Restored New Milford farmhouse once owned by Broadway star
NEW MILFORD —Hollywood was introduced to the Litchfield Hills after the release of “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House” in 1948.
The movie, filmed in New Milford, told the comic story of a New York City couple who decide to fix up a dilapidated farmhouse in the country. After shooting the picture, which starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy, several people connected to the project decided to buy homes in the area, and inspired others in the entertainment industry to do so as well.
Among them was actress Helen Gallagher, who appeared in dozens of Broadway shows, earning Tony nominations for several roles and winning for “No, No, Nanette” and “Pal Joey,” and who also portrayed Maeve Ryan in the soap opera, “Ryan’s Hope.” She bought a farmhouse at 214 Sawyer Hill Road.
The house was built in 1750, making it one of the oldest houses in New Milford, said Grace Franjola, the previous listing agent for the property. Over the years it had fallen in disrepair, much like the house in “Mr. Blandings,” but Franjola saw the potential.
“The bones were good and the views were good,” she said.
When Franjola showed it in 2015 to the current owners, Robert Graham and his partner, they knew they were in for a challenge.
“My first thought was, ‘Wow, it’s going to be a lot of work to make it into what we want,” said Graham, who is now listing the property. “But my partner and I both saw the end result.”
They liked the layout and knew the changes they needed to make. They also loved the grounds, mountain views and solid post-and-beam structure. They bought the house, gutted and completely restored it. The process took 11 months.
“The fact that it was left untouched for so long was a benefit, because it allowed us to take it back to a new beginning,” Graham said.
The duo tried to preserve as much as possible and honor the timeless architecture. They rebuilt the fireplaces using the original brick, exposed the original beams and redid the wide floorboards.
“It was important to retain as much of the original character and architectural elements as possible,” he said.
They also updated, redoing the electrical and plumbing, as well as creating a more modern layout. They also added more and larger windows than was common in the 1700s to increase the light in the home and offer views of the surroundings.
This is especially true in the kitchen, which Graham said is his favorite part of the house. The kitchen is full of natural light and has an 18-foot marble island with seating and work spaces on opposite ends. The smaller appliances are also grouped together in a walk-in pantry.
Shiplap lines the walls of the kitchen and adjoining dining room and the painted ceiling adds character, he said.
“It’s got a very American feel to it,” Graham said.
The property is on the market for nearly $1.35 million.