Westport weighs $1 million in repairs for crumbling mansion

WESTPORT — An uninhabited brick mansion adorned with pink columns and ornaments sits at the end of a winding driveway. The house sat empty for decades and was once the home of Baron Walter Langeer von Langendorff, a perfumer.

It is believed that he immigrated to the United States during World War II and founded Evyan perfumes with his wife, Evelyn Diane Westall. One of their popular fragrances was Golden Shadows, which was also the official name of their house.

Now the colloquial name “Baron’s South” or “Baron’s Mansion” is used by Westporters. The once stunning property has been untouched for years. He died in 1983, and the city eventually took over the property about 23 years ago. Although the estate has 22 acres of hiking trails and picnic tables, the mansion itself is not open to the public.

Golden Shadows is deteriorating, according to a June draft report from the Maintenance Review Committee, and now the city is left to decide what to do with the mansion. The two-story building is currently used by the city for easy storage of first aid and critical response items. It was previously used for book storage by the Westport Public Library.

“At construction costs today, a simple home renovation would be over $1M … plus design documentation fees,” the report said.

The structure should be considered for exterior improvements almost immediately, followed by ceiling and floor work, according to the report. Other proposed improvements to the site include a new driveway, trimmed grass and shrubs and removal of a dead pine tree.

The exterior brickwork has minor cracks with some patio stones out of place, although some larger cracks in the facade have widened since the building’s 2018 report. The brick and stone window heads at each window top need to be replaced as there is deterioration and cracking. Some of the front steps are out of place, the patio is leaking and the caulking is peeling and falling off. The terrace and walls deteriorate at an accelerated pace due to lack of ongoing maintenance.

There are also some problems inside.

Most of the upstairs rooms have some signs of water ingress. Some windowsills are rotting. The ceiling paint is peeling off. The stairs have joint openings and some wood floors are deteriorating, according to the report.

“Many aspects of this property should be considered by city administration in this committee’s opinion,” the report states. “We hope to share this report with the firm hired to carry out the masterplan for Barons South when it happens.”

The plan for Baron’s South is expected to be proposed in 2023 as part of the city’s Parks Master Plan, which is being created using money from the American Savings Plan Act.

John Klinge, a District 9 town meeting representative and member of the maintenance review committee, said the committee routinely surveys city-owned buildings.

“We want to get the master plan done properly,” he said.

Second Committeewoman Andrea Moore said the final report should come out soon, possibly at the committee’s next meeting on Aug. 16.

She said there are no immediate plans for the property, but it is an important building for the city. Klinge also said that the plan must be completed.

“If it was an easy fix for the property and the building, it would have happened by now,” Moore said. “There are a lot of moving parts.”

Sal Liccione, a District 9 RTM member, said he believes the city should try to save Golden Shadows and the other houses in Barron’s South and provide more money and maintenance.

Liccione said he believes the property is historic.

“I think as a city we need to look at this beautiful piece of land,” Liccione said. “I really implore members of the community and the city to take a tour of this property – how beautiful it is.”

Klinge also said the property is currently zoned passive by the Planning and Zoning Commission, meaning there can’t be active projects inside Golden Shadows, such as having an event in the building.

Baron’s South currently has a senior center on it, which Klinge said is the only current active use right now on that property. He also said one of the houses on the property is rented by a Westport family through the city.

Klinge said he would like another committee to look at the site and weigh the options against the buildings’ current condition.

“I’m hoping to get a consensus from the committee and the Town of Westport,” Klinge said of what should happen to Baron’s South.

He said he would be happy to support the city’s decision, whatever it is. However, he would enjoy seeing a botanical garden that people can walk through there, although it can be placed in different places.

“There are good people on that committee who are knowledgeable and have been doing this for a while,” Moore said.

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