but started in CT as Yale instructor and partner with Henry Killam Murphy in Murphy and Dana Architects 1906-1921, designing Loomis-Chaffee 1912 campus and buildings for Rikkyo University in Tokyo. He then maintained his own office in NYC, member AIA, becoming "a recognized authority on Colonial architecture” (source: Biographical Dictionary of American Architects (deceased) by Withey and Withey 1970). In 1931 RH Dana was hired by New Canaan decorator, Mary Bradley, (because she married the Congregational Church's minister, Merrill Clark, she "had to retire from her business"), to move and reassemble the two antique houses on Clapboard Ridge. One, the Harwinton House, (585 Canoe Hill) sadly was dismantled and taken back to Harwinton, CT replaced by Shingle Style McMansion; the other is standing next door — little brown shingle with green shutters, thankfully still here and unchanged! Mary Bradley grew up in the house on the corner, #621, but it was an older house, and after her father died, the house burned down and her mother immediately hired Edward Hapgood, architect from Hartford, to design the present house (1904), recently renovated and given an award by NCPA. There apparently was extra land along the road so these 2 antique houses were rebuilt and sold, under the direction of both architect Dana and Mary Bradley, in order to give employment to local contractors. Mary had previously restored the manse.

I note that in 1918 Louis Engel bought the Bradley house - (no relation to the Engel Team).

Mimi Findlay writes: The Historical Society has “House files” where information about houses are filed by address. The Findlays where very close to the younger Jaynes growing up, and Dave was one of the boys' godfather. When Ken Jayne’s parents died, Sabra had us for dinner in that house - I believe the younger generation moved in there for a time - and I admired it then, not knowing anything about the architect. Plans should be kept with the house, I believe. ALSO, Dana was the architect who designed the headquarters of the Colonial Dames in NYC (the Abigail Adams house) which my stepdaughter, Lee Findlay Potter, is now in charge of the committee to restore it! We would both like to see inside it to see details of moldings, fireplaces, etc. This is a VERY IMPORTANT HOUSE IN NEW CANAAN and GREAT CARE should be taken with its “RENOVATION” /preservation. I hope the new owners realize this AND PLAN TO HIRE a knowledgable preservation architect. The New Canaan Preservation Alliance has given awards for preservation/renovation to local preservation architects Rob Saunders (Wilton), Rob Dean and Carl Rothbart (New Canaan), all of whom I highly recommend.

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