History Lesson

 64 Hillcrest Road

64 Hillcrest Road

When I wrote about the new listing at 64 Hillcrest Road last month (approvingly, and my appreciation was echoed by commenters), I was unaware of its provenance: Guy Lombardo bought the house for his parents, and often entertained there, as detailed in today's Greenwich Time.

GREENWICH — Joseph Dillaway Sawyer came to a knoll in Old Greenwich in 1886 and liked what he saw.
The wealthy Bostonian merchant paid $8,500 for the farm. He started a dairy herd before embarking on the great mission of his life: creating a planned community for people of discriminating quality who favored country living in the English tradition. 
He built 16 homes and sold them for $10,000 up to $100,000 -- about $2.5 million in today’s dollars. Sawyer attracted the high-society from New York with stylish homes and regular fox hunts. 
Many of the homes in the Hillcrest Park section are still standing, and one of the most storied is the one where Guy Lombardo, the famed band leader, held court with his large family. 
Lombardo and his siblings played in big family concerts there — a tradition that continues to this day. Guy Lombardo’s parents, Gaetano and Angeline, lived there from 1935 to 1956. Gaetano always wanted to live on a farm, so the orchestra leader bought the Old Greenwich place for him. Cole Porter was reportedly a visitor, according to a neighborhood history, and Mama Lombardo made big spaghetti dinners every Sunday.
The current owner, Kim-Marie Evans, is in awe of the old music room where Guy and his siblings would play together en famile. The room, bracketed by leaded glass windows, inlaid with whimsical Medieval motifs like gryphons and dragons, still gets plenty of activity, said Evans, whose family is enamored by music and drama.
“The music room is the heart and and center of the house. Because Guy Lombardo built it, it has perfect acoustics,” she said. “We do family concerts in there. It’s sort of a throwback, it feels old-timey, but it’s really fun.”
The house at 64 Hillcrest is called Stonehenge, and it certainly lives up to its old English antecedent. There’s a massive stone archway at the entrance and enough stone fireplaces elsewhere in the house to keep several cords of wood ablaze.
Built in 1901, the house has many of the features of an English country home. 
”You can’t believe it’s Old Greenwich,” said Evans, a married mother of four. “It feels like you’re pulling into a little, old English country lane, it’s unlike any other part of Greenwich. Like Downton Abbey.”
There are narrow backstairs between levels for the servants to go about their chores, unseen by household occupants. Along with the hidden staircases are little hidden alcoves — an Agatha Christie novel come to life.
“There are so many little nooks and crannies,” said Evans, a travel writer, “And it’s the best place ever for kids to play hide-and go seek. You will never find them in a million years.”

Certainly, you buy a house because of how it suits your family, and not because someone famous was once associated with it (or you'd be flocking to my own house, where Katharine Hepburn, a fan of my grandmother, invited herself for tea), and Lombardo was no Katharine Hepburn, in my estimation, but it's kind of neat when there's history linked to it. And, as I said back in April, this is a wonderful house.